In the old days of the Wild West, 'Have Gun, Will Travel' were words to live by. That wasn't just the ethos of the time; it was also the title of a television show as well as a radio drama. For nearly seven years, both broadcasts ruled the airwaves simultaneously, from 1957 (1958 for radio) through 1963.
Ironically enough, for all the deadly intent that title implies, it's actually a play on a comedic trope uttered by funnyman Bob Hope. The original line was 'Have tux, will travel'. Unfortunately, other than being the title of his autobiography, his version and its context is lost to history. 'Have gun' is much more renowned.
But then, so is with media. Who knows what makes a show, song or story a hit while hundreds of others just don't cut it?
One thing we do know about is money in the media. There's lots of it and it seems to come from everywhere.
Money from the Government
For the most part, print and broadcast media started out as a public service, funded by governments - if not outright, then in partnership with commercial enterprises. The British Broadcasting Corporation is a prime example of such.
One notable exception to that standard is American broadcast media. Not even their Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) receives any government monies - neither grants nor funding. However, all the commercial networks, the Big Three - ABC, CBS and NBC, along with Fox and PBS benefit from generous tax breaks and subsidies.
One exception to the US's no-funding-media practice: print media, specifically newspapers, do receive government funding. The National Endowment for Humanities runs the Newspaper Program, which awards grant money to publishers and maintains newspaper archives.
Money from Investors
Granted, investing in an internet streaming startup or joining a webcaster's Patreon community to support them online is far more common than investing in network television or radio stations. Such investments do take place, though, just not the way you might think.
Let's cross the pond again, to the land where all broadcast media is commercial. You won't be able to invest directly in ABC or whichever your fav channel is; instead, you can buy shares in their parent company - in ABC's case, Disney.
Money from Donations
Other countries have tried variations of investment schemes to fund their public broadcast media; one notable exclusion is the UK. Besides its government funding, the BBC accepts donations from various national and international donors: the Swedes, the Dutch, the United Nations...
That doesn't mean that country's commercial media and webcasters don't seek investments, though.
In the US, PBS fundraises regularly; a practice the BBC also engages in. In other countries, fundraising and grants from wealthy patrons are instrumental in keeping broadcasts on-air, in some cases.
Money from Fees
Licensing fees and cable fees keep going up, but then again, so does the price of keeping broadcast media alive and relevant, especially as streaming services claim ever higher audience shares.
Money from Subscriptions
This revenue stream might bring to mind Netflix, Prime and other streaming services but they are not the only subscription broadcast services. Think Disney Plus, HBO Max, Sky Q and the like.
Money from Advertising
This is where the lion's share of money comes from. Those adverts that annoy viewers so much are a time-tested solution for broadcasting entities to maintain fat, steady revenue streams.
In fact, so reliable is this economic model that even Netflix is considering adverts, ostensibly because it has lost so many subscribers. And did you know that promoting products is the go-to model for social media platforms to make money?
Now that we understand the many ways that broadcast and print media are financed, let's talk about how you can make money with media.
Money in Print Media
Print media includes newspapers as well as magazines or any outdoor media such as billboards and other forms of advertising. The obvious way to make money in print media is training in journalism. With that training, you may research and write about historical and current events or, if you want to, work behind the scenes as an editor, news anchor or opinion columnist.
If you're interested in outdoor media, training as a graphic artist would help you get there.
Unfortunately, print media is reeling from a 1-2 punch. People aren't reading nearly as much as in times past and print media sales are slowing to a trickle. Why buy glossy magazines or crinkly newspapers when there's so much online content to be had for free?
This new paradigm has opened novel vistas for people with or without journalist training to break into print media. You might freelance your writing skills into a lucrative gig on a reputable platform like Medium, or launch your own website or blog. That option gives you the luxury of finding your own sponsors and advertisers.
Some people argue that the direction print media is taking - especially tucking the best of online print content behind a paywall, plays a major role in the privatisation of media. What do you think?
Money in Broadcast Media
Here, too, training in journalism is the rule of thumb if you want to work in broadcasting. However, there are a few exceptions, for instance:
- working as a radio host at a college, university or community radio station
- on-air personality (if you have some measure of fame that can be turned into something bigger)
- social media managers promote broadcasts and respond to viewer comments
- media research analysts search for hot topics for talk shows
- media buyers look for spaces for advertisement placement and other broadcast media products.
Naturally, all of these depend on whether you want to earn money as an employee. If you want to be your own boss, consider your future as a webcaster.
If you have a particular skill or talent, you could parlay it into a lucrative income for little upfront money, right from your home. Currently, IT webcasts - essentially anything related to computers including gaming and programming, are top topics. If that's not your thing, you might try current events, and economic and/or political analysis. Those areas are also very popular.
Earlier, we mentioned Patreon, the platform your viewers can donate to you across. You may also seek sponsors for your content; Skillshare and others like them are always looking for bright new voices to support.
Money in Streaming Media
In South Korea, mukbang livestreams are some of the top-earning shows on the web. In fact, so popular are mukbang livestreams that they've inspired several American (and one Canadian) livestreamers to launch their own, very popular mukbang events.
Mukbangs consist of the host eating tremendous amounts of food while maintaining a constant narrative and interacting with their audience. The best mukbangers earn thousands of dollars through sponsorships, endorsements, product reviews and viewer contributions.
Not that we're encouraging anyone to engage in unhealthy eating just to earn money; we highlight mukbangs demonstrate the possibilities of earning through livestream. If you practise an extreme sport, for example, you might livestream events. Just think of all the sponsors (GoPro! Nike!) you could attract.
Broadcast jockeys' most popular livestream channels are Twitch, AfreecaTV and Youtube. If you were looking for how to make money on Facebook... Yes, FB also has livestream capability but it's not the most popular platform so you might have a harder time attracting sponsors and viewers.
Money in Social Media
This is the route most independent-minded, innovative content creators go to make their millions - and make no mistake: there are millions to be made using social media.
Even the social-media averse know Kylie Jenner's name and can recognise her on sight. Besides reportedly having earned billions from her influencing work (this claim has been disputed), she is credited with being the most influential celebrity in fashion, the most-followed female on Instagram and the second-most followed person.
In short, she is the top social media influencer and has been since she was a teenager.
That doesn't mean there isn't room for you to become an influencer, especially not if you go about it the smart way. Superprof offers up a few quick tips.
First, realise that makeup, fashion and travel influencers abound. Granted, these are popular niches but the odds of you getting plucked out of the hordes of others who want to make their mark are substantially higher than if you presented quality content in a less-crowded field.
Next, you have to have an idea of what the latest trends are and where best to position yourself to catch the next great wave of influencer interest. You also need to know how and where to find and connect with brands, the sticking points you must hold to in your negotiations with them and the different ways you can make money on social media.
To give you some ideas and help get you started; to learn all of the marketing aspects a social media influencer must know and the business aspects of it all, we've written an entire guide on the topic.
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