Sky Full of Bacon

Happy Baconniversary!

Fulton says moo.

Exactly a year ago today, the first Sky Full of Bacon podcast, How Local Can You Go?, was made public here and, a couple of days later, here. There was content at this blog before then, but that’s really the beginning since the main and serious point has always been the videos; the blog is just what musings come to me along the way.

So where do we stand a year later? On the whole, I’m very happy with the response. My previous venture into food video, the Gorilla Gourmet video on Maxwell Street (here and here, in two parts), had sold about 150 homemade DVDs back in the day (plus an unknowable number of viewers on cable access), so getting hundreds and even thousands of viewers for some of these videos has really been encouraging (and proof that the internet is better citizen media than anything that came before it).  I won’t rehash the numbers (since I just did that here) but basically it’s juuuust shy of 20,000 total views by my best guess; to update that post slightly, both halves of There Will Be Pork are now over 1000 views, and the La Quercia one has continued to climb and now ranks #5 overall. (On the other hand, honesty forces me to acknowledge that episode 6 of The Cheeseburger Show has finally beaten total online viewings of any Sky Full of Bacon podcast, thanks to being linked on Fark. Imagine trying to tell Colonel McCormick “Good news, sir! The Chicago Tribune got linked on Fark!”)

That points to the downside, which is that building that audience is still a handcrafted process that doesn’t quite start over with each new video, but close enough. Each time, I have to go out and cadge links, embeds, referrals, etc. from both blogs and existing media.  Some might find it ironic that new media turns out to be so dependent on old media for driving traffic, but I’m not surprised and I always conceived Sky Full of Bacon as something complementary to existing food media, not a rival to it.

Actually, that’s one thing that has changed a lot.  My initial business plan (scribbled on a toothpick wrapper) was that some publication would want to stick its branding on Sky Full of Bacon and use it as a way to show its advertisers it had a foot in new media.  Well, two minutes after I launched it, print publications all went into this big death spiral bankruptcy panic which they may or may not live to come out of.  Needless to say, helping me turn my hobby into a business fell well down their to-do list.  Arguably, it would make more strategic sense than ever for them, to have a new media partner aggressively marketing itself and them… but they’ve got more immediate fish to fry.

So I quickly went to Plan B: do this for fun and see what happens.  Will it ever be a business, a brand?  Who knows?  I find it hard to believe that this kind of hand-to-mouth way of gaining an audience will remain the paradigm forever; I have to think that the ad biz will find ways to spend its clients’ money online, and that just as radio networks formed out of the dozens of individual stations that dotted the country in the 20s, networks built around audiences interested in this or that will gain momentum.  Perhaps in five years the model will be that Sky Full of Bacon will have a sponsor, or be part of an online food video network that has sponsors, and that network in turn will buy space for an embed on a zillion food blogs, payment based on how many views it gets at each site, and guaranteeing the videos placement all over the web.  Or something like that.

For now, it’s enough that it gives me a way to be part of the discourse about food in Chicago and show that food TV doesn’t have to be game shows and gimmicks.  It’s enough to have some skin in the game of whatever media is going to turn into, rather than watch it happen from the sidelines.  It’s enough to have you, dear reader-viewer.

It really is.  It’s been great to have an appreciative audience who has enjoyed along with me seeing how this developed.  Sometimes I’m as surprised as you— as I’ve noted, it just became kind of a locavore series by accident (you shoot in your region, you’re talking local) and the emphasis on pork was really accidental, too, despite the name.  There’s no great plan of what the next 20 will be, I just shoot whatever’s interesting that presents itself and I take a style from the subject matter to some degree.  I’m a little surprised it’s as earnest as it is, since I’m known to be a pretty funny and sarcastic guy, but most of the people I’ve interviewed, I’ve admired to some degree, and I’ve seen no reason to get Michael Moore-satirical on their honest efforts to make great food in a reasonably ethical fashion.  I kind of expected to be doing something breezier and goofier, but you don’t go to a place like La Quercia and experience all that and then cut it down to two minutes with wacka-wacka gags in it.  So it is what it is, as they say in Hollywood (to excuse whatever monstrosity they’ve made now).

As for the blog, this afterthought, I appreciate everyone who actually checks it to see whether I’ve eaten somewhere, made something, or am ranting about media today.  It’s even less planned and more take-what-comes than the videos, so thanks for being interested in it at all.  Year 2 begins today, a new podcast (the first of the long-promised fish series) will be along in a couple of weeks I hope, I’ll be demoing making bacon at the Baconfest in Chicago in October, and who knows what else the second year will bring.  Thanks in advance for checking it out as it comes.

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