Over at his Posterous blog, Leo poses the question of what TWiT – the network, not just the single podcast – worth to those of us who listen every day to podcasts coming out of the TWiT cottage. He rightly goes back and remembers when the TWiT Network was just one or two shows, all orbiting the main show, This Week in Tech, which was clearly originally a tech roundtable spawned from the death of TechTV and subsequently the sweeping under the rug of all the good programming when it was absorbed by G4 so many years ago.
So Leo has proposed a solution, so he can stay in touch with exactly how much the listeners really appreciate TWiT and all of the podcasts and live video streaming and recorded video that they do every week – Leo, as the CEO of TWiT, will only pay himself using listener contributions. He’s not breaking himself doing this, and the TWiT general fund, supplemented by advertising and donations, will still live on, but here’s what he had to say:
My original plan was to run TWiT solely on your contributions, and indeed, you have been very generous. I always liked the idea of the audience supporting the network. It’s the best way for us to know whether we’re on the right track or completely off track. You got us started, but the expansion of TWiT over the past four and a half years required more money than listeners were willing to give. That’s why we started taking advertising. We never have more than one ad per half hour of programming, and we’ve limited advertisers to a handful of products I personally use and can endorse.
Lately, however, I’ve been wondering (and some have been asking) what role contributions play in an ad-supported network. The money is very helpful, certainly, but it only covers a small percentage of our operating expenses. I like being able to provide listeners with a way to show their support for what we are doing, but the connection between what we do and what you pay is getting more tenuous all the time. I want to get back to the old days where your contribution really meant something. So I’m going to make a change that gives your contribution vastly greater importance; to give you a way to vote with your dollar (or pound or Euro or peso).
Wouldn’t it be great if customers could determine how a much company’s chief executive is paid? Well I can’t speak for AT&T or Apple, but at TWiT that’s exactly what we’re going to do.
Up to now I’ve been taking my pay from TWiT’s general fund (along with all the other employees). Not any more. From now on you’ll pay me directly with your contributions. I won’t take a penny out of the operating funds.Think of your contributions as a tip jar. If you like what I’m doing with TWiT I hope you’ll contribute $2 a month (or more or less depending on what TWiT is worth to you). If you are unhappy with our direction, you can cancel your contribution completely. Believe me, I’ll notice. Your contributions will have a direct impact on how TWiT is run – because they’ll have a direct impact on my personal bottom line.
Leo goes on to point out that he does have a day job and we won’t be putting him in the poorhouse if we stop donating, but as much as I’ve disagreed with him in the past, I’ve always appreciated what he’s doing here – and this is an incredible and respectable move. He didn’t HAVE to do this, but he CHOSE to because he wants to get back in touch with the listeners like you and I who support the shows because we love them, not because we expect to get something out of it – and if things change and listeners trend away from the show for one reason or another, Leo will be the first to know about it because the donations will fall off. Similarly, if things change and something on the network is incredibly popular, Leo will be the first to know what we like and why we like it, because he’ll see more money.
Well done, Leo – it’s a huge change, not so much for bank accounts and profits, but for the community and reinforcing that sense that we really really do matter to the folks behind the microphones at TWiT.