Interview: Mark "Rizzn" Hopkins on Monetizing Content, the Cynisism Scale, and SiliconANGLE


rizzn_siliconangle_socialnerdiaMark "Rizzn" Hopkins is the Managing Editor for SiliconANGLE, a collaboration blog that was founded by entrepreneur and PodTech founder John Furrier. I had a great time speaking to him about blogging, podcasting, old and new media on yesterday's The Social Nerdia Show!, which you can stream below, stream on blogtalkradio, and subscribe to the iTunes podcast.



Before the term "blogging" was conceived, before Blogger became a huge success, and before WordPress was even an idea, people used to manually post updates on web pages full of animated GIFs, FastCounters and guestbooks. Regularly updating text on a web site on a regular basis, without the use of a CMS, is how many "bloggers" got started in the 90's. Mark, who has been blogging at rizzn.com for about 11 years (check the WayBack Machine if you want) is one great example. Mark told me about his personal road to becoming a professional content producer, which included taking breaks, moving cross country in the age of desktops, and the fact that he became "addicted to the process... It's more of a compulsion than a hobby." AdSense is of course "not exactly a pay check" so Mark spent some time trying to figure out how to increase traffic and eventually live from his love for creating content.

Mark started podcasting after watching some Christian Slater movie ("Pump Up The Volume" maybe?). But, just as with blogging, it wasn't really podcasting back then, unless you want to consider DIY recording of audio on a computer and distributing it with CD-Rs a podcast. Once the iPod came out and actual podcasting made it possible to easily distribute audio to the masses, Mark had already figured out the recording part of the equation. "The same show that we had 300 listeners across 7 different stations, we started putting it into podcasts and the first week we had 700 downloads. Nobody knew about it except for the people that happened to be in the podcast directory." With daily shows and peaking at 300,000 podcast listeners, Mark's podcast provided some income for him (even if it took 90 days to get it), but in today's market, he believes it might be better to focus on text and video content instead of audio (at least from a monetizing point of view). Still, if someone really wants to podcast, sites like BlogTalkRadio and TalkShoe have made it much easier (and cheaper) than it used to be back then.

The advent of social networks has definitely helped bloggers and content producers. "The old way to get an audience was to spend all day commenting on other blogs and being a presence in other communities. With social networks the audience finds you." I asked Mark if the word "content producer" loses its value due to social networks. Mark agrees that social networks make everyone a "content producer", but "no one is going to build a media empire from Twitter alone." Being able to use various sites and apps on the social web is the way to go and it will take some creativity and consitency.

rizznMark also told me about how he joined Mashable, one of the biggest social media blogs, as an Editor. Mark wasn't able to tell me about how Mashable pays its employees/contributors/writers, but he did mention that Mashable is indeed a real company and that they've changed the way.

Most recently, Mark has been working as the Managing Editor for SiliconANGLE, a site that syndicates great articles from a community of about 150 people. This community has people that range from Robert Scoble to "people with day jobs who maybe blog once or twice a month.. they've not blogging to be the next Michael Arrington.. so that good idea that they havemay not get air time so we're acting as a service to them as a publisher that exposes it to more eyeballs." Mark thinks of this site as a close-knit community kind of like that created by FriendFeed in its early days.

In addition to Mark's experiences, we talked about social media narcissism, the rise of experts, and the scale of cynisism. It is difficult to determine whether others are on social media for authentic conversations or deceiving self-promotion, but it is true that we all have a combination of self-centered thinking and honest need for communication. Mark was really careful and respectful with his words but he did give me an example of what some people might be doing with social media: "If you're charging somebody $1500 or more to spend 24 hours and show them how to use 140 characters or less, they might be less than sincere. It's kind of like when you're looking at the classifieds... and you see that ad that says 'call this number and make $600 from home after you pay $700 for a kit."

Regarding old vs. new media, we discussed the cost structure of print organizations, the advantages that sites like TechCrunch have in terms of adapting quickly, as well as Ars Technica new Premier offering and GigaOM's analysis services (which Mark believes might be priced too low, especially when you consider how much companies pay for reports from Gartner and Forrester).

We talked about a few other things, including Loren Feldman (and his hilarious puppets), the fact that Mark's mom could probably create a mash-up using Yahoo! Pipes, and a newspaper manager that once told Mark that his company had been around for 150 years and that "this internet thing is a fad."

Copyright © Esteban Contreras. All rights reserved.