Well hello again, and welcome back to the third part of this article, which asks the all-important question (to the podcaster at least) That being: Is it acceptable as a podcaster to ask for monies, and if so, how is such a request best handled?
For the second part, last time we investigated what can be considered in some senses the 'dark side' of Patreon, in that it can tend to make one take their focus off the creating and instead onto the bottom line. This is still a battle for me, and while it is not nearly as difficult to find the balance as it once was, I am constantly doing my best to keep things in perspective. All your guys' support has also helped, so thanksss for that, I really mean it.
Today we have our concluding piece to this three-parter, and we essentially tie together all we've learned and discussed so far, with an extra special focus on you guys, so I hope you enjoy the reading. It promises to be a little less intense this time, which hey, maybe that makes you happy, but it will be no less of a read because of it!
As a reminder, here are some of the issues we've addressed in this three-part blog post, some of which will bleed into this one still:
HOW DO PODCASTERS, ESPECIALLY HISTORY PODCASTERS, FEEL ABOUT ASKING FOR MONEY
WHAT KIND OF REQUESTS FOR SUPPORT ARE CONSIDERED OKAY, VERSUS WHAT CAN OFTEN COME ACROSS AS BEGGING?
WHAT PART DOES THE LISTENER PLAY IN THE WHOLE PROCESS?
WHAT EXAMPLES IN PARTICULAR SPRING TO MIND OF SOMEONE WHO MAY BE TAKING THE REQUESTS FOR SUPPORT TOO FAR?
HOW EASY IS IT TO BECOME OBSESSED WITH THE MONIES, AND LOSE SIGHT OF WHY YOU STARTED PODCASTING IN THE FIRST PLACE?
If you're ready for this next installment, then great! - a reminder though that I am Zack Twamley, the host of When Diplomacy Fails Podcast, and in the spirit of this blog post, you can check out my podcast's Patreon page here.
With that not so smooth plug out of the way - let's begin!
Today our fine line doesn't revolve around podcasters or creators per se, but around YOU, the listener, so if you're curious, read on!
I'm sure we've all heard the cliché's before - 'you guys keep us going', your favourite podcast host repeatedly says; 'we couldn't do this without you', says another. Sometimes, thanks to the increasing monetisation of podcasts, at least on a voluntary crowdfunding model a la Patreon, you will even get 'We literally couldn't do this without you!' If you listen to a large amount of podcasters, you may hear these messages so regularly that they float past your subconscious, and maybe you don't even hear your podcaster say such a tagline whenever they do happen to say it. Or it could be the other side of things - 'get on with it', you think to yourself - 'stop apologising, just give me the content I want'.
Maybe none of these mindsets apply to you, and maybe you are one of those easy going listeners that appreciate what doing a regular podcast is actually like. Maybe you are a podcaster yourself, so you really know what it's like. Perhaps you just have an ingrained respect for the podcaster that you frequent. He/she keeps you company on long commutes, when walking, ironing or *gasp* when at the gym, and their content is so appreciated and in a sense so necessary to your daily routine that you couldn't imagine such experiences without that familiar voice in your ears. I am aware that I may well be preaching to the choir here, but even if you are one of those valued listeners that gives their time, energy or money in support of their favourite podcast, have a read of this in any case and perhaps you'll come away with an additional perspective on why your support is so valuable in this day and age.
You see, what I've come to learn over the last few months or so is that there's a fine line between podcast fans, and then podcast fans.
It has to be said that as surely as podcasters are on different levels, listeners are on different tiers themselves, even if they don't realise it. To see what I mean, think of your absolute favourite history podcast - maybe it isn't necessarily a history podcast, but if it is think about it on another level. Think about how unlikely it is that such a podcast would appear on television - though I know Dan Carlin recently appeared on TV, so Hardcore History is I suppose an exception to this rule. Maybe I should qualify this exercise by saying independent podcaster, or one which is obviously either a one man show, or which has not "made it" in terms of success. Perhaps they are a niche, or perhaps they just don't have the resources to make it big in such a large pond. Yet, for all those shortcomings, you managed to find them.
So think back to your favourite podcast. You know for a fact that it isn't professionally run - in other words, it isn't making enough money to provide the host with a living for what he does. This despite the fact that they provide you with more combined enjoyment than any of the drivel on TV. This can be doubly true if your podcasting fave has a video channel, and the same principle applies here as well. This podcaster and video producer, or videocaster, if you like, provides you with enjoyment free of charge, and through these combined mediums you find yourself regularly having him set as your go to source of entertainment. Maybe he's even acquired the significant distinction of being the guy you watch while you eat - for me the highest distinction possible. Where am I going with this?
Well, think about it for a sec, think about how happy they make you, even if they only come to you in one of these mediums. Maybe you rely on them now to put you to sleep at night, to disrupt the monotony of your travels, or to add to the enjoyment of a walk. It's safe to say you really enjoy their stuff. It's also safe to say that without them, you'd feel a bit put out. Maybe not quite as bad as having your day ruined, but certainly disappointed that you've missed out on their latest stuff. Now try to imagine yourself in this guy's shoes, and everything will become clearer...
You are an office worker in some average office and living in some average town, just nearby average street. During the course of your commute, perhaps you grab a coffee - it's substandard sure, but you get it every day and your body expects it by now, so you get it nonetheless. Or maybe, *gasp* you don't like coffee, in that case think in terms of lunch - if you are one of those people that avails of the nearby cafe, or who doesn't feel they have the time to make up a lunch with them before leaving for work, this will likely apply to you. As you order your regular sandwich, you expect it to be somewhat mediocre as it generally is. Maybe the guy behind the counter is new and he burns it in the paninni toaster, but you eat it anyway because you're desperate. Again, in your ears, it's your escape, your favourite podcast. Again, you hear him say those words you hear all the time 'we couldn't do this without you'. Frustrated, having had your sandwich burnt, you urge him to just get on with it, maybe even out loud, as it's been that bad of a day. But no, here comes some advertisement injected into the show.
Fast forwarding the ad, you open up your phone and look at the graphic of the podcast, to see some smiling guy talking into a microphone. He looks friendly enough, even if, you've always told yourself, 'his voice somehow doesn't suit him'. You have grown quite attached to this podcast, but sometimes the ads and pleas get a bit much. You're not stingy by any means, but you've repeatedly assured yourself of the pointlessness in supporting anything you get for free monetarily. Before you say it, I know, this sounds like Boris from example 2 in the first post, but stay with me!
So you leave the cafe, having forced that sandwich into you. Coming home, and it's obviously bill season, as there's one for the cable, the electricity and the gas in the post. Coming to the cable first, you exclaim almost aloud 'good grief that's gone up'. It's a Friday night, so you figure there must be something on at least. You settle in for the evening, put your feet up, but lo and behold, despite having 87 channels, you can't find a single thing on. You don't know what you're in the mood for, because of the kind of day you've had, so you watch some mindless Steven Seagal film instead.
Up you get the next morning for your walk - new week new you, or something like that, but it won't be so bad, thanks to this podcast you found, with that guy who's great, even though he asks for money sometimes. After a while you get lost in the discussion - he has someone talking about whether the Nazis could have invaded Britain and won the war in the early stages of the Second World War. You find yourself transfixed on the debate taking place, and you end up extending your walk to listen to more. As the podcast reaches its end though, something annoying happens; 'and if you want to hear more', offers the host, 'just make sure you sign up on Patreon now, where for as little as $5 a month you could avail of a load of extra content you can't get anywhere else, including the rest of this debate!'. That tears it - who does this guy think he is?! Denying me the conclusion to this story?!
Frustrated, you find that you're near the street on which your workplace is situated. There's that average cafe you always find yourself in, and the people were significantly busier than normal, all of the staff milling around inside. Almost despite yourself, because it's what you know, you whisper that you'll only get a coffee this time, not a sandwich; it's for the sake of your mood, you say. So you walk in, and the barista nods at you, somewhat surprised to see you out of your work clothes. You feel your tum rumbling, and with a sigh you bring yourself to look at their sandwich selection, telling yourself that, at least, you'll order a different one this time. You find yourself bothered about the price tag of the sandwich...and that's when you realise something - they all start at $5!
Adamant that you're going to make a change, you say that this is the last time, that in future you'll bring your lunch in with you. Somewhat meekly then, you bring the sandwich to the counter. Almost with pity does the barista charge you - $9.50, he says, before bringing your sandwich to the guy who nearly always burns them. You sigh and brace yourself for a dissatisfying luncheon once more, as you're sure Mr Barista, or whatever he calls himself, is probably judging you for coming in on the weekend as well as during work times. 'These sandwiches aren't even that good hardy har har', you can imagine him saying.
15 minutes later and your $9.50 has been eaten, and you walk out into the sunshine, you decide to walk home for a change, as it's an admittedly glorious day. You open up your phone and are about to go to the old reliable, but stop yourself momentarily, on account of the host's regular requests for money or support through other means, which grinds your gears. Since you only started listening a little while ago, there's a bank of about 200 shows to choose from, so you have your pick of the bunch. Maybe, you reason with yourself, he wasn't so concerned about money when he started? So you listen to the first few episodes and are shocked by what you discover - the audio quality is dire, the guests are barely audible, the structure is all over the place, and the duration of the podcast is far less. Scrolling up slightly, you land on 'a very special announcement', an episode released almost a year to the day when you started listening. You click in out of curiosity, and it's the same patchy audio, even if the host is the familiar voice you're used to.
You take a seat, somewhat curious as to what this announcement could be. Then you realise it, he's telling people that he's on Patreon. Big freakin' deal, you say, but just before you click out, something strikes you...
'I know I have no right to ask this of any of you' the host begins, 'but since this isn't my job, and since I've already invested a lot of money into it, I would really appreciate it if you guys could cover some of my costs'. You're stunned - with the quality and regularity of the podcast, you just assumed that it was his job, but the podcaster continues - 'if we can raise enough money to hit our goals, I can start investing in better audio equipment, so we won't all sound so tinny'. "Tinny", you snort, that doesn't even begin to describe it. Yet the host goes on 'all being well, this time next year we could have enough to acquire proper audio equipment, bring on great guests and do this more often.' That...sticks with you.
After the episode you scroll a bit further up, to a point about 6 months before you started listening. An episode entitled 'we made it' catches your eye. You find yourself hoping, without even really realising it, that this guy has made enough for his new microphone, and the episode begins with an immensely clearer sound. 'That's right' he says, 'we made it to our goal of $250, and I just dropped $150 on this bad boy'. You're both delighted and taken aback; you cannot believe that quality podcasting equipment would cost so much. Somewhat taken in by the victory now, you hear something which profoundly affects you. 'For the price of a coffee every month', the 'caster says, 'you could be enjoying extra content right away!' You just can't get it out of your head...for the price of a coffee.
You open up your laptop, determined to investigate. You click on that link you always told yourself was a pointless waste of time. The screen brings you to an orange P logo. You watch the video he's placed on the page, and you look to your left, the total amount of income catching your eye to the left. My favourite podcast, you say aloud, is only bringing in $340 a month. With a measure of pride and determination, you find yourself wishing to change that. Hovering over the different tiers of support, you notice the famous $5 level of support - 'grants total access to all additional content', reads the description. Further rewards catch your eye - eligible to vote for future topics, personal message of thanks, even merchandise. Again, you remember those words...for the price of a coffee.
How much money do I waste, you think to yourself, looking over at the cable bill you've yet to pay, the sandwich receipt still in your pocket. You decide to go for it, you make an executive decision to support him. The account is set up, your money goes through, and *bing*, you receive a personal message from him shortly after. You feel your stomach lurch as you read it - this is the guy, who's voice I've been so familiar with over the last few weeks, and now he's talking just with me?! Aware of the fact that yet more content is now available to you, you check the so-called extra feed. There it is - all that content you were promised. You download it greedily, doubling your available content in the space of a few minutes. Furthermore, you add your voice to the poll, and reason with yourself that 'How Britain Saved the Soviet Union' would be a brilliant topic for debate. Almost without even realising it, you plan a still longer walk for tomorrow. This time, you tell yourself, you'll drink your coffee at home beforehand.
Was that a little bit ham-fisted? Certainly, but the point was I wanted to make plain the message to you guys which most people fail to realise...
We waste money on so many different things, yet we have a strange reluctance to support our favourite podcasts monetarily, even if they bring us great and genuine joy.
I should make this clear: this is not a guilt trip, this is not a plea on behalf of myself, and the aim of this isn't even to make you all rush to sign up for your favourite podcast's Patreon accounts now, though I obviously won't stop you! No, my aim here is to get you to put things in perspective, to see your favourite podcaster not simply as the guy you listen to every week, or even every day if you're lucky. They are just like you, and unless they have been extremely fortunate or well-supported they don't do this for a living, but because of a passion. Too often we are told that people shouldn't be paid for their passions, but on a purely utilitarian level, and of course if we can afford it, how could we not send money to someone who will...
- super appreciate it more than any smarmy barista would
- put it to great use improving their show
- provide you with additional content [most of the time] in return for your pledge
- grant incredible value for money
- give you a warm and fuzzy feeling inside, since whatever his Patreon income, you just made his day for sure.
And maybe you're think right now I don't have the money to do any of that stuff, or to take my sandwich for granted, and that's of course fine - like I said this isn't a guilt trip. What I would say is that, if you are a podcast listener, and your fave comes on again saying 'you guys are the best, if you could only tell people, then that'd be great', actually listen to him! I found my favourite podcast through word of mouth, as a fellow wrestling fan told me about it, so there is genuine value in doing it. How about, rather than even doing that, simply sharing a few of their posts every now and then, or even contacting them directly to let them know you care?
The point is, there's a fine line between a podcast fan and a podcast fan. Maybe you're of the opinion that your favourite pod will carry on regardless of how you behave, and in a sense you're likely right - but imagine if you, for just one day, decided to tell say, three people as a goal, about your favourite podcaster and his works. A great conversation starter still is 'do you, by any chance, listen to podcasts?' There is no rule that says you have jump in their face and blab about what you listened to today - keep it civil, and maybe even market to them why you like it, provided of course the answer was yes to the original question. Considering the fact that as many as two in three Americans have reportedly listened to a podcast in the last year, you can bet that it will be a positive response. If not, throw a keyring at them, see what happens ....(don't!)
This Fine Line series has attempted to bring out the struggles of podcasters, but much of these struggles could be significantly lessened if our listeners took perhaps ten minutes out of their lives to talk us up to a colleague, or a friend, or a family member. It makes an incredible difference. In this fine line, we have assessed listeners, some of whom would consider themselves passionate fans, and within that bracket many more still would be willing to part with their hard earned dollas/euros/quids/yens for our sakes. I cannot tell you how incredibly humbling that fact is, but it leads us to another point.
We will always do this - unless something terrible happens; maybe we lose our job, perhaps some worse event, or it could be a case of losing interest over time, or having a creative block. Yet, you should know, from my experience at least, the only thing more valuable than a creator who is sincere, authentic and consistent is a grateful fan base egging him/her on. So even though we always do this, we would do it with a spring in our step if we had you along for the ride. And maybe you are with us 100%, you just haven't quite got around to clicking on that blasted link or sending that darned email. To you I would say, get on it - send that email, click that link, tell that colleague, share that post and, if you're so financially inclined, become our patron. Your reward isn't simply what you might get practically in return, but the satisfaction you have of knowing that you made a difference, and that you helped further the cause of something you care about, and which you enjoy on a regular basis.
Little wonder that we say "we can't do this without you" - if a particular podcaster is the voice that enters your ears in that regular slot every week, consider how their week has been. Do you think they'd benefit from your gesture of support, whatever form it takes? Of course they would. In fact, I would wager that that very voice you hear on that regular time slot has been uplifted more times than they can count by people just like you. We say it because we mean it; for all our ability to reach you guys, you, as listeners, have more power than you will ever know, and we do this for you as much as we do it for ourselves, for the art form and because we can't imagine life without this crazy thing called podcasting residing within it.
So after all that, we've reached the end of this series I have called the fine line. We've covered grabbing podcasters, resentful consumers, creativity and money and finally, perhaps most importantly of all, the role that you as listeners can play in this whole process. If you have enjoyed reading this post here, or any of the others, in keeping with the theme of this post I would ask you to share it. I have timed it, and such an act takes less than 8 seconds if you're quick!
Failing that, I hope that you will consider what you can bring to the table to your favourite podcast, and if you have any doubts about whether to send your money to them, then maybe use what I like to call the email test - if you email them, without mentioning money, and ask a question you'd like answered, give them a week. If they don't reply, they're either an overwhelmed one man gang, or maybe they aren't keeping up with their listeners as much as they should be. You can make your judgement call then, but it has to be said that if it brings you joy, it is my opinion that you owe it to them and yourself to pay it forward, and spread some joy around in return - maybe to them personally, or to other people by telling them that this podcast is good stuff.
Anyways, a reminder that my name is Zack Twamley, and right now you are reading the blog of my history podcast, When Diplomacy Fails. I would of course love to hear what you thought, so maybe leave a comment below or tweet me @wdfpodcast
A huge thanksss for reading, and if you read the previous posts, I'd love to hear if you think they make an effective trifecta. You guys are awesome, and I hope you have a great day.
Find When Diplomacy Fails Podcast through the following channels: