The True Cost (Brandon Kempf)
The links to products in this article are not gaining me any monetary compensation, they are just to provide a shortcut to the items I am talking about.
Recently we've been deluged with folks asking for money to basically do what they were going to do anyway. The board game hobby has grown leaps and bounds over the last 5 years and with it, the media that comes from the board game community has grown as well, both good and bad. With that growth comes the people who want to "make a living" participating in a hobby. There is a constant stream of Kickstarter campaigns funding media. Patreon, Podpledge, IndieGoGo, Kofi, and Drip (from Kickstarter) are constantly ran in the background. It has become the norm to have these things and to ask listeners, viewers and readers for money to support the endeavor. A lot of times this does tend to make your consumers feel guilty, like they are lesser fans because they don't have the ability to, or don't feel the need to, support their favorite creators financially. So, what does it really cost to run a podcast? That's what I am going to focus on, as that's what I know.
First thing you need when doing a podcast is a computer of some sort. Let's be real, most of us have one of those sitting at home anyway, if not multiple. Now, this does not have to be a top-of-the-line PC or iMac, you can do this with an 8 year old Dell laptop that you have sitting around, I know because I have. Next, you are going to need a mic to record your voice on, because believe it or not, that on board mic is not going to do the job. Now, you don't need top of the line anything to start with. When I started doing this, I used a USB mic that we had sitting around from a video game we used to play. When I realized that I didn't want to be holding said mic while talking into it, I sat it in a Kleenex box. Now, this isn't the best audio in the world, but it's enough to get you going and if you are talking about something interesting to folks, you know what? They are going to listen if it is listenable, which it certainly was. But, I will say, spending $100 on a nice all around USB mic makes the world of difference and I have been really happy with my Blue Yeti that I picked up a few months after starting. So there, you've now spent about $100 on your podcast.
Now, that PC or Mac that you are using to record with needs some software to capture your voice that you are sending through that mic. Since the start of our show, I've used Audacity. Audacity is a completely free audio editing software that does everything that I need for the podcast. It lacks multiple channel recording, but that seems to be it's only downfall that I have seen in three and a half years of doing this. It has some fantastic noise reduction software built in to help get rid those background noises, like fans, dishwashers or children. It also has the best bonus of all, it's easy to learn. You can certainly jump in head first and pick up some Sony audio editing software or Hindenburg, et al, but you don't need to. You can do 99% of what you will ever need with Audacity. Another free piece of software I use is Levelator. Levelator will bring audio to the same level across the board, so if you have a quiet talker, this helps bring their volume up to that of the person they are talking with. Now, it will bring up the volume of everything in the background as well, so be sure to use that noise reduction software in Audacity.
You are now recording on your PC or Mac, your audio that is being captured via your mic. You edit it, and want to upload it somewhere for the world to hear. There are multiple places to host your audio, with varying costs. Soundcloud and Fireside are two popular alternatives to what I use, and I dare say a majority of folks use, Libsyn. Libsyn is a hosting service. That means they host your audio files there and you can link that to any number of podcatching services. Libsyn is not free, there is cost here and with those fees you can get varying amounts of storage and bonus features. For the most part, you don't need these bonus features, you'll want to be able to see statistics, because who doesn't want to see those. Your audio doesn't have to be the highest bit rate for conversation, it just doesn't. No one is going to be able to tell the difference between your voice at 96 kbs or at 256 kbs. It's just not going to matter, so you can drop the bit rate and thus drop the need for a lot of storage. We here at WDYPTW get by with the $20 a month plan on Libsyn, and that's only because we do a weekly show. $20 a month gets you 400 mb of storage, which is more than enough storage for the audio we produce and most anyone produces. Every once in awhile, I have had to raise that, just because we do something special or different, but a majority of the 41 months that I have been doing this, $20 a month is more than enough.
Most podcasts feel the need to have a website, and that's fine, we do as well, but we should all know that there are free options. Websites really don't have to have all the bells and whistles that we like to have. A free Wordpress blog works perfectly fine for what a podcast needs even if you want to do written content as well. If you feel the need to have your own dedicated URL, that's about $7 a month through Wordpress, or even as cheap as $20 a year via other providers. But, we here at WDYPTW decided a few months ago to leave the world of free behind and went with Squarespace. This runs us right at $216 a year, and it allows me to have basically unlimited everything, honestly at this point we could get away with $144 but I would love to have more people contributing to the site so I have left it at the higher level. More than enough options for anyone. Just in case there is anyone out there who didn't know, Youtube is a free hosting site for videos. If you get enough subscribers, you can even monetize there as well and be paid a bit of money to host videos for free.
So, even paying extra for superfluous allowances on Squarespace, we are sitting at $38 a month in monthly billing and a $100 mic that has it's cost spread out over 36 months or so. Honestly, it could end there and you could have a podcast that is just fine. As I have said before, people will listen even if you are talking through a tin can with a string, if what you are saying is interesting.
On top of that, we bought a Zoom H4N for $160 and a couple of Shure PGA48-XLR mics for $40 a piece to go with it to use when recording in remote places, but now we use that more than we even use the Blue Yeti and the PC. So tack on $240 to our grand total. And that brings the WDYPTW total to approximately $1400 we have spent on the show and website over 41 months, or $34 a month. With some random upgrades to the laptop and such, you can probably bump that to $40 a month and that's the "True Cost" of what it has taken to run our podcast and website.
I did not pay for our logo, it was created by Brandon Pleshek and he sold t-shirts with our logo on them and gave us a % of sales, so there is an additional cost that some may choose undertake. There was a minimal cost for some business cards to be created to hand out and some fun giveaways that I did on my own for the show that I don’t have numbers on. Those are not necessities for running a show. I also buy games that I sometimes don't necessarily need because I want to be a part of the hype, to attempt to be a "tastemaker" or an "informer”, but that is my decision to make and not a necessary cost of running a podcast or review website. If someone else were to write this though, they may choose to include everything above, plus conventions, but I’m going to be doing that stuff anyway with my family, it’s not a cost to the podcast.
I know what folks will be saying, you get what you put into it, and that's correct, you do get what you put in, but pouring more and more money into a podcast isn't the answer. Our time is valuable as human beings, but most of us are doing this as a hobby. A hobby that facilitates and helps us enjoy the bigger part of the hobby that we are a part of. I’m not saying don’t support your favorite podcasts or review channels, by all means continue doing so, I would just rather you spend any money that you would be giving to us here at WDYPTW towards supporting the designers, publishers and sellers of these games that we talk about.
We did have a Patreon account here at WDYPTW, a Patreon that I was never comfortable pushing or talking about. Any time I did, I felt like a shyster, not that we weren’t giving folks what they wanted or I was being deceptive, but because I didn’t need to do it. I opened it so folks who felt the need to support us monetarily could do so if they chose to. Looking back on that now, I regret that decision to ever open it. I appreciate every single dollar that was sent to us, I really do, but there was just no need for it. I have cancelled the Patreon account and that action won’t make a bit of difference in the content that you will receive from us here. In fact, I hope you get more out of it with this no longer hanging over my head.
There are other things bouncing around in my head on this topic of consumers directly paying creators to be their personal guides, but that’s for another article, on another day. While this piece is about media content in general, this piece is mostly about me, and how I feel, not how you should feel, or what you should do. Support who you want to support and who you feel deserves your support, I just wanted to share a bit of the True Cost.