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VLOGONOMICS: PART I

Steve GarfieldThere has always been a tension in the vlogosphere between the pursuit of the "show" model (spearheaded by Rocketboom) and the "personal media" model (evangelized by Michael Verdi and Ryan Hodson of freevlog.org). Of course those models are just two possible approaches to vlogging. I'm not even sure they represent different ends of a vlog spectrum, so much as different kinds of trees in the rich vlogging forest.

The most recent hubbub stems from this New York Times article: TV stardom on $20 a day. Is that for real, or hyperbole? Can you really create a "vlog show" with a big audience for $20/day? Do you even want to? Let's step back and look at some of the issues involved.

Epsilon_content
From Eric Rice's Epsilon Construct

CONTENT
If you're starting a vlog, presumably you have something to say. Ideas may be free, but content takes time and work. Maybe we could say "CONTENT = IDEAS + PRODUCTION."

Your content might simply be what's on your mind when you turn the camera on. That's the case with Steve Garfield's rant, I will never fly United Airlines again. This isn't scripted or particularly artistic - it's just Steve ranting, which is simultaneously personal and informative. The production value is minimal. It looks fine but is relatively unproduced. Steve went from idea to video with the push of a button. It's a wonderful thing.

Was it free? That depends on how you interpret the production costs:

EQUIPMENT
Camera. Steve's digital camera obviously cost something, say $300. Maybe he already had the camera, who knows? You probably need some sort of camera to vlog, whether it's a cheap still camera with video capability or a professional high definition camera. However, you can create animation or post/remix existing video to a vlog without a camera.

Computer/Net Connection. Yes, those things are very helpful. Sure, you could blog or vlog in an internet cafe or at a library. But many people have a computer and a net connection perfectly capable of creating and posting media to a blog. Is that a cost?

Software. Steve didn't need any software to edit his video - it's ready to upload as-is.

Hosting. Some of Steve's blogs are hosted for free on Blogger, but his vlog is hosted by Typepad for around $15/month. Steve could also host his video there, but instead he uses a service called vBlog Central run by our friend Sean Gilligan. Steve gets free video hosting in exchange for the beta testing he's provided to that service.

TIME
Time is money, right? This video only took Steve a minute or two to record. But in order for Steve to have something to rant about, he actually had to spend an entire day caught up in airline blunders. Is that a cost? How much is Steve's time worth?

OTHER COSTS
Steve didn't really have to do any research, or buy anything - or did he? Do we count Steve's plane ticket in accounting for the cost of this video? That would be a little extreme, since the incident was accidental, but you can't completely ignore such hidden costs.

REVENUE
We should also consider money being generated by a vlog, which offsets costs. Steve's vlog has an iTunes ad, a Google Ad, an Akimbo ad and a Busted Tees ad. Whew! But they don't bring in all that much revenue. All combined, Steve says they generate under $250/year.

GRAND TOTAL
If you ignore all the hidden costs, and assume Steve already had the equipment, and that his time is voluntary, then Steve is videoblogging for about 50 cents/day for the hosting. Of course, he could host his blog and video for free using OurMedia or Blip.tv, for example. If you throw in the ad revenue, Steve is actually profiting from his vlog. (Way to go!)

The other option is to perform some accounting voodoo on all of Steve's computer and video equipment, and figure out how much his time is worth, factor in lost revenue sacrificed to the time spent vlogging, and divide that by the # of videos he's produced - or something like that. That cost would be considerably higher.

Steve has definitely achieved a level of celebrity with his vlog, and this surely leads to other money-making opportunities: video work, vlog consulting, product placement, his own TV show - who knows? But consider that Steve doesn't have a regular job. How much time and money has he sacrificed to spend on blogging/vlogging? Is he making money or losing money? Does it matter?

That's all I have the energy to post about for now. I focused on this particular video of Steve's because it's so simple, and yet digging deeper reveals how complex the costs can be. Steve's vlog as a whole is difficult to categorize. I'd say it's a personal/show hybrid. Steve is sort of a walking talking show himself, doing lots of citizen journalism. But then there are videos of his mom and personal life, and of course the Carol & Steve Show practically defines the splendorous collision of the "personal" and "show" approaches.

Surely the world is better off having Steve Garfield in it, especially a vlogging Steve Garfield. That's the important thing.

Questions for Steve: Do you want to do this for a living? If so, when and how? What do you get out of vlogging, what do you sacrifice, and is it worth it?

January 15, 2006 at 01:12 AM in Videoblogging | Permalink

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Comments

Chuck, my sense is you're off to a great start with this project. I think in your questions (to everyone) you should start off with simply "why do you vlog", and limit the response to two reasons.

cheers
r

Posted by: r at Jan 15, 2006 2:26:47 PM

Q: Do you want to do this for a living?

I haven't thought about it in those terms. I plan on continuing to do what I'm doing.

In the next year, I'm going to produce more frequent content for Rocketboom and higher quality theme based videos.

Q: If so, when and how?

Some things I can't talk about right now, but being compensated for producing videos would be the general idea. Sponsorship of regular programs is another area I've gotten some interest.

Q: What do you get out of vlogging, what do you sacrifice, and is it worth it?

By making the sacrifice of putting myself out there, I've developed strong friendships with other vloggers. Being part of the community of vloggers is rewarding.

It's a continuum. Watch. Learn. Create. Teach.

Teaching others and watching them develop is very satisfying.

Posted by: Steve Garfield at Jan 15, 2006 11:29:51 PM

Great stuff here!
I have been thinking a lot about my last six months, I feel I have been involved in the vlogging community...I went from zero hits on my site to over 1500 a day in less then 6 months...
If I try to think about the how and the why...I just got lost, and I find it better to just make something...

I do my best to keep my production time under an hour or so, however I often go over this...I also have no desire to make a show, however these days I have come to realize that I am the one and only host of Bicycle Sidewalk...and if I was to try and explain the essence of my little thing, honestly I would fall on my face...

A little history, last summer I was working in a Japanese government office, getting ready for the arrival of 40 American high students, paperwork, visiting the schools the students would attend while they did 10 days abroad in Saga Japan...well, long story short - I mentioned to my boss that by putting a bit of video on the net, the students in America would be able to get a feel for what they were in for...that is when I came across Freevlog...well my boss listened to my idea...however, turned it down because we didn't have net connection at the office...urgh, anyhow, the American students came and went and that job came to end, it was a temporary gig...anyhow I am glad I found Freevlog that hot summer afternoon...

Now, pick it up six months later, present day...(Jan 2006) I am glued my iMac...I have lost all interest in Japanese TV, I watch vlogs, I tell Japanese folks about this great thing happening across the world...It has consumed me.

Come this spring I may be starting a new teaching job at a top notch high school...not sure what will come of Bicycle Sidewalk, however there is no doubt I will continue to post, yet not as frequently...

Is there money to made? I have no idea. Perhaps yes, and honestly, I am leaning toward yes. I work as medical technician in a cardiology lab, my boss watches my vlog and has been pushing me to do a handful of videos for the hospital...and of course post the stuff to BS...money to be made...perhaps I will be able to pull a bit more yen from the hospital, who knows...and medical videos are great educational tools...

I guess you could say I caught the video bug about three years ago. About my fourth year as an expat in Japan, I thought it was about time to show my folks what kinda place I live in...I went to the electronic store (there plenty in Japan) and bought a nice Panasonic 3CCD camera, have always been a Mac user...got my hands on a copy of FCP...studied up...and started making short video things, for lack of a better word...I was proud of them...I would burn em to CD's and send via snail mail to my folks and friends. At that time I was clueless regarding file transfer via the net, actually I am still rather clueless...anyhow, pick this story up to present day...

After my summer job at the government office, I followed all the Freevlog steps...Thanks Verdi and Ryanne! I got got blogger site up, hated it and decided to forked out a bit of cash...invested in a Dreamhost account...love it. Started posting...as for my style, me in the corner...

The idea hit me from a far, narrate my everyday little videos in a way that is a bit different from the camera in your face...I went to the Japanese version of Walmart and bought a blue sheet for 1000 yen, (about $10) turned one of the rooms in my house into a tiny studio...I bought a long pole and hung the sheet there...turned on the lights and walla...it was rather painless, however at that time I was on a first generation 1Ghz Powerbook G4 and the render time was hmmm...I had plenty of time to wash my dishes, take the trash out, shower, shave...and even catch a few zzz's...a 5 to 7 minute piece would sometimes take over 60 to 80 minutes to render...urgh...so I bought an faster machine...vlogging is a rather expensive hobby...however I was planning on buying a new machine regardless...yet in my case I came across vlogging with all my tools already lined up...

I have mentioned vlogging as a hobby...just my opinion...I do work...ahhh...I am running out of time, actually I do have to go that place called 'work' in 20 minutes...

I am not sure if I got anywhere with this post, however I felt today would be a good day to share my story...with that said, Sayonara!...Best regards to all the vloggers out there, and Chuck good luck, it's gonna be a tough question to answer, why DO you VLOG?

Posted by: Nathan Miller at Jan 16, 2006 2:30:00 AM

Nathan - wow! Thanks for sharing all that! I love Bicycle Sidewalk. I can't afford to visit Japan so I can do it vicariously through your vlog.

This started out as an economics of vlogging exploration, but it's sure turning into "WHY VLOG?" which is incredible.

My plan is to change blogumentary.org into a videoblog, both as a place to post excerpts from the many blogger interviews I have and for fresh interviews with vloggers and podcasters. So that might be a great home for people to answer, "why do you vlog?"

Posted by: chuck at Jan 16, 2006 3:53:31 AM

right on, steve!

r: yes, good idea.

Posted by: chuck at Jan 16, 2006 8:22:52 AM

I agree Steve!

Posted by: Videoblog at Jun 27, 2006 6:55:45 PM