A Show of Our Own
What can independent media upstarts teach independent entrepreneurs about marketing?
A few days ago, Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti were the hosts of Rising, a political commentary show on YouTube and owned by The Hill (as in capitol hill), a billionaire-backed political newspaper that covers and holds its way over DC.
Today, they are the hosts of Breaking Points. Some say their logo looks like that of a dating app. But it's their logo, their show.
On the Kyle Kulinski episode in which Krystal and Saagar declared independence, Krystal explains why they left The Hill:
We talk all the time about how much we believe in the new media ecosystem how much we believe in independent media free of any sort of corporate influence. And so even though I have to admit I'm really nervous, and it feels very uncomfortable but in a good way, – we wanted to step out, and go independent, and do a show of our own
What they modestly omitted is that they are really good at what they do, which is to offer unique, authentic, political/cultural takes on the news cycle. That's part of why their new channel had such a successful launch.
But it's also because they created so much go-to-market visibility and clarity about their product, ie, their ideas.
By the way, if you choose to have a publishing practice, look to independent media leaders like Krystal Ball and ask yourself this question:
How valuable is a "content marketing plan", really?
You don't "plan" your point-of-view, you find it.
* * *
But how you style your publication is a different question.
Style is another element in Breaking Point's success as compared to, say, Matt Taibbi's and Katie Halper's new YouTube show Useful Idiots, which has a similar (a) market (b) talent level/stature of hosts and (c) corporate-to-indy narrative – but with just 22k subscribers in 4 weeks, compared to Breaking Point's 132k subscribers in 4 days.
Breaking Point's non-mainstream points-of-view come with mainstream media traits: high production values, tightly-scripted monologing, desks, formal dress, make-up artists, etc. Is this theatre? No, it's messaging. You can tell because it creates clarity, in this case by focusing attention.
And all on a low-capex, bootstrapper budget.
Not just them either - there are now kitchen-utensil unboxing videos (in Indonesian, no less) with the production values of a Hollywood TV studio.
But they aren't Hollywood TV shows and Breaking Points isn't MSNBC or Fox News, where Krystal and Saagar worked.
What's going on here? Two days ago, Venkatesh Rao wrote on Breaking Smart that:
the new studio economy is built around not one, but two types of studios. One is a big-budget, quality-controlled studio environment descended from the old Hollywood variety. But the other is something closer to an artist’s studio — a single well-appointed room with good lighting and all the tools (easels, paints, canvases, brushes, cleaning equipment) required for a single person to make paintings, without relying on anyone else.
On that premise, he makes dozens of brilliants points. I'll just single out this one:
"human working relationships are the bottleneck in [content] production
when the minimum viable team to do something goes from 2 to 1, activity levels explode.".
In the future, marketing for some consultants and entrepreneurs will look like sitting in that solo studio. Rather than easels and paints, professional-quality mics, cameras, lighting, and UX design, with a MacBook as the hub and a cloud tech stack.
All of which you master.
Simple? Easy? Hell no. Advisable? It depends. If you accept the challenge, here's to a show of your own (: