Monday, February 6, 2012

A C-Note for Hauntcast?

Once more into the breach. Seems there really is a movement afoot to resurrect Hauntcast, only it's not what I think was being discussed in my last post about the show possibly coming back (I believe that turned out to be a stripped out version of Fright Flicks & Horror Reviews, which would feature just Chris Baker and Johnny Thunder, pretty cool all by itself).

The new movement, though, if you want to call it that, would be to have a real subscription format, but rather than just the $1 per show Hauntcast devised last time, it would be $100 for the year with a goal of at least 250 subscribers.

Obviously that would gross Hauntcast a minimum of $25,000 which would allow him to justify the amount of time he and his team invest in the production of the show, and speaking of the team, would allow him to pay a stipend to the Scream Team who've agreed they'd come back if they could get paid for their participation. In these still difficult economic times, it makes sense for everyone to want to maximize their own return for their effort. The real question is, of course, does it maximize the return of potential subscribers?

Last year when Hauntcast went pay-per-download, I paid for my own subscription, plus 3 or 4 more subscriptions: two for a contest I held and one or two for friends. That would have brought my support of the show to as much $60, so would another $40 be a dealbreaker for me? Doubtful, but it has to be admitted there is a lot of competing attention for really scarce discretionary money.

I subscribe to both HauntWorld and Haunted Attraction magazines, which go for around $50 each annually (and there's a new magazine coming out next month, Top Haunts, that looks really good), but you get just four issues a year (TH would be biannual, that's two issues a year for the numerically challenged). Hauntcast would be monthly. I also attend a few Halloween and haunt-related shows each year, which adds another $50-$100 a year to my obsession investment, but those are just one- or two-day events. Then there's of course the time and money I commit to making and building props each year, all with the knowledge I'm doing this for a few dozen kids -- at most -- who come trick-or-treating to my house each Halloween (last year, because of the snowstorm and power outages, there were just two kids that showed up, and two neighbors who stopped by to tell me they appreciated my decorating efforts each year). So obviously the risk-reward ratio is all out of whack when it comes to me and Halloween.

In the past I've said how much joy I get out of Hauntcast. It helps me while away the hours on prop building and just listening in generally. I was really getting into the new Ed Gannon segment that was introduced before the show ended and from what I've seen he might be willing to come back as well. That alone should be a big (haunted) attraction for many. It is for me.

Yet at $100 a subscription, that's no small commitment for listeners. When it was $1 a show, most of the subscribers melted away, and -- though I don't know why I think this -- I believe there may have been at most a few thousand listeners (2,000 or less). Can the show attract say just 10% of this number for what amounts to a nearly 10-fold increase in the subscription price? I find it difficult to see them pulling it off.

Without question, Chris's show was top quality. Just from my sorry-ass attempts at editing my vlog I see the time commitment necessary to do all the editing required for the two-hour show that Hauntcast became. And while I appreciated all the extra content Chris gave, undoubtedly from a sense of believing he wanted to give more to people who were paying for his product, it was a monumental undertaking.

My suggestion would be that Chris reduce the admission fee to $50, but cut the content back to the one hour or so that it was before the switch to the pay-per-download format. That would put Hauntcast on the same footing as various Halloween and haunt-related magazine subscriptions and shows and wouldn't necessarily require such an arduous time commitment on him or the Scream Team.

I think also when you have a longer format, you're almost of necessity trying to find stuff to fill in the time with. By keeping it to one hour, the show is much more focused and just the best stuff makes it to the airwaves. No doubt it's still a bear of a commitment by Chris, but I think targeting a larger mass market by pricing it at half the cost of what's being planned -- being the mid-tier Macy's of shows rather than Nordstrom (and we all saw what happened when he tried to be Walmart) -- would broaden his audience considerably. He might get 500 people paying $50 whereas finding 250 at $100 could be more problematic.

Whichever way the show goes, I'm pretty sure I'll be there. I'd understand people balking at paying $100 for the show, particularly during these lean times, but I'd bet Chris, JT, Shelly, and Ed would find a wider more accepting audience at a lower annual cost.

EDIT: Chris Baker just posted a video to address the issue once and for all, and I think it's worth a look:


  1. Numerous vendors have contact me and offered to help out with discounts.
    Subscribers will receive discounts at these great Vendors:
    Juneau Studios ~
Save $50 of their DVDs. You pay $19.99, retail price $69.99.
Receive a $250 certificate for any order of $1150 and save 60% on freight orders.
    DC Props ~
15% off his amazing props and mechanisms *except sale items, not valid September and October.
    Fright Theatre ~
15% off all product *except sale items, not valid September or October
    Dark Imaginings ~
20% off our changing portraits, $75 off custom changing portraits, as well as other discounts on our other products and services (graphic design, web design, video effects, etc).
    Mini Spots ~
15% off all lights
    Vox Noctis Voiceovers ~
$50 off any custom made voice over.
    Shellhawk Creations ~
15% her amazing hand-made pottery and FREE shipping.
    Isher Creations on Etsy ~
25% off
    With the $50 off Juneau Studios DVDs and $50 off Vox Noctis Voice Overs, you've made your money back and the show is basically free. Not to mention all the other discounts.

    DC Props is donating a spitter mechanism, Fright Theatre is donating a prop, and Mini Spots Lights some LED lights to give away, raffle style, to subscribers if we reach the goal.

    The weekly goal is 63 subscribers, if we aren't half way to the goal in 2 weeks the plug is going to be pulled. Whatever you guys want to do is fine by me. Stay Scary!

  2. I contributed $100 to hauntcast, because it was always one of the highlights of my month. I do wish Chris could find a way to make a go of it with only advertisers, if only so that he could have a larger audience. If this doesn't work out, I'd love to see it morph into something else, just to keep jt around. Maybe just a blog, with occasoinal podcasts, videos, etc. Anyway, I wish Chris the best of luck.

  3. Funny that I stumbled upon this as we approach the last episode of HauntCast - two years after the resurrection effort which did succeed, obviously.
    I'm glad it did. We got two more years of hauntCast, a year of "Shocktail Hour", a couple of magazines....Yep, everything we were promised.

    Who knows where this would have gone if the haunt community were not a bunch of cheapskates? A buck a show was too much? That's what led to the drama in the first place.

    1. I agree, the show was fantastic. I would've done things a little differently though. The biggest problem was the content was behind a paywall so it was difficult for new listeners to learn of its awesomeness. Instead, I would've made the show free and put in value-added content that only members could access. Whether it was vendor discounts, downloads, etc., a $50/yr membership would then be advertised at paying itself back after buying just one or two things from vendors. Negotiate with haunt shows to off subscriber discounts, member-only access for the JT program, the magazine, the how-to prop videos, and anything that came out. By having the content for free, it would have allowed potential subscribers to hear the show and decide they not only wanted to support the program but would have access to discounts that could have paid for it.

      It's counterintuitive to give away the content, but I think Hauntcast could have succeeded beyond what it did had it done so. Haunters can be, er, "frugal" to the extreme, so it wouldn't have been easy, but putting that paywall up made it nearly impossible to attract new members so it ended up being a dwindling number of diehards left to support it.

      I wish Chris Baker the best. He brought quality entertainment to haunters at no small expense to himself. He should be lauded for the effort.



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