Yesterday I posted about having two big decisions to make, looking ahead to 2017. Both decisions concern the various future of education and technology content projects I run, including the FTTE report and the Future Trends Forum.
Thursday’s post was about possible changes to these productions, including new efforts and possible reorganization. I learned a lot from people’s thoughtful feedback here and elsewhere (Twitter, Facebook, emails). I’m grateful for that.
Today’s post is about sustainability.
How can we keep doing all of this media production?
It’s not a new question, but remains an urgent one. To recap: my business generates most of its revenue through speaking engagements and consulting (see here for the latest update). FTTE research and Future Trends Forum discussions feed into that, helping keep my work fresh, current, informed, and tested. From an economic perspective, creating all of this stuff is part of the cost of doing business. Or it’s a loss leader.
Yet running these projects takes up a lot of resources, especially time. FTTE is really a part-time job, taking around 2 hours/day throughout the year, plus up to a single day of production time for each monthly report. The Forum is also the equivalent of a part-time job, when we factor in hunting down guests, arranging each session, arranging sufficient recording spaces (remember, videoconferencing requires bandwidth, and as host I can not afford iffy connections), and a lot of extra behind the scenes work. If I add to these two a podcast and/or game development and/or Twitter chats etc., the resource investment grows further.
Let me scope this out a little further. I’m not talking about writing books. Those have other issues, of course, especially in the 21st century, but they do offer publisher support. I’m not talking about books in this post.
For important context, please recall that I, my wife, and our little firm are utterly independent. We have no endowment. No campus or other institution hosts us. There’s no public (government) funding involved. Yes, I have a connection to the New Media Consortium, but it’s not a paying one. Put another way, I don’t have an NMC job. In the past I have done some very limited and specific work for them on spec, and hope to do more, because they’re awesome. But that has always been NMC as a one client engaging me for a specific service and/or product, limited in time, and not to sustain my futures media work. BAC, independent, is on its own.
There is no extended family money flowing into BAC. We are – literally – a mom and pop operation. Again, we’re on our own.
So, in that context, can we make all of this futures media production support itself?
There’s been some success on this front so far. NYSERNet generously supported FTTE in 2016, and I hope to continue that relationship. Shindig has contributed not only their technology to power the Forum videoconference, but also significant staff time in the production process, which is excellent.
In addition, over the past two years I’ve experimented with asking people to contribute to FTTE if they’d like to, through the “pay if you like, as much as you like” option. There have been results, but scanty ones. Fewer than 5% of people who sign up to the report actually contribute. The amounts tend to be under $10, and are one-time additions, rather than regular payments. Each contribution is much appreciated!… but, so far, are not enough in aggregate to float the ship.
What else can or should we do? Here are some options that have come up in conversation with other people, and through my research.
- Expand sponsorships. These could be from businesses or nonprofits or families. They could sponsor individual productions, or the whole combination.
- Set up a Patreon account for some or all of my future of education production. Contributions would fuel my videos, podcasts, reports, and more.
- “ “ “ Kickstarter for a specific project, such as a podcast season, or an FTTE run, or Forum season. I’d happily create good things for higher donors, such as special reports and unique meetings (videoconference or in person, depending).
- Launch in some other crowdfunding platform.
- Run ads, depending on the medium.
- Seek an institutional host or sponsor.
- Charge for some content, such as FTTE or special reports.
- “ “ face-to-face future of education workshops based on this work. (I already do a little of this)
- Change nothing, and accept that these media projects are costs to bear, supported by other aspects of the BAC enterprise.
- Do less of this media production work in order to free up time for other tasks and services.
Each of these has different costs, implications, and affordances, which I can get into if people like.
What do you think? What would you advise?
I’m blogging here to brainstorm and seek your feedback. I appreciate in advance your honesty and creativity. As ever, of course, I also appreciate and am humbled by your support.