On the second episode of “The Talk Show,” John Gruber ‘finally’ discussed his reasons for leaving the 5by5 Network. Without going into detail, he cited “long standing business disagreements.”
I’ll take that as confirmation of the t-shirt sales being the final straw that broke the camel’s back.
It points to a much larger problem: There’s no money in podcasting. It’s advertising-driven. The only way to bring in real money is to grow a large network and sell ads across the whole spectrum. And unless there’s an understanding and a deep contract between podcast network owner and podcast hosts, you’re just walking into a sea of hurt. At some point, the business needs will need to trump the host’s needs, and something will give. The business dies, or the podcast(s) die(s).
What we have here, I imagine, is that conflict come to life.
5by5 is not Mule – 5by5 is one man’s business and livelihood, put together with a bunch of his friends and acquaintances. But, in the end, he still has a roof over his head and a wife and kids to bring money home for.
Mule Syndicate is an off-shoot of a web design company. It’s not The Business. It’s a hobby thing. It doesn’t have the same pressures on it that a full podcasting network has. Or, at least, it doesn’t yet. As it grows more popular and more shows appear, Mule will have to decide to either get serious about the business behind the network or cut it loose, because it’ll take too much time, attention, and resources to keep running properly.
Perhaps it won’t be so harsh, though. I’m sure the man who famously gave the “::bleep:: You, Pay Me” talk has contracts in place with his current hosts, with ad splits in writing and all the rest. But we’ll see what happens if the upstart podcast network finds its feet and starts to grow too fast.
Meanwhile, let’s hope this means Dan Benjamin is having conversations with his podcasts’ hosts about what happened and how he’s going to prevent it from happening again. Maybe more things are being put into writing. Maybe someone else will jump ship for a “better deal.” I don’t know. I just know that I’ve seen this kind of thing happen before, and we’re likely to see it again.
As much as I love the podcasts I listen to – they’re all I’ve listened to for the past five years, really – I have to admit that there isn’t the mainstream acceptance and audience for them that would be required for a network to truly take off, with few exceptions.
The TWIT network is seemingly stable with a ridiculous growth rate and a million dollar studio, but that’s partially funded by its owner’s day job, and comes with a large built-in audience from a long-dead cable network that we never got in my area back in the day.
Meanwhile, Rev3 has changed business models repeatedly, and now has sold itself to a cable channel which will no doubt change it once more.
And have you noticed how it’s the same dozen companies sponsoring all of the aforementioned podcasting networks? And a lot of them, I imagine, aren’t straight up cash deals – they’re bounty systems. If someone signs up for their services with a given code, that network gets money. Otherwise, nothing. Adam Curry and Leo LaPorte discussed this in passing on TWIT this week, as a matter of fact.
But there isn’t a terribly deep pool of podcast sponsors out there. After you get past SquareSpace and Audible and a couple of software companies with relatively expensive programs to offer, the well dries up fast.
And I have a long list of dead and gone podcasts to show for it in my iTunes feed. . .