24 March 2009


I made a goofy little metal video

Paul Thurrott and Leo Laporte have used my tune "More Red Than Red" as theme music for their Windows Weekly podcast since 2006. But on their latest episode, they thought about maybe replacing it with the title track from the album "Enigma," by Microsoft's retired chief of Windows development (and longtime guitarist) Jim Allchin. So I tried to dissuade them at the Penmachine Podcast:

IHR TV #5 - A Plea to Paul and Leo of Windows Weekly
from Inside Home Recording TV on Vimeo.

The "Turrican Van Halen" reference is part of the Windows Weekly show—it refers to the old Commodore 64/Atari/Amiga game "Turrican."

I made this available as Inside Home Recording TV Episode #5. You can also download it (H.264 video) or watch it at Viddler, Blip.tv, Facebook, YouTube, and Vimeo. Licensed for you to share and reuse, as long as you give me credit.

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03 April 2008


Farewell to the Lab

Ana touches up Leo's makeupBack in February when my podcast co-host Paul and I made our most recent trip down to the Lab With Leo studios here in Vancouver, no one knew that it would be the last shooting week ever for the show. But not long afterwards, Leo Laporte emailed to tell us it was the end of the line: after ten years of creating Call for Help and The Lab for TV in the U.S. and Canada, it had been cancelled.

It's a pity that a tech show like The Lab, which covers a wide variety of topics and doesn't talk down to its audience, couldn't survive—or even get U.S. distribution. Fortunately, Leo (who has been covering technology on radio and TV for decades, and has even won an Emmy award) isn't standing still, and plans to launch an online version of the show in the next few weeks from his studio in Petaluma, California (also, incidentally, the town where Mesa-Boogie manufactures its guitar amplifiers).

As far as Inside Home Recording goes, we've started posting tutorials over at IHR TV, which may later include some live-action explanatory episodes like our segments on The Lab. And though it's far less convenient than driving a few minutes across Vancouver, if we ever find ourselves in California wine country, we might appear on Leo's new show down there too.

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04 February 2008


Can you make money from blogging and podcasting?

Cancer Treatment: Day 62 (in Studio 31)As someone who's been a Vancouver blogger for more than seven years, and podcasting here for almost three, I often hear the question in the title of this post. But that's not what the questioners usually mean. What they want to ask is: Can you make a living from blogging and podcasting?

The short answer is yes, but don't go and quit your day job just yet. I didn't say that just anyone should try to pay for your food, lodging, and transportation needs (plus those for your spouse and kids) from blogs and podcasts, or that you could make a huge living from them. It's possible, but I don't do it, and haven't even tried. You should be aware that, just like anything else, making a living online would be a job, not some sort of free-money fantasy life.

My wife, who's also a blogger and podcaster, and I were talking about it this morning before she went to work (she's had the same stable, rewarding, good-paying professional day job for more than 15 years, and isn't planning on quitting that anytime soon). For us, our online activities are hobbies. They bring in a little money from ads and sponsorships, usually enough to cover their costs and maybe buy the occasional dinner.

Blogging for money

Arieanna and groovy lightsThe people I know who work as bloggers, like Arieanna, work hard. She writes at least five different work blogs (plus others) all day, every day, sometimes until late at night. (If I had to scour the news for links about Mischa Barton all day, I'd probably go batty. And that's just one blog.)

If you look at blogs that are popular enough to pay people's salaries—like Arieanna's and the others at b5media, or the Weblogs Inc. network that includes Engadget and its siblings, or successful independent blogs like Daring Fireball—they tend to be very focused and updated many times a day.

They often attract lots of comments, which require moderation and feedback, and their posts tend to be well sourced or individually researched, and also well written and concise. In many cases, the words are carefully crafted to attract search engine traffic, and the blogger may spend quite a bit of time writing about things he or she isn't all that interested in, or at least (as in any job) may have days where the job is just a slog, rather than a joy. Money-generating blogs take a lot of effort, skill, and time to maintain. They're work.

In other words, don't expect to dash off a paragraph every couple of days about what your kids ate for breakfast and have the ad revenue pour in.

Now, if you can find a day job where you spend a significant part of your time blogging, that's another matter. If I weren't on medical leave right now, I'd be doing that over here (notice that the "Daily Blog" isn't very daily while I'm absent). But that blog—and private internal blogs and wikis the company runs behind a firewall—is just a slice of my day job, not the whole thing, so I don't think it counts either.

Podcasting for money

Leo, Amber & Tod 06Podcasting, as an even newer medium than blogging, has an even less-established income stream. Search engine optimization and contextual advertising don't work as well for podcasts, audio or video. Like most bloggers (and like me), the vast majority of podcasters do what they do as a hobby. They (like me) might bring in a bit of cash from sponsors and podcast network advertising and so on. But podcast production is even more labour-intensive than blogging, and unless you put out shows quite frequently and build a significant audience on an appropriate topic (or topics, if you can manage several shows), it will be pretty hard to pay a mortgage.

Even Leo Laporte, whose This Week in Tech (TWiT) network attracts some of the biggest audiences in podcasting (numbering the hundreds of thousands each week), and who runs an extremely efficient podcasting operation largely by himself, still has a day job. Several, in fact. He remains a widely syndicated radio host, as he has been for decades, and also helms a cable TV show on which I've appeared (as a guest paid only in exposure and with a free take-out lunch) a few times.

Leo probably could make his podcasts a full-time gig, but presumably chooses instead to funnel what money he gets back into the network and to honoraria for his guest hosts. Others, like podcast pioneer Adam Curry, have used venture funding to create a buffer while they try to build businesses like PodShow into something large and viable.

Individual podcasters who work hard can also make a job of it. No one I know well does that, but among the tens of thousands of podcasts out there, a small number can keep their hosts fed, clothed, and housed. Again, those tend to be focused, well produced, frequent—and lucky. If you got into the game early, or happened to hit a certain niche at just the right time, or worked hard on a concept that struck a chord with the (still relatively small) podcasting audience, and then hustle like hell, you might be able to quit that day job, if that's what you want.

It used to be about the music, man...

Neurotics-Mop Tops 1In many ways, being a podcaster or blogger is like being a musician. Far more people play music, or blog, or podcast, for fun than make a living at it. I was a full-time musician for awhile in the early '90s, and it was tough work, with long hours, lots of low-budget travel (not a requirement online, fortunately), and crappy pay. I quit after I got married, because that life wasn't what I wanted long term.

The people I know who have made a career of music—and several of the guys in my band do just that, even though I haven't—aren't Rock Stars. They're working professionals. They do a lot of different things: they teach music, work as studio sidemen, tour with established acts, make instructional videos, play at casinos, entertain at weddings and corporate meetings, compose soundtracks, produce and engineer other acts, give seminars, and record jingles. They keep accounts, pay taxes, save money for retirement, buy health insurance, and run their careers as businesses.

I think anyone looking to work in blogging in podcasting is going to have to do something similar. Be professional, work hard. Use your online activities as leverage to do other things. Even in my blog's early days, it didn't make me any direct money at all, but it brought in plenty of work when I was a freelance technical writer and editor. Similarly, being an expert blogger or podcaster (or even better, both) can help you make money in other ways—such as helping other people and organizations make blogging and podcasting part of what they do.

It's not magic, it's work

miss604 shirts?If you're going to make money online, you'll need an entrepreneurial impulse, or you'll need to work with others who do. You need to know how these new media work, and how to promote and take advantage of them in all sorts of ways.

The Web and its technologies are still a frontier, and you'll probably have to bust your butt to succeed. You need to flexible and see opportunities you might not expect—selling cool T-shirts and mugs and stuff might make you more dough than any kind of sponsorship or advertising, for instance.

Or, if you're like me, you might prefer to let your blogs and podcasts be fun things that you do on the side, not something that you have to do every day, and which might burn you out after awhile.

The Internet is pretty damn cool, but it's not magic. Those who succeed on it are the same ones who succeed anywhere: they're smart, skilled, and have good ideas. They make realistic plans and knuckle down to put them in action. They hustle. And sometimes they fail and have to try again with a wiser view.

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29 December 2007


Our appearances on "Lab With Leo" from 2007

Over the past year, my Inside Home Recording podcast co-host Paul Garay and I have appeared six times on tech broadcaster Leo Laporte's cable show The Lab With Leo, which films (or, uh, digitizes, I guess) here in Vancouver. All six appearances are now available on Google Video:

IHR on Lab With Leo #18 IHR on Lab With Leo #30
IHR on Lab With Leo #47 IHR on Lab With Leo #50
IHR on Lab With Leo #107 IHR on Lab With Leo #110

We recorded them two at a time, which is why you'll notice that we're sometimes wearing the same shirts in more than one show. And I was taking some serious painkillers during each episode (with luck you won't notice that), since we made the segments during my spring chemo/radiation treatments, as well as before and after my major surgery in the summer.

We hope to record more in 2008 as Leo's resident audio recording experts—without those distractions.

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05 October 2007


Put your guitar stack into your computer

Several months ago my podcast co-host and I recorded a segment on guitar effects for The Lab With Leo TV show. The episode is finally available online through Google video:

We recorded another couple of bits with Leo this week, so it may be awhile before you can see those online as well, but they'll come eventually.

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03 October 2007


Recording more "Lab With Leo" today

The Lab With Leo Laporte - TV Interview at Flickr.comBack in June, my podcast co-host Paul Garay and I recorded a couple of segments for Leo Laporte's cable tech television show The Lab With Leo. The episodes went on air a few weeks later.

Today Paul and I are recording two more bits, about Apple's Logic Studio 8 and hybrid multi-function audio devices. The episodes we make today will go on air at G4 Tech TV in Canada and the How To Channel in Australia later this year.

Appearing on The Lab is fun, and I can say that Leo—a long-time radio and TV host, as well as a podcasting pioneer—is pretty much exactly the same nice guy in person as he is on air and on podcasts.

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27 September 2007


Leo and Amber debate HDTV

Earlier today, Leo Laporte, Amber MacArthur, and Tod Maffin held a discussion about the future of high-definition television () at the big Future Shop on Broadway in Vancouver. I took some photos.

UPDATE: Dave has a good summary of the event.

Leo, Amber & Tod 01 Leo, Amber & Tod 02 Leo, Amber & Tod 03 Leo, Amber & Tod 04 Leo, Amber & Tod 05 Leo, Amber & Tod 06 Leo, Amber & Tod 07 Leo, Amber & Tod 08 Leo, Amber & Tod 09 Leo, Amber & Tod 10 Leo, Amber & Tod 11 Leo, Amber & Tod 12 Leo, Amber & Tod 13 Leo, Amber & Tod 14 Leo, Amber & Tod 15 Leo, Amber & Tod 16 Leo, Amber & Tod 17 Leo, Amber & Tod 18 Leo, Amber & Tod 19 Leo, Amber & Tod 20 Leo, Amber & Tod 21 Leo, Amber & Tod 22 Leo, Amber & Tod 23 Leo, Amber & Tod 24 Leo, Amber & Tod 25 Leo, Amber & Tod 26 Leo, Amber & Tod 27 Leo, Amber & Tod 28 Leo, Amber & Tod 29 Leo, Amber & Tod 30 Leo, Amber & Tod 31 Leo, Amber & Tod 32 Leo, Amber & Tod 33 Leo, Amber & Tod 34 Leo, Amber & Tod 35 Leo, Amber & Tod 36 Leo, Amber & Tod 37 Leo, Amber & Tod 38 Leo, Amber & Tod 39 Leo, Amber & Tod 40 Leo, Amber & Tod 41 Leo, Amber & Tod 42 Leo, Amber & Tod 43 Leo, Amber & Tod 44 Leo, Amber & Tod 45 Leo, Amber & Tod 46 Leo, Amber & Tod 47 Leo, Amber & Tod 48 Leo, Amber & Tod 49 Leo, Amber & Tod 50 Leo, Amber & Tod 51 Leo, Amber & Tod 52 Leo, Amber & Tod 53 Leo, Amber & Tod 54 Leo, Amber & Tod 55 Leo, Amber & Tod 56 Leo, Amber & Tod 57 Leo, Amber & Tod 58 Leo, Amber & Tod 59 Leo, Amber & Tod 60 Leo, Amber & Tod 61 Leo, Amber & Tod 62 Leo, Amber & Tod 63 Leo, Amber & Tod 64

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