Digital Projects Income Report, December 2015 & January 2016

In an effort to help historians who wish to practice history online, here are my digital project income reports for December 2015 and January 2016. My apologies for being a bit late.

Earnings Report Color

December 2015 & January 2016 Income Reports

In December and January, I attempted to earn income from my digital projects in two ways: Amazon affiliate income and crowdfunding donations.

Amazon Affiliate Income

Affiliate income from linked books on this blog, the Ben Franklin’s World website, and within the Ben Franklin’s World apps increased in December.

In November 2015, affiliate income from Amazon totaled $6.26.

Total Amazon Affiliate Income for December 2015: $31.86


Affiliate income decreased in January 2016.

In December 2015, affiliate income from Amazon totaled $31.86.

Total Amazon Affiliate Income for January 2016: $16.08



The Ben Franklin’s World Movement crowdfunding campaign continues.

I increased in-show mention of the campaign in December 2015 and January 2016. I also moved most of the mentions of the campaign to the pre-roll spot—the place in the show that occurs before the main content, which in the case of Ben Franklin’s World is the interview.


Crowdfunding Stats: December 1, 2015-January 31, 2016


New One-Time Donations: 1 New Monthly Recurring Donations: 2 New Annual Recurring Donations: 2 Total Number of New Donors: 5

Total Number of Campaign Donors: 46


Funds Raised to Date

Total Amount Donated: $2775 Total pledged for recurring monthly contributions: $140 Total pledged for recurring annual contributions (monthly contributions excluded): $500




I still have a lot of work to do with this campaign. There are more ways I could increase its visibility, I just want for time to do it. However, I am still pleased with how the campaign has progressed.

The $140 that comes in each month covers the final engineering costs of one episode. Three months ago, I paid for the engineering costs for all episodes.


I have two big projects that I intend to work on part-time: a media kit and a swag store.

Media kits outline program information for potential sponsors. They include details about the program, the demographics of its audience, and ad packages potential sponsors/advertisers can purchase. I intend to experiment with seeking sponsors among publishers and other groups, organizations, and companies who have products, events, and sites that would interest my audience.

Believe it or not, there might be demand for a Ben Franklin's World Swag Store.

Prior to placing an order for t-shirts to fulfill crowdfunding pledges, I posted two possible designs on both Twitter and Facebook. Much to my surprise, listeners started requesting the ability to buy t-shirts outside of the crowdfunding campaign and to purchase additional forms of Ben Franklin’s World merchandise. It seems as though people want to help the show by purchasing items that will both yield a small profit and advertise the podcast.


Ben Franklin's World Income Report, November 2015

November 2015 marked the first month I attempted to earn money from and for Ben Franklin’s World: A Podcast About Early American History. Going forward, I intend to report the monies I earn from my digital projects. Each report will begin with a summary of what I did to make money during the past month.

I hope the information in these reports will help other historians figure out how to earn money by practicing history online.

Earnings Report Color

November 2015 Earnings Report

I attempted to earn money in two ways: Amazon affiliate income and crowdfunding.


Amazon Affiliate Income

I signed up to be an Amazon Affiliate when I started my blog Uncommonplace Book. I added Ben Franklin’s World to my affiliate account when the show launched.

Every link to a book on the Ben Franklin’s World website is an Amazon affiliate link, as are the items displayed in the “Ben Franklin’s World Bookstore." When someone clicks on a link and purchases the book, or anything else during the same visit to Amazon, I earn a small percentage of the sale.

Prior to November, the link for the podcast bookstore lived at the top, right corner of the website. In early November, I created an image link and placed it on the right sidebar to increase awareness and visibility.

In late October/early November, I increased my use and placement of Amazon affiliate links by adding them to episode descriptions. These descriptions appear on podcast apps such as Overcast, PocketCasts, and the Ben Franklin’s World apps. The links do not appear in iTunes or the Apple Podcasts app.

Total Amazon Affiliate Income for November 2015: $6.26


The Ben Franklin’s World Movement crowdfunding campaign launched on October 27, 2015.

Admittedly, I have not done a lot to promote it.

Since the start of the campaign, I have made an announcement in each episode from Episode 53 on, posted a description of the campaign with a link to the information page on the BFWorld Facebook page, my personal Facebook page, and in the Poor Richard’s Club listener community on Facebook, and I have scheduled two or three tweets to go out each day to ask listeners for support.

I am devising a plan to better promote the campaign. This plan will include more active promotion and ways I can encourage listeners to opt-in to one of the monthly recurring donation plans.

Between October 27 and November 30, listeners donated $1555 to the campaign, which received a nice bump thanks to Ann Little’s blog post on Historiann.


Crowdfunding Stats for October 27-November 30, 2015:


One-Time Donations: 19 Monthly Recurring Donations: 13 Annual Recurring Donations: 1 Total Donors: 33


Funds Raised

Total Amount Donated: $1555 Total pledged for recurring monthly contributions: $100 Total pledged for recurring annual contributions (monthly contributions included): $1325



I have a lot of work to do, but I am pleased with this start.

The income generated in November will cover the bill from my audio engineer for 3 months. It will also buy me some time while I create a media kit and a comprehensive promotion plan for 2016.


Trends in Digital Communications

I have been monitoring a few trends in digital communications. In this post, I will discuss what I have noticed, where I think it is all going, and why historians should care.


General Observations


Digital communications has entered a “Wild West” period. Digital audio, video, and magazines have been around long enough that people know how to start and produce content for them. Today, the focus is not on content creation, but on how to monetize digital media.

There are four major players driving digital media monetization trends: Traditional media networks, digital media networks, internet entrepreneurs, and consumers.

Consumers want to locate high-quality, digital content that interests them quickly and reliably. Traditional media networks, digital media networks, and internet entrepreneurs aim to service this consumer demand by providing high-quality, easy-to-find, niche content to consumers as part of membership/subscription programs.

The future of digital media is content curation and bundling.[1]

Rise and Proliferation of Podcast Networks

Network-TowerAt a casual glance, the world of podcasts might seem like a free-for-all. In fact, consolidation has begun.

The number of podcast networks has exploded over the last year.

A few of these networks developed out of traditional media such as the NPR podcast network. The majority have their roots in digital communications such as Panoply (Slate), Rainmaker.FM (Copyblogger), and Earwolf (Midroll). Others had a hybrid birth: Radiotopia and Gimlet began as digital networks, but their founders came from NPR.

Networks allow participants to cross-promote member shows to audience members who already enjoy one or two shows within that network. As a result, shows within a network tend to grow large audiences.

Additionally, networks offer bundled ad buys to advertisers. Ad revenue proceeds do not always divide equally. The network takes significant cut for maintenance and advertising fees and shows with larger audiences receive higher percentages than shows with smaller audiences.


More Players Enter the Digital Audio Game

Competition has been stiff in the realm of digital video.

Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu all offer original video content. YouTube stands as the second largest search engine and internet video producers have started to hyper-specialize in the content they produce to stand out on the platform.

The same has not been the case for audio.

Apple has dominated the podcast market.

iTunesAs of July 2015, 82 percent of all podcast listeners listened on an iPhone. iTunes and the Apple Podcasts App account for more than 50 percent of all podcast downloads. The closest competitor to iTunes has been Stitcher Radio, which supplies approximately 2.5 percent of all podcast downloads.

However, Apple is about to experience serious competition to its near monopoly as a gateway to digital audio.

During the last 4-6 months, more digital media companies have either entered or have made strides to enter the digital audio market.

In May 2015, Spotify released a beta program to curate podcast content. Since June, the company has hand selected podcasts to include in its service and each month it expands its podcast offerings for its beta user group.

On October 27, 2015, Google announced its reentry into podcasts. Google Play Audio is now accepting submissions for its Google Play Music podcast directory.

On November 2, 2015, Pandora revealed that it will be the “exclusive streaming partner” for season 2 of Serial, the most popular podcast to date.

Amazon stands as the only major player that has not announced a plan to incorporate podcasts into its media offerings.


Membership Has its Privileges

MembersSmaller podcast (audio and video) networks have begun to mimic their large counterparts. Just as Google Play Music, Amazon Prime, Spotify, Pandora, Apple, and Netflix compete to offer unique content to their subscribers, internet entrepreneurs and digital media networks have begun to create membership programs.

Panoply (Slate) offers Slate Plus. $50 per year gets you access to all content on the Slate website and extra, members-only premium content.

Gimlet Media is pivoting to the membership model too. Listeners who support the network at $60/year receive a t-shirt and access to behind-the-scenes content.

Radiotopia also offers swag for listeners who subscribe to its monthly donation options. However, listeners who subscribe at the $20/month or $300/year level also get the chance to participate in developing and choosing new talent and shows for the network.


Out in Right Field: Live-Stream Video

Live Stream VideoThis next trend has nothing to do with the consolidation and bundling trends noted above. At least not yet.

Live-stream video is growing in popularity. Millions of people love to watch live video of people doing everything from surfing to delivering a talk on how to save money on your taxes.

People love live-stream video for three reasons: First, it's authentic. Whereas people can stage how they present themselves through static social media posts or edited videos, they can’t hide who they are while streaming live video.

Second, they love live-stream video because it is interactive. Platforms like Periscope, Meerkat,, and Google On Air Hangouts allow viewers to interact with the person streaming the video. Viewers can ask questions, offer suggestions, and either harass or support the person streaming in real time.

Third, I suspect people also enjoy live-stream video because of the schadenfreude they feel when they watch someone mess up in front of a live audience.


Why Historians Should Care About Digital Communications Trends

Historians need to be aware of these trends as we consider how best to communicate our work in digital media.

For the moment, I am watching these trends to see which ones have staying power. I suspect that the consolidation and bundling of digital media into networks and subscription platforms is just getting started.

I do not think this movement to curate content as a subscription or membership service will spell the end for independent digital content producers, but when this trend finishes, it will make it significantly harder for independent producers to attract attention and build an audience. After all, the trend is about making it easier for potential readers, listeners, and viewers to find reliable, high-quality content that interests them.

Above, I noted four major players driving this trend. There might be a fifth player shortly: Universities.

At the moment, universities are focused on turning traditional ideas into digital media: They record course lectures and make them available via digital audio or video. This approach is inside-the-box thinking and doesn’t always translate into great digital content.

With that said, there are university departments producing native video, audio, and text content for blogs and podcasts.

The University of Texas-Austin History Department stands out. Check out their blog Not Even Past and the 15 Minute History podcast. UT-Austin history professors and graduate students produce blog and podcast content specifically for each media type. Additionally, although UT-Austin professors and grad students produce all of the content, their media does not reek of self-promotion.

BigTenAs universities become more involved in digital communications, I can’t help but wonder if digital education communications networks will form, whether they will form along athletic conference lines, and whether they will charge for the content they create and curate.

Will the bonds that tie the BigTen conference schools together extend to a future scholarly digital communications network?

I don’t know, but it would be powerful if it happens. Especially as the BigTen could advertise its scholarly digital communications network on its traditional television network.

When universities decide to develop digital media content that goes beyond the lecture hall, it will make it more difficult for scholarly digital media produced outside academic institutions to thrive. It may be the outlets such as Ben Franklin’s World, The Junto Blog, and We’re History will continue to prosper because of their longevity. But, new scholarly digital content producers will face a significant challenge as they seek to build an audience for their work.


[1] Bundling involves marketing, packaging, and offering two or more like products or services for one price. A good example of this would be Amazon Prime. The subscription service offers 2-day shipping, video and music streaming, and other services for one, annual membership fee.


Initial Blueprint for a Digital History Communications Lab

Vintage ScienceFor the last year or so, my brain has been formulating ideas for a digital history communications lab. This post represents my first attempt to articulate and sketch out what my brain envisions.

Note on terminology: I use “scholarly history” as a stand in for well-researched historical projects. These projects include traditional articles and monographs as well as museum exhibits or other new media projects.


Digital History Communications Lab Services Two Needs

1. Convenient Public Access to Scholarly History

People love history and if granted convenient access to historians and their work they will become advocates for history and its study.

Presently, a divide exists between historians and non-historians. People who love history want to consume high-quality historical scholarship, but they settle for "history-lite” books and programs because that is what they can conveniently access.

The Digital History Communications Lab will produce high-quality digital platforms that make scholarly history conveniently available to non-historians. Additionally, the lab will create programs that foster a sense of community and interaction between those who consume this content and the historians who contributed to its production.


2. Resource Center for Historians Who Want to Learn and Perfect Digital Communication

Vector internet marketing conceptThe Digital History Communications Lab will serve as an information hub for historians who want to learn how to communicate their work via digital means.

The Lab will curate content about social and new media and offer suggestions for how historians might adapt these platforms and tools to communicate their work. It will also offer how-to tutorials for digital platforms, social networks, and tools such as WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Tutorials will provide both basic and advanced instruction in an effort to serve the skill levels of all historians. Private consulting will be an option.

Some universities offer digital education resources for faculty and staff, but sometimes faculty and staff members feel uncomfortable seeking help because it means they have to admit their digital illiteracy in a public way. The resources of the digital history communications lab will use the anonymous feeling of the internet to allow those who want to learn, but feel embarrassed about seeking in-person help, to access the help they need on the web. The Lab's tutorials and resources will be available to all historians, regardless of affiliation.

Additionally, the Digital History Communications Lab will support experimentation with new forms of scholarly communications. It will not only offer assistance in producing audio and visual podcasts, multimedia blogs, exhibits, and apps, but it will also offer a space where scholars can produce their projects. Think a digital communications makers' space.


Digital History Communications Lab Public Outreach Network

Ben Franklin’s World represents just one of my ideas for how scholars can communicate scholarly history to a wide audience. I have ideas for more podcasts, audio and visual, as well as how historians can use the new emerging technologies of virtual and augmented realities.

The Digital History Communications Lab will serve as a leader in digital history communications. It will present the best-of-the-best projects. Its content will set a high standard that will help the public understand that scholarly history is accessible and easy to consume.

The Lab's in-house projects will be part of a network that cross-promotes its other projects and projects that meet its high, quality standards; word-of-mouth recommendation serves as the best way to attract new audience members. Production quality matters, although the Digital History Communications Lab will offer space to historians who wish to create a project, not all projects produced in its space will become a member of its network.



My thoughts about the Digital History Communications Lab are still preliminary, but they are maturing. If you have feedback, I would love to read it.

What excites me most about this concept is that it helps serve both society and the profession. It allows historians to produce and convey historical scholarship and enables non-historians to grapple with history and historical thinking in new and different ways-- ways that have become more natural for them than books.

I have thought about how I will fund this venture. It involves several different revenue streams.


How Do We Fund Digital History Communications Projects? Or, Ben Franklin's World Starts Crowdfunding

MonetizeHow do we fund digital history communications projects? This question has occupied my mind for quite some time.

Many historians appreciate how Ben Franklin’s World provides history lovers with access to the world of scholarly history. They see the value in generating and stimulating interest in professional historians’ work. However, few have ideas about how to fund and institutionalize projects like Ben Franklin’s World.

Digital history communication is seen as necessary, but non-traditional scholarship. Presently, there is no place for it within either academic or public history institutions.

Those of us who work in digital history communication and communications perform work that everyone wants done, but no one wants to pay for. This has to change.

Engaging the public will be what rescues history and other humanities fields from their present period of crisis.

So how do we raise funds to do our work until we have the proof institutions need to support our scholarship?

In this post, you will discover the four traditional methods for monetizing a digital communications project. I will also reveal why I have chosen to begin funding Ben Franklin’s World with crowdfunding.


4 Methods of Monetizing a Digital Media Project

There are four, proven methods for monetizing digital communications projects.

1. Pre-sell ad space: You approach potential advertisers and pre-sell ad space on your project.

This method works well if you have an established reputation for producing high-quality media.

2. Advertisements: You sell space on your program to people who want to sell something to your audience.

In general, advertisers purchase ad space on audio and video podcasts using the CPM (Cost Per Mille/Thousand) model. For every one thousand downloads or views your podcast garners an advertiser will pay you $2-$50 per thousand.

The amount an advertiser pays depends upon whether their ad will be native (read by the host) and where it will be placed. There are three options for ad placement: Pre-roll: before the main program content; Mid-roll: in the middle of the program; Post-roll: at the end of the program.

Unless you have a program that generates millions of downloads or views, you can’t make a living or support a project using this model. This is why some podcasters supplement the CPM model by including clickable advertisements on their websites. This strategy works well if you have a high-traffic website.

Other podcasters avoid the CPM model and craft their own advertisement deals. They create a media kit that lists their digital assets (podcast, social media followers, e-mail list subscribers, website traffic, poll data showing the demographics of their audience and how engaged it is) and present custom packages to potential advertisers. The presented packages have a set cost and advertisers often have several options to choose from as each package comes with different levels of ad placement, guaranteed social shares/promotion, affiliate opportunities and commissions.

3. Products and Services: Program hosts create products and services that audience members can purchase.

The most successful digital media producers offer products and services to their audience. Products and services include one-on-one or group consulting, webinars, eCourses, eBooks, private mastermind groups, affiliate products, and access to bonus or old content.

WTF host Marc Maron offers his latest 50 episodes for free and charges $3.99 per month for access to his older episodes.

4. Crowdfunding: Ask your audience for support.

Depositphotos_60823999_sYou set up a campaign and ask your audience to fund your work in exchange for continued high-quality content, swag, promises of no ads, bonus features, and access to you.

Sites like Patreon and Podbean offer content producers the infrastructure they need to ask audience members for regular, monthly contributions. Think Kickstarter but without a campaign time limit.

These sites make money by charging transaction fees and by taking a cut of what you make. For example, Patreon takes 5 percent of what you raise plus you pay another 4-6 percent in credit card transaction fees or a fee for payment transfers if a supporter opts to pay you via bank account transfer.

After considering these four options, I have decided to begin funding Ben Franklin’s World with crowdfunding.


Why Crowdfunding? Why Now?

Some people have a car payment, I have a podcast payment.

Producing and promoting a high-quality digital history communications project costs money.

When I started Ben Franklin’s World I made a promise to my partner Tim (the benefactor of my digital history projects), that if I succeeded in creating a successful platform, I would find a way to make it self-supporting.

Ben Franklin’s World has been successful and now it’s time to honor my promise.

My first option for monetizing Ben Franklin’s World has always been to ask my audience for support. They are the people who benefit most from my efforts, which means they also appreciate the value of my work.

I have launched the Ben Franklin’s World crowdfunding campaign, which I call the Ben Franklin’s World Movement. Ben Franklin’s World is part of the movement to help bring history back to the forefront of the public mind. The campaign asks my audience to participate in this movement in both financial and non-financial ways.


The How-To of the Ben Franklin’s World Movement Campaign

My campaign includes a video, non-financial support requests, and packages that ask for monthly, annual, or name-your-own financial support.

I am hosting the campaign on the Ben Franklin’s World website using a customizable LeadPages LeadPage; LeadPages is marketing software I purchased so I could offer a text-to-opt-in option for my listeners (text BFWORLD to 33444 to receive the show notes for each podcast episode in your inbox).[1]

LeadPages connects with PayPal, which will process funders' payments. I created custom PayPal buttons for each sponsorship package linked in my LeadPage. These buttons will place the correct amounts in my funders’ carts.

I am keeping track of donors by using MailChimp’s integration with PayPal. MailChimp will automatically log each new donor on a separate email list and send them a thank you note.

I chose to bypass sites like Patreon because I wanted to host the campaign on my website and I did not want to pay the 5 percent monthly and additional transaction fees.

As Patreon and like sites process payments through PayPal, my campaign strategy cuts out the middleman. Without the “middleman,” I maximize the amount I receive from my listeners’ donations. This is important to me as I have plans to expand the educational resources offered by Ben Franklin’s World and I ideas for other digital history communications projects.

Patreon Funds Counter

Circumventing sites like Patreon has two drawbacks: First, sites like Patreon make it easy to set-up a campaign.

My desire to save 5 percent per month, plus additional transaction fees, required me to invest time into thinking about how I could recreate their campaign system with services I already pay for.

Second, my bypass means my campaign lacks a few crowdfunding specific options, like a total amount raised widget.

As I want to be transparent about the monies I raise, I will start issuing monthly earnings reports in November. I will place these reports on the BFWorld website and I may also send these reports to my funders via e-mail.



Will crowdfunding fully fund my digital history project?

I don’t know. I am hopeful it will cover my production costs.

I look forward to posting more about how the campaign works as a funding model for digital history projects when I have data to report.

[1] Please note that the LeadPages link is an affiliate link. I purchased the LeadPages template I am using for my campaign. LeadPages offers many free templates. I had to purchase a template that included the video, package, and button options I wanted because I adapted the software to fit an unintended purpose.