You’ll have to forgive me if these words sound even most disjointed than usual: I’m writing them for behind a mixing desk, my laptop just one of half a dozen screens crammed into a room approximately the size of a walk-in closet. Truth be told, the word “approximately” doesn’t belong in that sentence: Not long ago, before we stuffed it full of broadcasting equipment, this room was a walk-in closet.
It’s a little before noon on the West Coast, and I’ve been on (Internet) air for almost five hours. Five down, 19 to go.
Nineteen hours that will be spent interviewing special guests, trying gamely to keep up with the news outside these walls, taking calls from fans and trolls alike and — most importantly of all — begging strangers to send us money to support the Future of Journalism (with Jokes).
Today’s marathon 24-hour radio show is just my latest attempt to beg and borrow enough money to keep the lights on at NSFWCORP, my Las Vegas-based digital journalism startup. We’ve raised just shy of a million dollars in venture capital, which sounds like an ass-load of cash but — with a dozen full time employees, all with full benefits — is actually a terrifyingly small war chest if you intend to pay actual journalists to do actual journalism. To put it in perspective, Newscorp burned through $80m with the Daily.
I’m not someone given to jealousy, but it’s hard to read about folks like my pal Bryan Goldberg raising six million bucks for a content site without wanting to put his eyes out with a stiletto heel. But long form, deeply reported journalism (with or without jokes) isn’t sexy. It’s barely cool. Advertisers really, really don’t want to pay for articles about abortion laws in Ireland or the government’s use of non-disclosure agreements to silence whistleblowers.
No, the only way to support stuff like that is by appealing directly to the audience. That’s why NPR is constantly peddling tote bags, and why every 10 minutes I get an email from The Nation or Mother Jones begging me for spare change to help them stay in business.
And it’s why I’m currently wedged into a converted shoe closet, supervising what might be a media first: A 24 hour-show during which we’re putting together the next issue of our print magazine, live on the air. The presses start rolling right after we go off air, at 7am tomorrow morning. For a
bribe contribution of just a few bucks, you can get your name, your face, or pretty much any other part of you, into print. Or you can just listen to the show and send us some encouraging words, as we go slowly mad in the full glare of the studio webcam.
Yes, along with our Conflict Tower, our kickstarter-esque campaign to hire more international reporters, our paywall and our print magazine, the radio show is just another front in our battle to stay solvent, and independent, in 2013’s media environment. Some claim we’re in a golden age for journalism, and maybe we are. But we’re also at a time where, if a publisher wants to make enough revenue to keep even a dozen great writers in notepads and pencils, he has to be willing to try absolutely everything to bring in an extra buck. Sleep and sanity be damned.
We’ll be here all day. Come join the fun, why don’t you?