Historian, Podcaster, Business Owner?

Wonka MemeSince January 2016, I have been traveling across the United States speaking about history, podcasting, and digital media at conferences, events, and interviews.

The experience has revealed that people have 3 key questions for me:

1. What is the role of podcasts and other digital media in the future of historical scholarship?

2. What has the impact of Ben Franklin’s World been on furthering historians’ ideas about history?

3. How are you making a living/what are you doing with your career?

I answered the first two questions in a previous post, “Digital Media and the Future of the Historical Profession.” In this post, I’ll answer the third question(s): “How are you making a living/What are you doing with your career?”


Digital vs. Traditional Scholarship

I’m not making a living podcasting.

I’m still living on the “18th-century patron support plan” provided by my partner, Tim.

I am making some money podcasting. The Omohundro Institute pays me to produce the “Doing History” series (we share series editorial and production decisions) and I make about $140/month from crowdfunding pledges. These funds have and do pay for most of my monthly podcast expenses. They do not pay me for my time.

I’m in the process of figuring out how I will make money from podcasting to support my scholarship and work. The delay in figuring this out has been the fact that I’ve needed to undergo a HUGE mental shift in how I view myself as a historian.

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Digital Media and the Future of the Historical Profession

Digital MediaIt’s August and I’ve somehow found myself with 7, straight weeks at home. It’s the first time I’ve been home for a full month this year. (Hence why this blog has been a bit of a ghost town.)

Since January, I’ve been on a type of “history podcast tour.” Historians & history lovers have become fascinated with Ben Franklin’s World and its success, and they want to know more about the show, how I produce it, and the role podcasts and other digital media will play in the future of historical scholarship. As such, I’ve spoken at a lot of conferences and sat for interviews for podcasts, blogs, and radio.

I’ve participated in a lot of conversations about podcasting, historical scholarship, and the historical profession over the last 7 months. It’s been a lot of fun and these experiences have revealed several key questions people have about these topics:

1. What is the role of podcasts and other digital media in the future of historical scholarship?

2. What has the impact of Ben Franklin’s World been on furthering historians’ ideas about history?

3. How are you making a living podcasting/what are you doing with your career?

I’ve heard these questions enough that a couple of blog posts with answers seem like a good idea. In this post, I’ll answer the first two questions. In a second post, I’ll answer “how are you making a living/what are you doing with your career?”


What is the role of podcasts and other digital media in the future of historical scholarship?

When most historians ask this question, what they really want to know is: do podcasts and digital media compete with traditional books and articles?

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Meet the New Ben Franklin’s World Team Member

Christopher JonesI’m pleased to announce that Christopher Jones has joined the Ben Franklin’s World team for the summer.

Christopher is a contributing blogger to Religion in American History, a founding member of The Junto: A Group Blog on Early American History, and a soon-to-be doctoral graduate of the College of William & Mary.

Christopher will be helping me research two projects I have in development: A new, occasional format for Ben Franklin’s World and a new podcast that I would like to launch before the end of 2016. Both of these projects will benefit from his expertise in early American history and our ability to bounce ideas off of one another.

BFWorld Centered No NameAs Ben Franklin’s World approaches its second anniversary on October 7, I’ve been thinking about ways to add fresh perspectives and formats to the show. I have several ideas about ways to accomplish these feats, but as most of my time goes to producing the podcast, I lack the time to research these ideas thoroughly. Christopher will add more productive hours to my day. Additionally, as one of my goals is to add fresh perspectives to the show, it will be good to have someone on the team who thinks differently than I do to help add different viewpoints.

Thinking about digital media networks and how I can add to the format of Ben Franklin’s World sparked an idea for a new, short-form podcast that I would like to launch before the end of 2016. I’m not ready to divulge too many details, but like Ben Franklin’s World its mission will be to help connect people who have an interest in history to the work of professional historians. Unlike Ben Franklin’s World, it won’t be limited to early American history. (Fear not my early Americanist colleagues, I’m an early Americanist for life. I have a Trello board filled with ideas for more early American history-centric long-form podcasts.)

Now that you know what we will be working on this summer, what will you be working on?

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Ben Franklin’s World: Academy Award Nominee for Best History Podcast

It’s been a BIG week for Ben Franklin’s World.

On Monday, May 23, the show received its first award nomination: “Best History Podcast” from the Academy of Podcasters. The award is the equivalent of a podcast Oscar and Academy judges award it based on craft.

The Academy nominated 10 podcasts for the award. The top 5 podcasts in iTunes’ history category received automatic bids and the Academy voted in the other 5 nominees.

Ben Franklin’s World will be judged alongside powerhouse podcasts such as NPR’s Radio Diaries, Lore (which HBO will turn into a television show), The Art of Manliness, and, of course, Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History–the most popular history podcast, which receives 3 million downloads per episode.


Admittedly, it took a few hours for the fullness of the news to sink in. Ben Franklin’s World is successful, but it’s not yet a “Top 5” podcast in iTunes’ history category. It doesn’t offer fancy storytelling or presentist diatribes or opinions about history (which are very popular), it offers two historians talking about well-researched early American history in a way that offers listeners insight into the world of professional historians and historical ideas they can think about.

My fellow podcasters voted this very different type of history podcast as standing among the 10 best in its category. Not only do they like the content we historians provide, but they appreciate the craft that goes into each episode.

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Plan for a Historian Digital Media Network

Historian Digital Media NetworkOn March 3, 2016, I explored the idea of whether it makes sense to create a podcast network for historians. Eight weeks later, I am convinced that historians need a network. But we need more than a podcast network. We need a digital media network.

Presently, digital media consists of blogs and online magazines, podcasts, and on-demand video. In the near future, virtual and augmented reality devices will enhance each of these media types with immersive experiences.

A digital media network offers historians the ability to cultivate and convey their work to wide and receptive public audiences. Digital media compliments books and articles by providing additional ways to disseminate ideas. A digital media network also provides historians with flexibility. Flexibility to present history in different media and flexibility to work in and develop new forms of media as they enter our digital world.

In this post, you will discover my plan to start a historian digital media network.


Overall Vision

If granted convenient access to the work of professional historians, the public will take an interest in history and historians’ work and become advocates for it. Convenient access to professional historical work will not only increase the ability of society to think historically, but having more advocates for history will help ensure that we have the funding we need for our research and the majors we need to keep our departments alive and fresh with talent.

The historian digital media network has a two-part mission: 1. To create wide public awareness about history and the work of professional historians by providing convenient access to history and historical research through digital media. 2. To educate historians how to use digital media to communicate history to people within and outside of the historical profession.

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