I listen to a lot of free podcasts. I enjoy plugging the input in my ears and then doing dishes or cleaning house. Or in one ear and sitting in the control room on a dull night shift. But many of them mention “donations” to help support them. Some of them are part of the giant NPR machine, but most are independent. One of them, “No Agenda Show” with Adam Curry and John C Dvorak, has a large donation segment where they read the names and notes from everyone who gave more than $50. They often get downright demanding. It’s less like they’re begging for money and more like they’re calling you deadweight for not pitching in. After all they’re giving value to you… they spend all this time collecting and analyzing news and legislation, watching C-SPAN (so I don’t have to) and then recording a 2 1/2 hr show twice a week. If they charged for the show I would probably pay $1/episode, but I probably never would’ve found them in the first place.
The odd thing is whenever I start really thinking about donating to No Agenda, I feel like I’m betraying all my less whiny podcasts that give me just as much value. Drabblecast and escape pod have authors to pay. Marc Maron gives deeply (though he does have some advertising revenue, I doubt it’s much).
And part of me is like “They should just feel good that they’ve got thousands of people listening to them. There’s plenty of other people who would love to have those kinds of audiences.”
The era of free content has ruined people’s expectations. Advertising paid for our television “for free” in our youth, and our radio as well. At a cost of turning us into a product, and lowering their content to the lowest common denominator. Then the internet flooded us with free content. Free blogs. Free news articles. Free clips. Free encyclopedia. Free searches, and free content at the other end of the searches. Free apps. And if we ignore some almost impossible to enforce laws: free music and free movies.
Don’t these creators deserve to make a living? And wouldn’t it be nice if they could do it without the content of their content being infected by the influence of money that comes from advertisers.
This blog is hosted by a free service… every time I make an entry I debate the $18/ a year to get it hosted under a .com name. But why should I spend money I don’t have to on 5 posts and no readers?
I don’t have any answers here. Just a bunch of questions.