Sky Full of Bacon

Five-figure media

This is going to be new media talk, if that bores you, there will be more food talk soon enough.

My foraging video has passed 4000 views at Vimeo. And as I mentioned in the post below, my total viewings to date are now well over 10,000 (over 11,000 at Vimeo plus hundreds more via iTunes and my own server).

This is starting to be real media. That may seem like a vainglorious claim—how can I say that when TV shows draw millions—but the reality is that there are lots of things that sell or get watched or listened to in the five figures, or even four, that we treat as “real” media. The book I wrote about a dozen years ago sold 14,000 copies—which may not sound like much, but impressed the hell out of folks published by universities, who knew their sales were in the hundreds. The run of a classic film on DVD from a small distributor like Kino might only be a few thousand. Even TV—many cable network shows draw non-primetime audiences in the five or low six figures.

And certainly compared to other attempts at similar online media, these numbers are strong. Okay, not as strong as Chad Vader or similar goofiness on YouTube, but as I mentioned before, there’s a vaguely similar series of videos produced in Chicago that’s also on Vimeo, and their last one has been viewed all of a couple of hundred times. Not to get all Seth Godin or Jeff Jarvisy here, but it’s really a textbook example of the old versus the new media playbook. Here’s their tactical approach to getting viewers in a few Powerpoint-style bullets:
• Existing brand name
• Built-in subscriber base
• Magazine-style subject with proven audience appeal (how to videos with name chefs)

And they get a couple of hundred views. I have no name, no built-in base (maybe LTHForum would count as one, but it amounts maybe 75-150 views each time, not that big). But what I do have is:
• Personal approach that makes my stuff feel like it comes from a real person
• The determination to go out and schmooze for links all over the landscape (which paid off hugely this time)
• “Sticky” subjects (that is, the kind of subjects where you feel like telling somebody “Hey, check this out!” and putting it up on your site)

These are the things that matter in the new media landscape. There’s nothing brilliant about how I’m doing it, and there are at least hundreds, maybe thousands doing it better than me on a million topics all over the web. But my relative success with somewhat esoteric, longform regional foodie documentaries is a perfect example of where our media landscape is going, toward homemade media that can genuinely compete in the same media landscape for a sliver of the audience, if they work hard at it.

And more and more our media landscape is becoming about slivers. The mass audience is vanishing. The media are facing rough times (everybody talks about newspapers, but I wouldn’t bet on fat times for magazines, radio or local TV stations any time soon, either). And slowly, slooooowly, the realization is dawning that all numbers are not equal—that the person who had a TV show about food on while they were surfing the web, eating a sandwich and sorting the laundry maybe isn’t an equal prospect to the foodie who sat and watched a 17-minute video on the computer of their own choice, from beginning to end. That one of the latter is maybe worth ten of the former. Or 100… if you can find the medium that reaches them.

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3 Responses to “Five-figure media”

  1. Jenna Says:

    Bravo, Mr. Gebert! Though I follow your blog, the foraging video was one of the first I had a chance to watch all the way through. Trust me, I’d watch them all as soon as they were posted, it’s just that I check your blog from work via Google Reader, and don’t have the luxury of computer speakers. Since this one came out near my winter break, I finally remembered to see it while on my computer at home.

    I know you don’t need to hear it from me, but: Keep up the good work!

  2. Michael Gebert Says:

    Who says I don’t need to hear it from you? I’m always happy to hear from people who’ve watched them and liked them. Thanks!

  3. Azam Ahmed Says:

    A reporter for the Chicago Tribune here. Would like to chat if you have a moment. I caught your documentary on urban foragers and would like the chance to speak with you about it briefly. Please send along a contact number to [] and I’ll call you today.
    Azam Ahmed