David Harper wrote hundreds of thousands of words over a five-year period without making a single penny from his comic book criticism. In 2009, he and a couple friends launched Multiversity Comics, a fan website that went on to be nominated for an Eisner Award, which is basically the comic book equivalent of an Oscar.
In 2015, David struck off on his own, launching an incredibly popular podcast and website. As his audience grew, he began to think about ways he could monetize it, and he eventually rolled out a paid subscription model. In my interview with David, we talked about the origin of his comic book fandom, where he found his audience, and how he designed his subscription offering.
Flere episoder fra "The Business of Content"
How Google collaborates with news publishers
50:34Google has a long and complicated relationship with news publishers. On the one hand, it sends billions of visitors to their websites every year through its main search engine, Google News, and other products. On the other hand, some publishers believe that the Mountain View company has siphoned away ad revenue on the back of their content. Amy Adams Harding, Google’s director of analytics and revenue optimization for news and publishing, believes the search giant has the potential to provide a net benefit to publishers. Over the past several years, her team has developed a suite of tools aimed at helping media outlets to optimize their content so it reaches a bigger audience and drives more revenue. In our interview, Amy walked me through these tools and explained how they work. She also talked about why publishers need to adopt many of the strategies that ecommerce platforms developed over a decade ago.
The Juggernaut is hyper focused on an underrepresented market
1:05:22Snigdha Sur’s first idea for a media startup was a kind of Netflix-for-Bollywood streaming service, but when she spoke to investors about the idea, they all pointed out that it would be too easy for Netflix to simply copy her strategy. Though she quickly scrapped that idea, she still wanted to launch some sort of outlet that would service South Asian Americans, a group that she felt was underrepresented in mainstream media. This led to the launch of a free weekly newsletter that amassed several hundred readers. That free newsletter eventually evolved into The Juggernaut, a subscription-funded publisher that has a dedicated and growing fan base. I interviewed Snigdha about how she convinced YCombinator to let in a media startup, why she launched a hard paywall, and whether she’ll ever introduce advertising into her revenue mix.
Content creators are charging their fans for text messages
46:45Most subscription strategies have a pretty straightforward value exchange: in exchange for a monthly payment, the subscriber gains access to premium content that’s locked behind some kind of paywall. But what if you want to keep all your best content in front of the paywall? What could you still offer to your audience to make a monthly subscription payment worth the price of admission? Thousands of content creators have turned to platforms like Subtext, a tool that allows them to exchange text messages with their fans. Creators can either send mass texts out to their entire audience or get into individual conversations with subscribers. I’ve tried out the tool myself, and it’s truly innovative. For this episode, I spoke to Subtext CEO Mike Donoghue. We talked about how his team developed the application and the different ways creators use it to generate revenue.
Yes, I'm still here
13:33My newsletter: https://simonowens.substack.com/
How the Art of Manliness monetizes its loyal audience
45:00Most major media companies are focused on scale. They want to reach ever larger audiences and then leverage that reach to drive more revenue. To accomplish this, they invest time and resources to create content across all major social platforms, from YouTube to TikTok to Snapchat. The Art of Manliness isn’t that kind of media company. Let me give you an example of what I mean: it managed to build its YouTube channel to 1.2 million subscribers, an impressive feat, only to mostly abandon the channel several years ago. In a 2017 video, founder Brett McKay explained that there were other projects he’d rather devote his time to -- projects like writing a book, lifting weights, and producing his podcast. According to Jeremy Anderberg, the Art of Manliness’s managing editor and one of only three full time employees, this kind of narrow focus is part of the company’s ethos. It purposefully didn’t try to scale like the BuzzFeeds and Vox Medias of the world. Instead, its team devotes nearly all of its energy into writing articles and producing a podcast, the latter of which has an incredibly loyal audience. That audience is so loyal that thousands have signed up for a 12-week bootcamp the company runs for “those who wish to revolt against our age of ease, comfort, and existential weightlessness.” Anderberg spoke to me about how The Art of Manliness built its audience, why it launched its bootcamp, and what it’s like to work for a media company that purposefully stays small.
How Mental Floss evolved over its 20-year history
39:19In the spirit of Mental Floss’s 20th anniversary, let me give you a few pieces of trivia about the magazine. It made a cameo in two episodes of Friends and an episode of Netflix’s The OA. It started as a print magazine but discontinued its print edition in 2016. In addition to its web content, it produces several popular video series on YouTube. And in 2018, it was acquired by Minute Media, a conglomerate that mostly consists of sports media sites. Suffice it to say, the Mental Floss of 2020 looks a lot different than when it was a magazine published out of the dorm room of two Duke University students. I recently sat down with its editor in chief Erin McCarthy to talk about its post-print strategy and why a sports media company was interested in a publisher that specializes in history trivia.
He writes one of Hollywood's most influential newsletters
40:58By the time Richard Rushfield launched his newsletter The Ankler in 2017, he had held journalism jobs at several major media companies that included The Los Angeles Times, BuzzFeed, and Gawker. But because he served as a behind-the-scenes editor in most of these roles, he didn’t have much of a personal brand to speak of, which meant he needed to build a newsletter readership from the ground up. Despite these headwinds, Richard managed to replace his full-time salary within about two years, and The Ankler is now a must-read for virtually every Hollywood studio executive. In our interview, he explained how he built his audience and why he prefers his life as an independent writer much more than his past career as a traditional journalist.
His daily podcast got 5 million downloads in its first year
41:45If you’re in the media, then you’re probably aware of The Daily, the massively successful podcast produced by The New York Times. It now receives over 4 million downloads a day and generates eight figures in revenue for the newspaper. But is it possible to replicate The Daily’s success without the institutional support? That’s the question Jamie East set out to answer. A year ago, he and a few colleagues launched The Smart 7, a 7-minute podcast that’s published each weekday at 7 a.m. Its relatively simple format and consistency made it easy for listeners to build it into their daily habits, and within its first year it hit five million downloads. I recently interviewed Jamie about why he struck off into indie podcasting when he already had a successful career in traditional broadcasting, and he explained how he plans to build an entire network of niche daily podcasts.
How to form a podcast collective
52:06If you look at the Apple and Spotify podcast charts that track the most downloaded shows every week, you’ll notice that many of the most popular podcasts belong to large networks. Organizations like Gimlet Media, Wondery, and NPR are able to pool their resources to promote their content, and this gives their shows a distinct advantage over independent podcasts, even those of similar quality. That’s why some indie podcasters have formed collectives. These entities provide many of the same benefits of a network while still allowing for the podcaster to own their intellectual property. To get a better perspective how these collectives work, I interviewed Amanda McLoughlin, the founder of a collective called Multitude. In our interview, Amanda explained her process for recruiting shows to join Multitude, the collective’s business model, and why podcasters shouldn’t be timid about asking their audience for financial support.
This writer and podcaster amassed a huge audience of comic book fans
45:22David Harper wrote hundreds of thousands of words over a five-year period without making a single penny from his comic book criticism. In 2009, he and a couple friends launched Multiversity Comics, a fan website that went on to be nominated for an Eisner Award, which is basically the comic book equivalent of an Oscar. In 2015, David struck off on his own, launching an incredibly popular podcast and website. As his audience grew, he began to think about ways he could monetize it, and he eventually rolled out a paid subscription model. In my interview with David, we talked about the origin of his comic book fandom, where he found his audience, and how he designed his subscription offering.