I doubt you care about this, but I need to talk about it. Will you forgive me?
I’m struggling to launch DavidMcElroy.TV. In the early stages, I was struggling with technical and creative issues, but I’m past enough of those to get started. For the last few weeks, the issues have been more fundamental.
What do I want this channel to be? And what will convince you to watch?
When I worked in politics, I had a simple goal that drove every decision I made. If my client won, that’s all that mattered. I felt that I understood how to manipulate voters, so if you gave me an appropriate budget — in a district where I understood the demographics — I knew how to achieve the goal.
I wasn’t concerned with my personal beliefs. I wasn’t trying to make great art. I didn’t care whether voters liked me. In the words of legendary Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, “Just win, baby!”
Today, I’m trying to build a commercial audience, so I have to care what the audience thinks. But I want to make something I’m proud of — something that represents my view of the world — so I’m struggling to figure out what will achieve both of those goals.
Am I here to explain complicated philosophical ideas that matter to me — and few others — even if I try to avoid seeming nerdy about it? Am I here to entertain and amuse a passive audience, even if it means dumbing the ideas down?
And can I set aside my ego enough to find a compromise between my intellectual integrity and my need to run a business?
For lack of a better way to frame it, I can’t decide whether I’m an artist or a businessman for this project.
At heart, I’m still an idealist who wants to save the world with my ideas. I am arrogant enough to believe that I see things that can be life-changing for individuals and world-changing for groups. I’m like an Old Testament prophet who believes he’s been given a word from heaven — and he goes out into the world angrily telling people to repent. (That often didn’t end well.)
But in the case of DavidMcElroy.TV, I want to make a living. I’ve spent many months studying how others have done this on YouTube and I know I can do the same. With the right strategic decisions — and a little luck — I can turn this into a six-figure (or maybe even seven-figure) income stream every year. That’s very doable.
So there’s a part of me which wants to “go Old Testament” with my message. I want to tell people to stop being so intellectually lazy and comfortable with a lifestyle which is going to collapse. I want to badger them into waking up and seeing how their lives need to change to be ready for what’s ahead.
But there’s another part of me which understands that isn’t exactly a way to sell an idea to the people who most need to hear it. That part of me wants to dumb things down and feed people in little bite-sized chunks, as I add enough humor and entertainment value to attract the folks who want to laugh along while they eat their Cheetos and change nothing about their lives.
And there’s yet another part of me which says, “Hey, guys, y’all can fight it out for what you turn this into, but please just don’t embarrass me!”
That’s my ridiculous ego speaking — and he’s not accustomed to taking this sort of chance, because he thinks he’s too good to lower himself to playing the part of a video entertainer. That part of me is scared of looking foolish — and I keep trying to hide the egotistical fears by pretending to be too intellectual to pander for an online audience.
When I started this site, I attracted a sizable audience of people who read me every day for my political content. I had a lot of libertarians and a surprising number of conservatives who followed me religiously.
But I soon got tired of doing the sort of simplistic things which attracted that kind of audience. I wasn’t making enough money at it to care about losing my small bit of revenue. So about seven years or so ago, I switched directions entirely.
I just wrote whatever I personally needed to say. I didn’t care whether I had an audience. If a few thousand people constantly showed up to read what I wanted to talk about, it didn’t matter one way or the other to me.
So am I going to be a bargain-basement clown — in the rhetorical sense — who’s just pandering to people who want to be entertained? Or am I going to do something that’s serious enough to satisfy my intellectual integrity and attract a weekly audience in the dozens? (If I’m lucky.) And if I do that, am I going to complain about how stupid the public is — since they’re not going to rush to watch that product?
I’ve recorded sample scripts which lean in each direction — and I’m honestly not sure what the answer is. Nothing yet feels quite right. So that’s what’s taking so long for me to launch the channel — because I only get to launch once. If I blow the launch, I’m unlikely to achieve my business goals.
I understand now why a good operation of this sort needs multiple people. It would help to have the right business partner to be making these decisions with — because I have too much ego at stake to know when I’m making rational decisions.
For most of you, it makes absolutely no difference whether this works or not. Even if you personally know me and you want me to succeed, it won’t change your life.
For me, though, it could be life-changing. It could let me let me shift to full-time media production, which could lead to other opportunities. It could greatly increase my income and set me up for much more after that. And it could give me a flexible business which I could operate from anywhere in the world.
If this works, I could do it from Birmingham or Tbilisi, Georgia, or Cuenca, Ecuador, or a thousand other places. This would give me flexibility and options, especially in the face of the societal collapse which I expect in my lifetime.
I’m doing something far outside my comfort zone. I’m trying to balance a commercial pursuit with intellectual integrity. I’m doing something that scares my ego. And I’m doing something which could change my life — if I can make it work.
This is why I’m struggling. This is why it’s taking so long to launch. And this is why it’s harder to be the blindly confident risk-taker that I’ve always been for all my projects in the past.
This one matters. And I’m struggling to get it right.