I want to first preface this article stating I absolutely love Revision3. I’ve been a Diggnation viewer from the beginning and watch several other Revision3 shows; namely Ctrl+Alt+Chicken, InDigital, Infected, Systm, thebroken, and most recently The Totally Rad Show. I will continue to support Revision3 no matter what the outcome is, but I will not change my opinion.
The History of Downloading Diggnation Early
Early in Diggnation’s lifetime, Revision3 made the decision to offer a subscription model. Paying member (cheapest $50/year) would receive Diggnation on the usual Saturday and non-subscribers would receive Diggnation on Tuesday (has recently been changed to Monday due to new shows). Diggnation viewers supported Revision3′s decision because at the time subscriptions were their only source of income.
A few weeks after announcing the subscription model, sites cropped up offering Diggnation for free on the day of release. This was allowed due to Diggnation’s Creative Commons license, and Revision3 unofficially allowed it with the condition that the number of downloads be reported to them.
All was good until about a month ago. Diggnation publicly denounced downloading via these sites, claiming it hurt their advertising revenue. The most popular download site, Diggdown (recently taken offline), thought they were in the clear for reporting download numbers to Revision3. It became apparent this was not the case when they received a Cease and Desist letter. The Cease and Desist cited Diggdown for Digg trademark infringement and hosting works of Revision3 illegally.
Diggdown willingly changed its name to Iggdown, but disagreed with hosting Diggnation illegally. After all, Iggdown reported their download numbers to Revision3 and Diggnation was distributed under Creative Commons. However, the problem was not Iggdown reporting the numbers; the problem was Revision3 could not trust the numbers. Iggdown then closed its doors in fear of a lawsuit.
What’s Wrong With This Picture?
I would sympathize with Revision3 if their subscription model was their only source of income, but it’s not. For the last year Diggnation has been sponsored by well-known (and most likely well-paying) sponsors such GoDaddy, Microsoft’s Zune, Dolby, and Audible.com. Not to mention they recently received another round of venture capitalist funding totaling $8 million. Diggnation is obviously doing well without the subscription revenue, which leaves me to wonder why they are still pushing for subscribers.
From a viewer standpoint the subscription model is not worth it. For around a dollar an episode, subscribers receive Diggnation two days early. Every once in a while a subscriber-only bonus short is thrown in there, but that hardly happens enough to even consider that a membership perk. To further deplete the usefulness of the subscription model, Diggnation does not even discuss this week’s stories the majority of the time. There is usually a few days time-lapse between recording and publishing, making stories old news by the time of release. So, unless a subscriber plans to watch Diggnation on Saturday night every week, an extra two days is hardly worth it.
What’s Really Wrong With This Picture?
At this time, it’s apparent Revision3 still is not successful enough to sustain itself, which is why they are being funded by venture capitalists. So, I can see why Revision3 is not willing to sacrifice their subscription revenue. However, look at the big picture. Venture capitalists are investing in Revision3 with hope that the company becomes successful enough to make them money. For that to become a reality, Revision3 needs to grow. What’s going to help them grow the most? Advertising. Advertising is where the big bucks are. That’s why television has advertising (you only pay to get the television signal in your house), and that’s why magazines are practically given away (Kevin Rose even said this).
To make the advertising model successful, Revision3 needs viewers. The very same viewers who are being turned away by the subscription model. Instead of downloading Diggnation on Revision3′s servers where they can monitor the downloads, viewers are downloading from other sources. Those sources are not reporting the numbers (or can’t be trusted), therefore causing lost revenue. Advertising and subscriptions cannot coexist; one must be chosen over the other to make the maximum amount of income.
A Sign of Change
Thankfully, Revision3 is starting to see the light. Kevin Rose announced during an episode of CrankyGeeks that eventually the subscription model will disappear. Sure, he only said it after John Dvorak caught him in a string of excuses, but at least it’s a start. A more promising move comes in the form of Revision3 naming Jim Louderback as their new CEO. He has worked in the technology journalism field for years and wants to see podcasting become a profitable medium. With a little luck, he’ll bring a change of pace in the coming weeks.