Our friends at Never Not Funny have made some big changes lately, and everyone and their uncle has asking me what I think.
For those who don't know, NNF is a comedy-talk podcast hosted by MaxFunPals Jimmy Pardo and Matt Belknap. Jimmy has been one of my favorite comics for years, and has hosted several TV shows on cable. Matt is the founder of ASpecialThing.com, which is a great website that I've been visiting since I was in college, when it was part of a comedy news site called Fugitive Alien. My nerd-roots with these guys are deep. I feel very lucky to know them in real life these days, and they're awesome guys who I respect and admire. The show is really wonderful, maybe my favorite podcast. I'm not alone, either, they have a very strong listenership.
Here's what they've been up to:
* They've just completed their 100th episode, which was taped live in LA.
* Jimmy's brother-in-law, Andrew Koenig, videotaped the show and is producing clips for his new site, MonkeyGoLucky.com like the one above.
* They're going pay. They'll be charging $20 for their next six months of weekly episodes -- about 75 cents apiece. There will also be 20 minutes of each episode offered free to non-paying customers.
It's the lattermost thing that's been most controversial. It remains very unusual in the world of podcasting to charge for your work. This is in part because the technology has been difficult to implement. It's also in part because it is difficult to build an audience when you're charging. Mostly, it's because everyone else's shit is free.
So there are a couple of questions this suggests, the first of which is: should podcast creators be able to charge for their content? My answer to that is an emphatic yes. I think talented people working hard to create great content should be rewarded for doing so, and I think that the price these guys are asking is very, very modest. I know I will be paying the money gladly.
Another question is: is this the best way for them to monetize this content? I think in Jimmy and Matt's case, yes. Both have real lives and families, and neither is a salesman. They tried an advertising model with a failed comedy portal early on, and later reached out to advertisers without much success. I know from my own experience that this is a very, very tough row to hoe.
Should they take donations? I know from my own experience that Jimmy in particular finds asking for donations distasteful, and I certainly understand where he's coming from. I also know from experience that this, too, is a tough row to hoe. Even producing a public radio show, something people are used to donating for, I get donations from less than one percent of my listeners. Donations are a part of what lets me eat, but even if NNF was getting the kind of support I'm getting from their audience, split between two guys... it wouldn't be much.
The last question is: will it work? I don't know. I know the show has lots of fans, about as many as my show, and lots of them love the show plenty. Many of those folks will pay. Even if they lost 75% or 85% of their audience, they's still be pulling in one full-time income between the two of them. I think they'll make money.
The question for me is how this will affect their growth. It's my guess that at the minimum 65% of their listeners won't pay. Probably more like 90%. How many will continue to listen to the free short podcasts? How many will tell their friends? How many will sample when sampling costs $1.99? All of that remains to be seen. The worst case scenario is that 1,000 people pay for these 26 episodes... then 500 for the next 26... and so on. That's not my prediction, but it's certainly possible.
What do you think of the move? What do you think will happen? There's been an excited discussion of issue in the forum.... join in!