A fair question indeed!
Today a sponsored tweet went out on my tweetstream.
There was much less backlash than I had anticipated, actually. Still, I am a pretty up-front guy and I would like to tell you what’s going on:
For about 18 months or so, I was the lone scribe on this site. I turned down sponsorships because it just seemed like people didn’t need more advertising thrown at them and I was happy to work alone for free just to provide information to readers about weird, nerdy stuff that I like. Then, the podcast happened. Again, I passed on sponsorship early on for the same reason. Now, I’m about to launch a social network for the Nerdist Community–a space where hopefully nerds will unify to create cool stuff (more on that later, but beta invites will be going out to those who want them soon).
Recently, I took on contributors because my time was becoming too splintered between working for G4, traveling & doing stand-up (I’m putting an hour together for a special), book-writing, Wired writing, and managing the various Web entities. So here’s the thing: currently, I have about 20 people working for me to help expand the Nerdist horizons who aren’t being paid a cent. Jonah, Matt, the contributors, my new editor Laurie, the social network peeps…all working for free. I explained to them up top that while 80% of my time is devoted to Nerdist-related endeavors, none of it generates any money. They still said okay.
But I feel like it’s not okay. Good Will should only have to last so long (try opening a business with “hugs” as collateral). While some of you say things like, “WTF do you need extra cash for???” I will tell you!–> I really want to give people free things but it costs money to give people free things. I am not a large corporation. I am just a dude. But it is my dream that each of these Web-based entities will one day be able to sustain themselves. If Nerdist.com generates enough money to have a paid staff with paid contributors and a paid editor, we can bring better content consistently (I don’t think anyone can dispute that the contributors have added a whole new excellent dimension to this site). It allows content creators to feel okay about the time they’re throwing into their work instead of worrying about other work that actually feeds them.
I understand where we’re at as a society. America is a fucking billboard at this point and it’s irritating. But understand that I can’t keep doing this forever unless there is a sustainable business model in place, and I certainly don’t want you shelling out cash for it. If I can get a month’s worth of quality blog posts out of my contributors just by writing a SENTENCE on Twitter, I’d be crazy not to do that. Know this: the sponsorships will not become overwhelming. On Nerdist & Node (the upcoming network) you might see a banner, on the podcast a 30 second live “brought to you by” read, and the VERY OCCASIONAL tweet (and I really do mean VERY occasional). This will allow each of these to survive and improve. If it bothers you too much then I respect your decision to disassociate yourself from me and my various bullcrappery. If you can, though, please just try to ignore it if it bothers you and appreciate the content that I provide. Know that it’s not me trying to buy a summer house but rather me trying to expand an idea and give you more stuff. Also, and this is the most important point in my opinion, I will ALWAYS tell you if something is sponsored. NEVER worry that I’m slyly trying to sell you something by recommending it. There will never be a doubt as to whether or not what you’re seeing is something I am genuinely sharing or something that is keeping this rickety boat afloat.
You have been more than generous with your time and attention, and I respect and appreciate the trust that you have given me and this blog , the podcast, and my twitterings these last 2 years. Looking ahead, I’m hoping this could actually become some kind of professional organization or something. I might be able to hire someone to edit and prepare the podcast files (instead of poorly doing it myself)! I could produce comedy vids for the site! I may even be able to manufacture promotional swag to give away…FOR FREE!!! I am incredibly excited about the new stuff that’s going on and the potential we have for growth. I sincerely hope you’ll stick around with me to see where it goes from here.
I less than three you,