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"Some people see it as the next big thing and they're gonna make money off of it," says Chris Hagedorn. "To me, podcasting is just an audio version of blogging. You can just hear them now."
That's not to say Hagedorn hasn't found his own angle on how to profit from the phenomenon. Like most of the participants in multimedia blogging, Hagedorn is familiar with the truism (it was probably recited on somebody's podcast) that in the great California Gold Rush, the people who made the big bucks were not the miners but the guys at the general store who sold the pickaxes and dungarees.
Savvy venture capitalists are already buying up stock in companies dealing with RSS feeds, the technology that drives the on-demand delivery of both podcasting and vlogging media.
Hagedorn, meanwhile, has developed a "podcatching" client called Podcast Tuner to compete with Adam Curry's iPodder. The application, which has been gaining popularity (some report it's faster than iPodder) is currently offered free at Hagedorn's Web site (thenowhereman.com), but soon he plans to start charging $10 for a more full-featured version.
He's not planning on quitting his day job, though. "I would love to turn one of my hobbies into an income," Hagedorn says. "But that's not how hobbies work most of the time, and I don't think podcasting is an exception. For people like Adam Curry and Dawn and Drew, maybe they might be able to turn a profit. But for most of us, that's not gonna happen.
"Which is fine," he adds quickly, "because that's not why we do it."
It's been an hour now since Christian Brower posted his little vlog about the pros and cons of cremation -- in which he concludes that if there's a remote possibility of coming back from the grave as a zombie, "I've chosen instead to be buried near a nuclear waste dump or a secret government-run chemical weapons factory" -- and he's excited to see on his screen that one of the 22 visitors to his page in the last sixty minutes has left a comment.
"All right, let's take a look," he says, clicking on a link below the clip that shows the comments posted.
"'You are deliciously insane,'" Brower reads aloud, smiling. "'Don't change.' By golfwidow."
Brower frowns a bit at the sound of the poster's screen name. "Just that she's calling herself a 'golf widow' makes me think she's kind of old," he says.
The demographics of the people who come and comment on Brower's site has become a concern to him. In comparison to the hipper cinéma vérité created by the artsy Bay Area film-school grads and gutsy New York "citizen journalists" who dominate the still-infant field, Brower's vlogs are tame, scripted commentaries on mainstream topics ranging from his personal take on the Michael Jackson trial to his opinion on the hot-dog combo at Costco.
"For some reason, my fans seem to be women in their 40s and men in their 50s," Brower says, somewhat disappointedly. "That's not the most coveted market. The ones advertisers are always going for is the 18-to-25s."
As he always does when he gets a comment, Brower proceeds to dig out the identity of the new fan, clicking on the screen name that automatically links to her text-based blog page (at this point, he's only assuming it's a "her"), and skimming through her entry titled, "Fifty random things about me."
"Let's see," Brower says, scrolling quickly down the page. "'I love the Food Network. I hate Emeril Lagasse. It's been 935 days since I quit smoking.' Yep," he says, glumly. "I'm thinking it's an older woman again."
For hip inspiration, Brower has checked out the vlogs made by the movement's younger players, but feels a bit removed from their angst and naive idealism. "Most of the other vloggers are in their 20s, thinking they're gonna take on the world," he says. "That's how you are when you're that age. You have grand dreams and think you're gonna contribute to the great Utopia that's coming just around the bend. The truth is, you just haven't been whacked yet by the staff of life."
For a while, Brower says he tried affecting the attitude of the "angry-at-the-world guy" in his vlogs, but the approach seemed to alienate the core audience of older fans who keep coming back each day. Square stiffs or not, he doesn't want to lose them.
"My most popular vlogs are the G-rated, funny stuff," he says, showing some resignation. "Maybe that's just my niche."
Nevertheless, a couple of weeks later, Brower begins testing out a new vlogging character: a cotton creation named Tony the Angry Sock Puppet -- with three eyes and plenty of attitude -- who curses like a rap star at the end of his angry rant.
"Hmmm," Brower writes beside the clip. "Could there be a series?"
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