What’s TWiT Worth To You?

When I first started doing podcasts under the TWiT banner it was little more than a hobby. How that hobby has grown, from two audio-only shows in April 2005 (The Tech Guy radio show and “this WEEK in TECH”) to over 15 shows plus 40 hours a week of live video streaming. TWiT is now a full-time business employing seven people at the TWiT Cottage in Petaluma and a dozen more contractors all over the world.

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. These companies: AOL, Cachefly, Citrix, Audible, Astaro, Drobo, Squarespace, Carbonite, Visa, Google, and Ford have helped us improve our quality, increase our variety, and become more of what you wanted. We’re very grateful to our contributors for getting us started and our advertisers for keeping us going.

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.

I should say that I do have a “day job.” My Tech Guy radio show pays enough to support me and my family, so I’m not risking bankruptcy with this plan, but the money I make from TWiT has a significant impact on my income, so your contributions will send a very clear message.We’ll publish the amount monthly so you can see exactly what I’m making before taxes and adjust your contributions accordingly.

Many of you have existing recurring contributions with TWiT through Paypal. You can’t change the amount directly, but you can cancel by logging into your Paypal account and going to the History->Subscriptions page. We’ll keep the $2, $5, and $10 buttons at TWiT.tv for those who prefer an automatic monthly contribution, and there’s a one-shot button you can use to put in a little bit from time to time. You can also mail contributions directly to TWiT, Box 1018, Petaluma, CA 94953. Please only contribute what you think TWiT is worth; only what you think I’m worth. Don’t worry, our staff and hosts will continue to get paid out of our advertising revenue (and I’m proud to say we pay well and offer great benefits and will continue to do so).

I’ve worked hard to make TWiT an entertaining and informative resource for the technophile, but only you can determine how much that’s worth. From now on when I say that your contributions are very important to me, you can believe it! And if you’re happy (or unhappy) with what we’re doing you can let me know directly and with a significant impact. I think this is the right way to run a business, and I’m pleased to put my income in your hands.

As always, thanks for your support for TWiT. We’re here because you listen and watch. We couldn’t do it without you.

Leo

Posted via email from Leo LaPosterous

63 Replies to “What’s TWiT Worth To You?”

  1. WHAT? I ain’t paying for your Mustang!!!No, seriously, I think this is a great approach and it is exactly this kind of transparency that led me to pushing the donation button. Keep up the great work.

  2. If I send in cash would you send change? HA! Seriously, what a bold move and I will do that: send you $ via a registered government agent (the postman). Paypal takes too much off the top. Best wishes.

  3. Leo,
    Why aren’t all CEOs paid this way?  Because the SEC does not permit the shareholders to determine the pay of CEOs!  A compensation committee proposes the pay package to the board and they vote it up or down.  The shareholders are not permitted to vote on it!  Congress tried to pass an advisory vote bill but it has not come through both Houses.  See the following article:
    http://www.usatoday.com/money/companies/management/2009-07-15-ceo-say-on-pay-shareholders_N.htm
    Amazing that the owners of a company have no say in the pay of the executives they hire to run it!

  4. Thanks Leo. I’m making a monthly donation but I do feel your time and effort as Chief TWIT is worth far more. Keep up the good work (and get Ray’s show published, there is SO much good stuff in there) 🙂

  5. Leo.. you work hard, as does your staff.   You all deserve everything that you make.  I’m curious though if you give bonuses to your staff out of that contributions fund?They have a great job with a great boss but I’m sure that they’d like a bit of bonus cash as well.
    Either way, keep up the good work.  You’re appreciated way up here in the frozen tundra of Toronto.

  6. I previously had a 10$ recurring set up, but it got cancled when I changed bank accounts. I’ll reset that again asap.
    You deserve a hell a lot more than that Leo.

  7. Perfect timing, I was just thinking about cancelling my subscription after last week’s TwiG, (or was it TwiT?) where you implied that they didn’t matter too much anyway.  Now, I have a reason to keep my small monthly donation coming.  A tip jar is a great analogy. This should definitely be a top story on TwiT this week, I’d love to hear Calicanis’ take on it, Jonathan Coulton or Gina Tripani, someone else who is making a living with an “alternative” model.

  8. I gotta say that I see this as a non-issue (I mean that as a compliment.). You have created this almost unprecedented broadcast engine out of nothing. There is no reason why you shouldn’t be compensated in every legal and ethical way you can. You aren’t the chief executive of a company; you are the chief executive of YOUR company. That is a tremendous difference. In any case, to this point my contribution has been largely symbolic–I wanted to demonstrate my “membership” in the TWiT Army. If you are seriously going to use these contributions as your sole income form the endeavor, I will be re-examining my commitment.

  9. i beleve the way you are doing thing now are fine if some one wants to show support they nonate to the network if some one is unhappy with the way you are running your network thay can not watch it , i’m not aposed to you making money i think the network should grow witch takes moneyand when needed you yake a draw    but again it is your network you should do what you think is best.

  10. I listen to podcasts almost exclusively nowadays, and the bulk of them come from TWIT. I’ve been a contributor for a while and, like others here, I was wondering if it mattered given the (welcome) success of the shows with advertisers. I like the shows and don’t miss the money so I kept giving. This is a great idea.
    Now if you could just use your awesome and great influence with Audible to find someone who’ll write an Android client… I’m loving my Droid and missing my audiobooks. (Kidding about the influence. And I’m sure they’re working on it.)

  11. Leo, I give each month and truly feel that I get more out of TWIT than I put in. It is a no brainer! I for one, appreciate your sentiment and will continue to donate each month knowing full well I am getting the better end of the deal.

  12. Wow, Excellent explanation, and an even better idea.  I have not contributed monetarily up to this point, but I certainly will now.  Thanks Leo.  You and your staff do a fantastic job.  Great Network!

  13. You are crazy Leo; in the good sense of the word. Yours were the second podcast I ever listened too and the one that got me into podcast listener. I admire you and you are an inspiration to me. Best luck with your new… err… scheme?

  14. I’ve added a contribution, because I love what you do.  But if I cancel, please don’t assume it’s a comment on you.  Yes, there are months where a $2 payment is an issue.

  15. I think this is a brave move. While it is hard to get in touch with Leo, because there are so many of us, and Leo has so little time, here is a clear way to show your appreciation for a show. And then I don’t mean lip service, but hard earned cash. While I have never donated money to the TWiT network, as it felt so anonymous, here Leo is clearly stating that our opinion matters, and we can influence the contents with our wallets.
    I’m also curious how other podcast networks, like the Conversations Network, founded by Doug Kaye, are going to respond to this. Those Networks also have been struggling because of lack of user support, as growth in listener base equals anonymity of the audience members. Who knows, perhaps this is one of the ways to give the audience more direct influence on the show content.
    You can love a show, but can be less enthusiastic about an episode. It is not enough reason to stop listening, but it might be an incentive to give money if you really like the contents, and can indicate: “Yes, please more of this!” If you don’t, just don’t give any (extra) money.

  16. Hey Leo, I am a student in Ljubljana Slovenija, I listen to almost all the podcasts you do, and since you do so many it is hard for me to listen to Audible at all…there just isnt enough time in one week 🙂
    Since I appreciate what you do I will also chip my cuple of $ per month for your CEO salary. Keep up the good work:)

  17. Now this is actually hard. I’ve been contributing $2/month for many years.  Right now I’m irritated as all heck at Leo for the length of his ads (why I quit listening to talk radio) and his inconsistency in praising something one week and slamming it the next.   I’ve quit a few of his shows (the Tech Guy in particular) because my blood boils when he complains about Microsoft’s DRM on licensing and then in the next breath tells people to violate Apple’s terms because they DON’T have DRM. But it’s clearly still worth $2/month to listen to Andy and John and Paul and Alex and the occasional but wonderful Don McAllister.

  18. Wow! I’ve been a subscriber since February. As I watch/listen to several shows regularly (TWiT, MacBreak Weekly and Net@Night) I’ve been sending $10/month.
    I’ve never felt better. I now feel like it’s money well-spent… even better spent.
    I love the “tip jar” analogy and every time the money leaves my PayPal account I’ll now think of it as my simple “merci Leo”
    Great idea!
    Thanks.

  19. Great and bold idea. And in keeping with the TWiT spirit and the word of certain someone … Screw You …. Only joking …. All the best!

  20. Great idea, Leo. I hope it works out. In my case, I’ve been sending lump sums every now and then, and as your advertising has ramped up, I’ve fallen behind. I fixed that today.
    Speaking of your advertising: landing Ford was a major step (and you now have a nice red traffic ticket getter).
    As I listen to you swing into an ad, I’m taken back to my childhood…and think of Arthur Godfrey. Not a bad model.

  21. Sounds good Leo..  Can we start paying for shows individually..  and be able to distribute the money for each show to the guest and you…  As always great job..  

  22. I’m sorry Leo, but I’ve got to say that this seems like Having Your Cake and Eating It Too.
    I’ve been a listener to TWiT since the inception.  I’ve also donated.  From Day 1 you said “I’ll never accept Sponsors or do Advertisements”.  Now the network is inundated with them.  In fact, some shows seem to have trouble squeezing any tangible discussion between the 5 minute Audible Ads, the 5 minute Go To My PC Ads, and your fawning over your new car.
    That’s fine, however.  You have to pay the bills somehow.
    The honorable thing to do, however, would be to say to your loyal listeners:  I know you’ve supported me — and TWiT  — over these past few years with Donations, and I appreciate it.  Now that we had Ads, however, the donations seem like double-dipping.  I’m going to end all the subscriptions, and THANK YOU for your kind support.
    Instead, you’re increasing the number of ads you run over time AND you’re now beating the drum for more donations.
    This reminds me of Movie Theaters who now charge $10 for a movie, $8 for a soda AND show 5 Car Commercials before the Trailers start.  
    Have some pride.  Resist the urge to milk your loyal listeners for every last penny.  You’re better than that.

  23. Way to go Leo.  I wish all C-level people believed in their companies like you do.  I’ve been a monthly contributor since the beginning and my donations will continue (and go up in the coming year).  Keep up the great work you do.  I can’t imagine surviving a week without my favorite TWIT shows!

  24. Leo, this is a terrible idea.  I really don’t know why you’re doing this and getting people involved in your personal finances.  What’s wrong with TWIT being a commerical enterprise?  A lot of things started out on the web as grass-roots projects and evolved. If we want the web to remain a viable and vibrant device for entertainment, information and communication we have to get the ‘free lunch’ notion out of our heads.  If something is worth watching on the web it’s worth paying for.  No apologies are needed Leo.  You have turned TWIT into a marvelous network which provides so many people with good information and entertainment every week.  Advertising is a necessary ‘evil’ that we readily accept on TV and radio.  Why not on the web and on podcasts? For those who want to whine about it – too bad.  This is just the way of the world.  Tech costs $$.  Get over it.  Leo, stop this silly Socialistic plan now before it destryoys what you worked so hard to create. 

  25. It’s not the money, it’s how we pay. Paypal? Hell no. Sending a check? A little too much work.
    Integrate Amazon PayPhrase & Google Checkout, and I’ll gladly throw you some money.
    Tell Adam Carolla the same thing.

  26. This is very exciting, Leo – congrats on having the gumption to try this.  I’ll be signing up shortly. 

  27. I think this is a great idea. I have contributed for close to a year now, and will continue to do so. In addition I would still like to be able to donate to the networks general fund, or to particular projects i.e. more HD solutions for the network.Keep up the great work! 

  28. I say this with all respect, but this seems a bit stunt-ish. Any salary that Leo does not pay himself will add value to the company anyway; investments in the company will just add value that will be recouped if the company is ever sold. In a sense, this is just shifting the old salary money into a different one of Leo’s buckets.
    I enjoy several Twit network shows; I enjoy them enough to sit through many minutes per hour of ads for products or services that I will never buy or use.
    More power to Leo if he is able to garner a lot of funds from listeners, but, honestly, it seems to be that there is enough profit without my couple of bucks a month. I hope that it’s understood that I just don’t feel strongly enough to contribute more than listening to ads that I cannot easily skip through (I listen while I exercise; it’s hard to fast forward or scrub through content while you are exercising… I listened to the recent MacBreak Weekly and the difficulty of creating AAC versions and still wonder if it’s partly that an AAC with chapters will make it easier to skip through ads? Perhaps I’m too cynical…)

  29. Prompter Bob,    Though I agree with you that the TWIT network is great. I even agree that its not a problem for advertising etc… But how the heck is Leo using the donation income as his salary “Socialistic”??? Its like its the new buzz word or something. Next thing you know every time someone is philanthropic, they will be called a socialist… This is nothing more than Leo providing his customers with the ability to put their “money where their mouth is” and thus creating an avenue by which he is able to “listen to his customers”. Something quite rare in the commercial world these days…

  30. Great idea. To make it even better (IMHO):1. Set aside a certain amount so that you can buy review units.
    2. Cap your salary. Everything that goes above that amount should go as a bonus to all TWiT employees (including you). I would love to have some of my donations go to all the people that make TWiT happen. Plus it would motivate your people to keep up the good work and to produce a great show.

  31. I have to agree with the posts that call this stunti-ish, bad idea, etc.  Maybe if you tried this in the very beginning it would have been something to crow about.
    Doing it now with all the ads on your shows and the large audience you have doesn’t seem sincere at all.

  32. It does seem a little gimmicky, but it definitely takes gumption.  I am very interested to see how this works.  Call me naive, but I think you’re doing it for all the right reasons.  So, way to go, Leo!

  33. I have been a contributer for the last few months and will continue to do so. I like the idea of using this a guage of general satisfaction with the network.
    TWiT has taken the place of regular TV for me. I no longer pay for cable TV and instead TWiT is my TV and I watch every show available on the network. Keep up the great work Leo and I look forward to the future of TWiT!

  34. Leo, I really do appluad your honesty.I love the shows and will continue to contribute and listen.

  35. I have been listening for over a year now, and enjoy many of your podcasts each week, I pay for other forms of news, entertainment, and feel if the content is good it is worth paying for, yours certainly is.
    Keep up the good work all of you.

  36. Leo really? I say make your money it was your idea and an awesome one at that. And if people don’t want to donate then oh well the ads will support the network. As far as a total user supported twit.. Never going to happen with the scale it has grown to although Its nice in theory. For the last 4 years I have been running a Sports podcasting network and its supported by me only so to say the least we are stuck in a rut.. If some one wants to pay you a lot for what you do then you would be a fool not to take it. Remain un Bios and you will be re elected as President Of The Internet .. Rock on Leo!

  37. You are definitely worth ten dollars a month but I do not mind the advertising at all. In fact I use almost all of the products that sponsor you. As far as Carbonite goes I have about 12 subscriptions (I signed up several of my customers) we also use Gotomeeting I have a Ford with Sync (Love that Sync) etc. Keep up the good work. Can you publish all the hash signs for all your sponsors so we can twitter and let them know we love them too?

  38. Leo, I’m surprised at how inspiring i’ve found this idea. I’ve given in the past but can’t leave a tip right now. Once things settle down a little in the publishing industry (or I switch industries), I’ll be back!

  39. Can’t remember how I found your online TV show but hey I like it and would love to to it myself (and will do one day soon)
    Im in the UK and to value the shows, some more than others. Been able to download video podcasts to watch is a good move.
    Donations vie PayPal is universal, cheques  NO NO. I had 2 thoughts when I heard you wanting to trial donations, 1st was why does Leo need more money he sounds from the shows quite well off. 2nd thought well surely this will allow TWIT to develop and become more of a resource for viewers.
    So people need to see change and improvement sooner than later and not just say hey “We now have $20’456 so far thats great keep it coming”
    Good luck and thanks for a great TV show. Would love to follow in your footsteps!
    Andy in UK, Hull

  40. I’m a big fan of TWiT but this seems like a PR stunt to me to get people to donate more.  You’re not giving up anything, since any surplus funds will remain in TWiT, your business, and you’ll get it back some day in the future.
    I would not mind paying for TWiT, but then I want an add free download.  The ads are really becoming annoying.  The Audible adds at least have fresh content in terms of a new book per week (although I must say if I hear once more to buy What Would Google Do or Lucifer’s Hammer I may just skip the podcast).
    Furthermore, you recently spoken about the high profit margin in TWiT: http://mashable.com/2009/10/03/leo-laporte-video/  More than a $1million dollars profit per year.  Surely you can do away with donations with that profit margin?  And maybe even consider taking less ads?

  41. Hello Leo,
    I don’t think you have needed to make this change, i don’t mind giving 10 dollars a month. You create good content, and its perfect for my long drive into work. I am looking forward to the video content as well, this might make me listen/watch more when i am not driving into work. The ads on the radio show do not bother me, i like the audible recommendations as it give me more of an insight into the guests on the shows. What i would like to see is a forum for people that donate every month, would be a nice place for the regulars to chat. And maybe give you some more direct feedback?
    Thanks
    Richard

  42. I like the idea, and thank Leo for the hours of entertainment, but I am curious about one thing- what is going to happen to any profits that TWiT makes?

  43. I dont think people wants to know what you and the gang is earning, and to be all straight; its none of their business. You should be taking what you need (pluss bonuses when you listnerbase increases), and you should be rewarding you cohosts the same way. Where it comes from makes not difference in the world.
    All premium distributors should be kicked of the network, or depend on publicly available content (e.g. twit video only available on roku and android and not iTunes). Same with the stupid stickam deal previusly. It did not try to be the best solution, just the only solution.
    You should work on decreasing the number of advertising, decrease the amount of time used on advertising, and start inserting 7 seconds spots like “The twit network is brought to you by donations. Donate at twit.tv/donate”. It might sound stupid and intrusive at first, but it is way less interrupting than you making the same speetch about fordable (ford and audable) for 10 minutes, 40 times a week.
    You will still have my 2$ a month, just dont forget us and focus to much on fordable (we and you make twit, not them)…

  44. I’ve been doing $10 a month for the past couple years and have no plans to change that.  Your additions have all been welcome, most recently Kiki.  Keep up the good work.  If you drop in quality, I appreciate the message you have given me the opportunity to send.

  45. leo is to technology journalism broadcast as jerry pournelle was to tech journalism in print.  jerry made the subject come to life with his old “chaos manor” byte column. that’s why I continue to donate to leo.  if not for leo we would have been stuck with stewart cheifet (ugh). leo is an entertainer at heart, and knows how to take a dry boring subject like tech and turn it into something fun…something you get drawn into, then addicted to.  anyone else trying to do what leo’s doing would fail miserably (except for revision 3, but then again, rev 3’s creators and a number of staffers were “mentored” by leo at techtv, so it’s no surprise they’re doing well–I would donate to them to if they asked too).  leo’s the best!  he deserves your support…

  46. Leo, I think this is very a interesting and honest approach, and I commend you for this.
    Heck, after all the knowledge I’ve gained since the mid-nineties with you, I’d give you thousands if I could.  You have tought me so much and I greatly appreciate it. 
    Please continue to do the phenomonal job you are doing.  Contributions will continue, I’m certain.
    Thank you,
    Jennifer

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