Mac OS Ken: Making Money from Podcasting

By  |  Monday, September 21, 2009 at 1:12 am

(This interview is part of David Spark’s (@dspark) series “Making Money from Podcasting” (read summary “9 Successful Techniques for Making Money from Podcasting”) where he interviews podcasters who are actually generating revenue from their podcasts. There are many techniques, and here’s one person’s tale of how he’s making money from podcasting.)

Ken Ray, host of Mac OS Ken

Give away five shows for free, make them pay for the sixth

Ken Ray is a former colleague and now host of Mac OS Ken, a daily news podcast all about Apple and Macs. For a few years Ray had been hosting the show for free and built up a substantial audience. People started emailing and asking if there was a way they could financially support his show. Could they donate to it, they asked. Ray was not comfortable putting up a begware button on his site, but he did want to figure out a way he could generate income from the show. He just didn’t want to do anything that made him feel uncomfortable.

Interview (Time: 15:48)

Download MP3 file

Mac OS Ken - Day 6Ray’s original hope was to generate advertising revenue. Over the first two years of producing the show he got an occasional advertiser, but it wasn’t enough. Also, he simply wasn’t an aggressive salesman. It became clear very quickly that advertising wasn’t going to be his source of income. While the subscription model had its promise, he didn’t like what he was seeing from other podcasters who started for free and then began charging, or made only one show free and made you pay for the rest of the shows.

If you start out free you engage in an agreement with your audience to produce that show for free, said Ray. If he was going to do a subscription it would have to be for something else, extra. So he decided to create what he calls a “Day 6″ show which is a longer form and interview-based episode of Mac OS Ken (I’ve been a guest) that’s only available to paid subscribers. In all, you get four extra shows for $10 a month, and now he’s producing even more shows available to those subscribers.

He sees the “Day 6″ model to be kind of a hybrid between subscription and public radio. He admits that the “Day 6″ show is designed to support the five free shows during the week. Ray hasn’t become wealthy from it, but it’s become a main source of income and he’s increased his brand as a Mac expert. Just recently he’s been asked to be an editor for an upcoming Mac blog. The ink hasn’t dried on this deal so he’s not ready to announce it, but stay tuned.

While Ken Ray has been a podcasting personality for many years, the subject of making money from his own podcast did make him a little uncomfortable, but in a rather charming way. He so obviously adores his audience and his audience adores him as well that he doesn’t want to say or do anything that’s so crass to offend them. Listen to my interview with Ken as he describes how he had to admit to his audience that he needed to generate some revenue for his podcast or he wouldn’t know how much longer he could do it. I really learned about how much a struggle it is for Ken to generate money for his passion, so he can keep doing his passion, while still respecting his audience.

More episodes of “Making Money from Podcasting”

  • Never Not Funny (Technique: “Partial show for free – full show paid”)
  • Personal Life Media (Technique: “Build your own media network of programming and sell advertising against it”)
  • Pregtastic (Technique: “Get your own sponsors”)
  • Elsie’s Yoga Class (Technique: “Sell an iPhone application along with your podcast”)
  • Alaska HDTV (Technique: “Get your own sponsors”)
  • Duct Tape Marketing (Technique: “Build your brand to sell your services”)
  • ScreenCastsOnline (Technique: “Give away every other episode. Make them pay for the rest.”)
  • Izzy Video (Technique: “Give away every other episode. Make them pay for the rest.”)
  • Slate Gabfests (Technique: “Integrating sponsorship with the show’s editorial”)
  • Wizzard Media (Technique: “Got audience? We’ll get you sponsors. Or, get sponsors on your own and we’ll insert the ads” PLUS “Sell an iPhone application along with your podcast”)
  • Premiumcast.com (Technique: “Build an audience and sell premium podcasts”)
  • Manager Tools (Technique: “Build your brand to sell your services”)
  • ESPN (“Build your own media network of programming and sell advertising against it”)
  • Mevio (Technique: “Motivate your audience”)

David Spark is a tech journalist and founder of Spark Media Solutions, specialists in building industry voice through storytelling and social media. He blogs at Spark Minute and can be heard regularly on John C. Dvorak’s Cranky Geeks and ABC Radio.

 
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8 Comments For This Post

  1. Seumas Says:

    Everything on the internet MUST be monetized! Why would anyone do something for the love of doing it? All those guys in the early days of the net — or even enthusiast sysops back in the day, paying for everything for their multi-node BBSes out of their pocket and investing thousands of hours operating their systems for a community of users — were myopic pussies and should have been charging!

    There’s a lot of good content online. I’d even be willing to pay for some of it. In most cases, I wouldn’t. Almost nobody is unique, so I can get the same content elsewhere if the first guy starts to charge for it. In fact, it’ll probably be *better* elsewhere, because the enthusiast doing it for the joy of doing it is going to put more heart into it than the guy who is only going to do it if you give him a buck every time he does.

    Look, I know making a killing (or at least a living) via the internet is appealing. Who wouldn’t want to? And be your own boss, at the same time! But face the facts, most of you “internet journalists” are barely a step above the work-from-home-envelope-stuffing mentality.

    I’ve run a fairly large site for well over a decade with almost 100,000 members. It involves transactions between members and I could easily just tack on a monthly fee of a buck per user. Or 5% a transaction. Or any other number of “monetizing” methods. I could probably live very comfortably off it, at the least. I could even plaster advertising everywhere.

    I could justify it, too. After all, I have spent thousands of hours developing the code that runs the site from scratch. Designing the interface of the site (such as it is – I’m an engineer; not a web designer!). Not to mention the $30,000 I’ve easily spent on hardware, hosting, bandwidth, and other expenses paid directly out of my pocket over the years.

    So why haven’t I done it? Because, I don’t want to reduce myself to someone just doing it for a buck. I enjoy producing something for a community that appreciates it. And in many cases, a community which has forged strong real life friendships and even started or maintained a lot of small businesses.

    See, not everything has to be done for the almighty dollar. Especially not on the internet where for every person trying to make a buck, there are ten who are willing to (or forced by the “market”) to give it away. How do you compete with that? Why bother competing with it? Why not do what you enjoy and leave it at that. If you happen to eventually stumble into making a few bucks at it without cheapening yourself or selling out, fine. If you never do, then that’s fine, too.

    The problem is that there’s this “old school media” flood that came from places like TechTV and various print magazines. Don’t get me wrong – I listen to or read a number of these people and don’t have any problem with them whatsoever. But you’re all constantly indulging in endless self-involved navel-gazing. You all fill each of your podcasts or video casts with guest spots of each other. All of you have been on all of each other’s podcasts a thousand times by now. You all write about each other. And then write about having been written about by each other. And then podcast about writing about each other. It never fucking ends.

    And you’re all trying to force your “but I got paid a full salary at Ziff Davis / TechTV / wherever, before I became a _blogger_ and now I expect to make that same living (or better) on the intarwebs!”.

    You guys are amusing enough and occasionally insightful enough to spend time on, but for the most part, none of you are so much so that you’re worth cutting a check to (as a consumer). If you’re cool with plastering your site with more ads than a NASCAR stock car, then that’s up to you. But again… you could just do it for the love of it and do something _else_ for money.

    You guys all sort of strike me as the “how do I make money from my Twitter stream!” people. Because, again, it’s blasphemous to do _anything_ without making a buck at it. Or worse, as SEO people. Ugh.

    Your best bet is to become very likable. Your personality is something that _can_ be unique, even though I can get the _content_ a thousand other places.

    Anyway, take the podcast mentioned in this article as an example. There are dozens of Mac related podcasts. Several of them are really fantastic (and all of them tend to have everyone from all the other podcasts on their podcasts on a rotating basis — you know, that whole navel-gazing thing again). There isn’t a single Mac related podcast that I would pay for. If one of them started charging, I would say “thanks for the good times” and free up an hour of my day each week to do something else, relying on the other five or six mac podcasts to keep me up to speed.

    Unless you’re Leo Laporte, you’re probably not going to make a living at it and you’re definitely not going to get rich. So why not do like I did with my site and be happy providing a service with some integrity. Would I “sell out” and plaster ads everywhere and take subscription payments in return for all my work and service? Absolutely! — if we were talking millions of dollars. But none of us are talking that much money in any of these contexts and I can’t believe that most of you would be willing to sell out your integrity (not on a “he’s bought and paid for by an advertiser way, but a — there are ads everywhere and he charges” way) for mere tens of thousands.

  2. Seumas Says:

    Also, I know I didn’t directly address the “additional content for pay” thing, but it falls into the same category as far as I’m concerned. When it comes down to it, the same people are paying you that would have paid you for the main content sans the additional content. It’s just a way of un-whoring yourself in your own mind by saying “I’m not charging for it — just for something extra/special”. But the people who are paying for that something extra/special would likely have paid without it. Because they are a particular segment of the audience that for some reason may seriously just want to support that individual content. I suspect that you could just as well say “if you subscribe to this service for $10/mo, we’ll send you a free shirt/coffee mug / whatever”. Kind of PBS style.

    In the mean time, the internet (youtube, itunes, blogs, etc) are just becoming fucking INUNDATED with absolute shit that people have to sift through by all of these morons (professional, enthusiast, and other) who have been convinced that teh intarwebs are an infinite source of easy money from people who somehow find your every word golden and priceless.

  3. DaveZatz Says:

    So how much money is he making?

  4. Seumas Says:

    I couldn’t find any numbers, but the main podcast is currently #23 out of 70 tech podcasts on iTunes. As the article says it’s now his “main source of income”, but we have no idea what that income is.

    Knowing the variety of great content that exists on the web (and is free), I can’t imagine there are honestly that many people out there that are willing to pay as much for a couple extra Mac-related hours of podcasting per month as they do for their subscription to HBO, Netflix, Tivo, Satellite Radio, a magazine, a newspaper, their XBOX Live account, their MobileMe account or any number of other things. If they do, they’re probably the same people who would donate even without the extra content. The extra content is just a “so I don’t feel like I’m ripping them off” gesture, I guess.

  5. ediedi Says:

    OS Ken? it sounds a bit ridiculous. Just as the whole money from podcasting thing.

  6. Harry McCracken Says:

    @seumas: Thanks for the long and thoughtful take. I agree that not everything on the Internet should be driven by making money (and have, er, put my money where my mouth is many, many times by spending lots of time doing stuff that had no chance of making me any dough at all). At the same time, I think it’s neat when a hobby can turn into a livelihood–that’s I how I became a journalist, since I was doing it for free years before anyone paid me.

    –Harry

  7. David Spark Says:

    @seumas: Thanks for the impassioned response. This is just one of more than a dozen stories I’m producing about people making money from podcasting. The reason I don’t know exactly how much money Ken’s making from his podcast is because it’s a crass question to ask. It’s like me asking you how much money you’re making and then publishing it on this blog.

    But, with that said, I’m getting a general idea of how much money people are making with my interviews. In some cases people are just making enough money to cover their costs of production and in one interview I have a podcaster that’s signed multiple six-figure sponsorship deals. Read and listen to the other stories. I should have more up within the week.

  8. my ears hurt Says:

    Mac OS Ken has the most irritating voice ever.

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