I especially enjoyed this week’s episode of On The Media if only because it hit very close to home. The show was dedicated to “the incredible volume of media available to consumers, and the incredible difficulty of making money for creators.”
The six different segments cover streaming services, subscription business models, ads and ad blockers, and direct support from readers. The business examples were all with big-name media networks and websites, but the struggles they’re facing are no different than what guys like you and me are facing: how do we keep the lights on so we can keep making awesome stuff for our best fans?
For me, it’s a conglomerate of all sorts of things. The largest and most-significant slice being the monthly membership to this site, but the rest of the pie is a combination of advertising and affiliate links.
At the end of the show, Bob Garfield concludes with this line:
There is no silver bullet. [...] All there is is experimentation, determination, and a whole lot of blind hope.
Which parallels something Merlin Mann said in his interview on CMD+SPACE a while back: “As long as you keep putting out interesting stuff, you’ll keep discovering interesting stuff to put out. It’s an iterative and ugly process.
As an indie writer, I’ve always put a lot of emphasis on the determination aspect — show up every day — but very little emphasis on the experimentation aspect. For me, my daily podcast ended up being an excellent members-only perk for when I took the site full time, and as I look at the shows I’ve done over the past 2 years and the feedback I’ve received from listeners, I mean it when I say the show has become one of my favorite things where I see a lot of my best work manifesting.
I can think of two other excellent examples of experimentation that made a way for revenue: John Gruber’s wild idea of an RSS ad sponsorship, and Marco’s wild idea of a very simple, very classy digital magazine.
At the end of the day we all just want to pay our bills, feed our families, put our kids through college, and keep the office lights on so we can keep on making things.
Though I wasn’t there when Marco decided to make The Magazine, nor when Gruber decided to start selling RSS sponsorships instead of a membership, nor when so many other folks took a leap to try something new. But I imagine the internal dialog was something along the lines of: “Maybe this will work, maybe it won’t. I guess we’ll find out…”