Why we’re only earning $1.50/hour and other (more uplifting) thoughts
“How’s the podcast doing?” Everyone asks this, and it’s one of the hardest questions to answer.
On the creative side, it’s been an exciting year:
Willow quit her day job this spring and has been focusing on Out There full-time since then
We launched a new advice segment, which, though ultimately not quite the right fit for the show, was a huge learning experience
We selected our first cohort of Out There ambassadors, and brought on board a new team member — Laura Johnston — to head up the ambassador program
We started producing the show fortnightly, instead of just twice a month
We won a prestigious national award for our 2017 story “The Instinct to Kill”
We hosted our first ever storytelling workshop
But then there are the numbers questions, which are more nuanced. So we wanted to give you a peek behind the scenes at how things are really going for us.
Out There by the numbers in 2018
The good news: Out There covered its third party costs AND had a little money to spare, for the first time ever!
The bad news: We still have a ways to go before we can make a profit after paying our staff what they deserve.
But we are big believers in celebrating every little victory.
Where our money came from in 2018
The most exciting part of the numbers for us is how much difference your financial contributions make to the overall financial position of the show. We would LOVE to be a listener-supported show to the greatest possible extent, and rely less and less on ad revenue, which is a less reliable source of income for us.
A huge thank you to everyone who has given their financial support to the show in 2018. Every dollar makes such a big difference to us.
As for where the money goes? Well, a lot of different places, it turns out.
Story costs include: Freelancer payments, travel expenses for reporting trips, etc.
Tech/IT costs include: Website, audio hosting, cloud backup, editing software, etc.
Admin costs include: Office supplies, postage, etc.
Merch costs include: Getting t-shirts, stickers, etc. made
A quick note on ‘staff compensation’: although it looks like it makes up a decent chunk of the pie, we want to stress that we are by no means paying anyone what they deserve for the time they put into the show.
A reality check for the Out There team (and some motivation for 2019)
As we mentioned above, we still have some way to go before we are truly making a profit.
And as for how much WE — Willow and Alex — currently bring home for producing, editing and hosting the show, as well as strategizing about and executing our marketing and business development efforts...well...we’ll let this chart speak for itself:
As you can see, we each took home peanuts for the number of hours we put in; our wages equated to about $1.50/hour.
Of course we never expected to get rich off Out There in 2018 (nor probably ever), and we are thrilled to have created a show we love that allows us to take home anything at all.
But if we are to continue to make Out There, we need to eventually bring in, you know, a living wage (shock horror!).
Needless to say, this is front and center for us in 2019. We hope that, by sharing this, you will better understand our efforts to grow and bring in new advertisers, and will be patient as we interrupt stories to run their ads and ask YOU for financial contributions.
2018 was a year to try NEW things
Experimenting with new ideas was front and center for Out There in 2018. Safe to say, some of those ideas worked better than others. But in all things — and particularly in this podcasting landscape where everyone is figuring out how to grow and connect with audiences, and make sustainably profitable shows — we are learning. And we are starting 2019 with a million new and better ideas.
Dear Nature Segment
One of our goals for 2018 was to experiment with new and different content. Given that we heard so often from listeners that the show had helped them as they navigated tough times in their own lives, we decided to produce a new advice segment for the show: Dear Nature. It was getting away from our storytelling roots, but we saw the success of shows like Dear Sugars and thought it might be a good fit for our audience.
We found two wonderful advice columnists, Becky Jensen and Angus Chen, and started producing the segment monthly.
After six months, we ran an audience survey to ascertain how you all felt about the segment. We received some really wonderful feedback, but overall it wasn’t the resounding endorsement we had hoped for. About 40 percent of respondents loved the segment, but the rest felt ambivalent or actively disliked it.
Many of you said you preferred the original Out There stories, and urged us to make more of those, rather than focusing on advice. That feedback gave us valuable insight into why you all love listening to the show, and will inform our future thinking around new segments.
We are so glad we gave it a shot. We got to work with two wonderful human beings. We got to engage with you all about the show and deepen our understanding about what you seek from it. Once again we were reminded how incredibly special it is to have an audience who gives their feedback freely and generously, and why we place so much trust in what you have to say.
Out There Facebook Group
Your feedback led us to conclude that the Dear Nature segment wasn’t exactly the right thing to continue with at this time. But a lot of listeners expressed a strong desire for advice, saying they wanted the ability to share stories and discuss questions big and small.
So through our new Facebook group we set out to create a forum where we at Out There, and the producers who tell the stories on the show, can join listeners in conversation, as we seek to better understand ourselves and the world around us.
Through the group, we are creating an online community for Out There listeners and producers — a place for you to connect with us and with each other; a place where you can ask questions, whether about weekend hiking plans or potential career changes; a place where you can engage in discussion, and swap stories and advice.
Who knows? Maybe the group will lead to the creation of an entirely new kind of segment for the podcast in time. In the meanwhile, we are glad for another way to connect with you all.
If you haven’t done so already, you can join the group here.
One thing a lot of podcasts (particularly indies like us) struggle with is how to grow and reach new listeners. Research continues to show that one of the most common ways people find out about shows is word of mouth, along with recommendations from sources they trust (like blogs, websites, magazines etc.).
With that in mind, we set out in late 2018 to try something new in this space. Over the last couple of months, we have put together an ambassador program, designed to help spread the word about Out There to new audiences and spark vibrant conversations among our current audience.
We were overwhelmed with excellent applications from listeners keen to be ambassadors for the show. And we were proud to announce our first cohort of ambassadors: Stacia Bennett, Max Crooks and Jaye Groves, Tess Ley and Alexandra Moritz-Hanson. They all embody the Out There ethos: they ask big questions about themselves and the world around them; they find strength, inspiration and healing in nature; and they harness their experience of the world outside to tell stories that make us think.
Huge thanks to Laura Johnston, who approached us with the idea for the ambassador program and has been instrumental in driving it forward. And thanks to each of our wonderful ambassadors. You can follow them on social media by going to our ambassador page.
Stay tuned for more news from the program, plus future calls for ambassador applications. The easiest way to stay in the loop is to sign up for our email newsletter, or follow us on Facebook or Instagram (@outtherepodcast).
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Our First Storytelling Workshop
In October, we ran our first ever live event — a workshop in Laramie, Wyoming, about how to tell compelling stories about the outdoors!
The workshop, which was a collaborative effort with the University of Wyoming Art Museum, drew participants from across the country, from Utah to New Jersey. It was a delightful chance to share tips and tricks that we’ve learned through our years of storytelling.
We hope to run similar events in other locations in the future.
Some wins for the show
We took home gold
For the third year in a row, Out There took home a PRNDI award — kind of like the Oscars for public radio — winning first place in the independent podcast division for our episode "The Instinct to Kill". It is such an honor to be continually recognized by the most respected voices in public radio.
Thanks to YOU, we got a much-needed equipment upgrade
This fall, we realized that it was time for an equipment upgrade if we wanted to keep making a show with the highest production values. But we don’t currently have a budget big enough for much new equipment, and so we put the call out to listeners, appealing for anything people could give towards a wish list of new items.
We were completely blown away by the generosity of our listeners. Thanks to you, we were able to get all the items on our list, and we can’t wait to bring you audio in 2019 with a great-sounding new microphone and some beautiful new music.
2019 will be the year of…
Becoming more diverse
The outdoors industry is notoriously white, male and affluent. And the podcasting industry isn’t always much better at giving space for diverse voices.
Part of our mission is to make the concept of ‘the outdoors’ more accessible to all. But we haven’t been outstanding in doing that to date.
Contrary to our intentions, this has become a show mostly about white people, white people’s problems, and white people’s reality. And while we’re at it, mostly straight, upper middle class white people.
Basically, we’ve been talking the talk about wanting to be inclusive, but not walking the walk.
We intend for 2019 to be the year that we actively do something to fix this. Stay tuned in the coming weeks as we release more details around these goals.
Getting to know our current audience
We conducted a survey in early 2017, which gave us valuable insight into who YOU are: how you found out about the show, why you listen and what you think could be improved.
We have seen many new listeners join us since we ran that survey, and so it is time for us to run an updated survey to make sure we still have a good understanding of who you are and what you want.
Keep a look out for this over the next couple of months! We would LOVE your participation.
Expanding the team
We are currently seeking an ad coordinator, someone to be responsible for selling ad space on the show and maximizing the revenue we bring in from ad sales. Take a look at the job description here. If this sounds like something you, or someone you know, would be interested in, get your skates on and send us your resume plus a cover letter by January 4!
More international collaboration
Our Marketing and Business Director, Alex Eggerking, is moving back to Australia and having a baby this spring. So while team meetings might become more logistically difficult (we’ll have an 18-hour time difference to contend with), we are excited to add a truly international dimension to the show.
We want to thank each and every one of you for listening to the show in 2018 and supporting us in all the myriad ways that you do.
We want to call out special thanks to:
Laura Johnston for heading up our ambassador program with such curiosity, enthusiasm and warmth.
Our ambassadors — Stacia Bennett, Max Crooks and Jaye Groves, Tess Ley and Alexandra Moritz-Hanson.
Erika Burns for marketing support early in the year.
Everyone who has supported the show financially — both our monthly supporters and our occasional contributors. If you would like to support the show, you can do so via Patreon or make a one time contribution via PayPal.
Everyone who bought something off our wish list, or contributed money for us to purchase items — your generosity really did blow us away.
With love and warmest wishes to you all for a happy and healthy 2019,
— Willow and Alex