Join us for VISIONS Summit NYC  - June 11
Episode 313
July 28, 2023

Bandwagon Bandwidth: Should Every Company Be a Media Company?

"In the future, every company is a media company." That’s hogwash, according to Tommy Walker. Tommy is all too familiar with this ideology and the pitfalls in the business of creating media and aggregating attention. Listen in to hear this insightful discussion and join the conversation.

<iframe height="52px" width="100%" frameborder="no" scrolling="no" seamless src=""></iframe>

this episode sponsored by

"In the future, every company is a media company." That’s hogwash, according to Tommy Walker. Tommy is all too familiar with this ideology and the pitfalls in the business of creating media and aggregating attention.

Listen in to hear this insightful discussion and join the conversation.

“Committed to the Bit”

  • {00:05:03} - “Understanding the cost structure and what it takes to hire talent and all of that, without that sort of knowledge, if you don't have that currently right now, then no, not every company needs to be a media company. You're better off spending your money in ads or some other type of growth lever.” - Tommy
  • {00:10:34} - “With my own personal brand, I wanted to do a podcast, but I didn't have the bandwidth to do it. But I would become a Serial podcast guest. If you have an infrastructure in place, then let me just be a part of that infrastructure, show up as part of that conversation, do what I do, do what I do well, and then bounce and go do my thing that's independent of all that.” - Tommy
  • {00:14:41} - “What I had to do at that time was just a ton of research. This is it. This is the complete unsexy answer to the entire thing. It was a ton of research…constantly looking at what everybody was saying in this DTC space…” - Tommy
  • {00:23:46} - “There are unspoken expectations that people have that they don't even know they have until you meet them and what you're doing is setting a higher bar for production and engagement that feels much more like a consumer-type experience.” - Phillip
  • {00:28:50} - “Are you establishing those true fans? When you start to get an executive team that is looking for a quick return or has quarterly results they have to answer to that it gets way harder to say, "The long-term success of our business depends on creating things that people actually care about.’" - Brian
  • {00:32:24} - “If we live in a participatory economy and we have multiplayer brands, brands look more like bands in the future. And that's why you have these marketers that are so good at what they do. People like Bobby Hundreds who come from local scenes. They come from a scene, and a scene fuses fashion, art, culture, entertainment, and music. It's a state of being.” - Phillip
  • {00:40:54} - “What makes a compelling media play is when you can continue to reinvent {the reason to exist} so that you yourself stay interested in it.” - Phillip

Associated Links:

Have any questions or comments about the show? Let us know on, or reach out to us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn. We love hearing from our listeners!

Tommy: [00:00:00] If the conversation is, "Every company needs to be a media company," or "We need to treat ourselves like a media company," then treat yourselves like a freaking media company.

Brian: [00:01:01] Hello and welcome to Future Commerce, the podcast where we explore the intersection of culture and commerce. I am Brian.

Phillip: [00:01:08] I'm Phillip. Before we get started today, just for those listening in, Brian, you're in your new place.

Brian: [00:01:15] I know. It's bare. I am not fully moved in yet.

Phillip: [00:01:21] Sounds like you're in the midst of setting up your new studio space. And if you're not watching on the YouTube stream, you should be, because you can see I know Brian likes to profess that he's not bougie but I can see his wine fridge.

Brian: [00:01:33] That's the only thing in here right now. That's the only thing I have in here. {laughter}

Phillip: [00:01:38] Today on the podcast, I'm very excited because I'm at the very beginning of what I think will be a beautiful relationship. Mr. Tommy Walker, who founded The Content Studio and has incredible production credits to his name, has had some illustrious titles over the years, but Tommy helps brands to create media orgs and functional, thriving media companies inside of them. Welcome to the show, Tommy Walker.

Tommy: [00:02:04] Thank you for having me.

Phillip: [00:02:04] I think that one of the things that I wanted to have you come on the show and talk about a little bit is there's a constant conversation we've had on this podcast over the last couple of years around why brands, specifically those in our audience, so it's folks that are operators within direct to consumer brands retailers marketplace, those who are in the agency space and those in the SaaS ecosystem that serves both, hear through the ecosystem something that sounds true, but we don't know it to be true? So, for instance, "In the future, every company is a media company." So we've heard that said over and over again. It's like, "Oh, you need to start making an investment." It's like, how does X SaaS company reviews platform become a media company in the future because you're going to have to one way or another? So this is your beat. This is what you do for a living. I'd love to get your perspective and take on how brands internalize those sorts of messages, how they can make that successful, and maybe just to start, is that even true? Does everyone need to be producing media?

Tommy: [00:03:21] No. {laughter} Just straight up. No. In fact, I think that a lot of businesses will think that they think they need to produce media. And what ends up happening inevitably is that they don't have the infrastructure. There's not enough experience. It's a situation of not even knowing what they don't know. So who to even hire to build out the framework or the operations or get the true scope of what it is that needs to be done just isn't there. I've worked in SaaS for a good portion of my career and a lot of people will say, "We need a blog." And it's like, "If you don't have an author, if you don't have operations, if you don't know freelancers, if you don't have an editor, no you don't." There are going to be better ways to go about getting the attention of the people you need and better ways of getting the retention. Now, ideally, if you get to that point where you can do it, do it well, because we're now at a place online where doing a blog, doing a podcast, doing a YouTube channel, it's not table stakes anymore. It used to be. It used to be that if you just showed up, you'd be in a pretty good spot. But that was ten years ago. Now we're at a spot where people are mature. They're $1 million programs that are being invested in. There are teams of 10 to 20 people who are doing all of this stuff, if not more, and if you don't have that understanding of what it takes to actually do this type of program, if you're saying, "Oh, we have $2,000 a month to write blog posts," it's like for me and the types of writers I work with, you're going to get two articles out of that. So [00:05:03] understanding the cost structure and what it takes to hire talent and all of that, without that sort of knowledge, if you don't have that currently right now, then no, not every company needs to be a media company. You're better off spending your money in ads or some other type of growth lever. [00:05:22] That said, I'm going to put myself out of a job.

Phillip: [00:05:24] I love that. That's a good one. Brian, you dealt with this all the time when talking to brands that are trying to get online. And the first question is, "Can this eCommerce platform do my blog for me?" Would they ever ask, "Can it also do their podcast and post their videos?" {laughter}

Tommy: [00:05:45] Right.

Brian: [00:05:45] Yeah. I mean, some of them were self-aware enough to know that they didn't have a true blog. It was more of a content repository, which there is some value in having educational articles, even if it's not what you consider a true media motion.

Tommy: [00:06:03] Right.

Brian: [00:06:03] But I think to your point, Tommy, and I think this is the big takeaway, and I've been banging this drum for a while now, the B2B economy is as much the attention economy as B2C is.

Tommy: [00:06:17] Oh yeah.

Brian: [00:06:17] And so the amount of attention that B2B consumers have is actually being taken up by all the things that B2C is fighting with, too. And when you're creating B2B content, not only are you competing with other B2B content, you're competing with, if you're doing a podcast, you're competing with the big podcasters. Serial, Joe Rogan, and the like.

Tommy: [00:06:43] Yep.

Brian: [00:06:44] I was just talking to someone literally last night who was like, "I don't really listen to many podcasts because I don't have enough time. And so I only end up listening to one self-help podcast, and that's the only thing I listen to consistently." And so that's what you're up against. This is how the world works. And like you said, ten years ago, there wasn't much B2B content out there. And honestly, even some of the B2C stuff wasn't fully mature yet. And so it's just not the same game that it used to be. Now, if you step in, you've got to be ready to compete with like you said, 20-person content teams and so on. And so I love your point. I think it's dead on. And I'm curious, this is where I think maybe I do have a little bit of a rub that I would agree most companies are not, should not, at this moment be media companies. But is there a motion for the future where everyone should eventually become a media company? That's the question.

Tommy: [00:07:55] No, I don't. I don't think so. And I want to just kind of take a step back for a second here to say, we are all C's. We often forget that when we are in any sort of field that we are also C's, and our attention is also just as limited as anyone else. And if we're not subscribing to our own stuff, if I'm not willing to listen to the replays of my own episodes, if it's not interesting to me, how the heck is it going to be interesting to anybody else?

Phillip: [00:08:27] Yeah.

Tommy: [00:08:27] And I mean, sometimes I know when I do a live stream, the episode, the replay is going to be like, I dread doing the edit. And that's not good, right? And that's when you know, okay, you have to do it a little bit better. Now, to go back to what you were saying, is there a point where every company becomes a media company? Still no, because that's kind of like me saying think about TV networks. Do your infomercials all need to be TV series? No. But can you have entertaining infomercials? Absolutely. Vince from Slap Chop. I wish he didn't do all the things he did, but Vince from Slap Chop, is completely entertaining. Would have loved to watch more of the stuff that Vince put together and all of that. He doesn't need to be a full media company. He just needs to show up with other media companies and put strategic partnerships in place where if you're going to do it and you only have a limited amount of budget or bandwidth or whatever, do it well. Show up where you know people are going to have their attention and where the people, like Future Commerce, are able to keep and capture that attention. Show up there. Do it well, and then go do what you're strong at. There's an interplay. Not every you know, I hate to say this, but not every... It's kind of like saying, does every company need to have a streaming platform? Right? The streaming platform game has been so fragmented now that all I'm wishing for at the moment is one...

Phillip: [00:10:07] An aggregator. {laughter}

Tommy: [00:10:08] Yeah, one app to bring it back. And it's like, wait a second, that's cable. We just did that. We got away from that. And then it's kind of saying, does every show need to have its own universe that's involved with it? And it's like, no, because there's just too much and businesses can very easily, and this will always be the case, spread themselves too thin to do that. For a long time, me personally, just [00:10:34] with my own personal brand, I wanted to do a podcast, but I didn't have the bandwidth to do it. But I would become a Serial podcast guest. And it's kind of the same thing. If you have an infrastructure in place, then let me just be a part of that infrastructure, show up as part of that conversation, do what I do, do what I do well, and then bounce and go do my thing that's independent of all that. [00:10:59]

Phillip: [00:11:00] Well, let's talk a little bit then and sort of go back to, I think, one organization where you successfully did build out a media arm, and I think you have some great experience with this probably over and over again. But the way I knew of you was your work through Shopify Plus, and that's sort of how I've thought of Shopify Plus. We had Aaron Orendorff on the show not so long ago and talked about his Editor in Chief title at an eCommerce platform company is one that very few get to tout. When you're thinking about how a company, a SaaS platform company that has a natural and built audience thinks about media, how do you come in and help them to do that in a successful way, provided that the decision they're making is the right one?

Tommy: [00:11:50] Yeah, no, I have to say too, Aaron, I love him to death. We worked together closely. Once he started calling himself the Editor in Chief... That was my original title. But then he started to own it. So when I went out on my own, I had to start saying like, "I was the first marketing hire at Shopify Plus." Come on, Aaron. Because he owned that title.

Phillip: [00:12:10] You're not going to out him on it either, which is...

Tommy: [00:12:12] Oh God, no, no, that's the thing. Aaron will always say too, and then we'll get off this tangent for a second. But Aaron will say that he was the McCartney to my Lennon. He'll say like, you need to have the hits, but you also need to have the vision. And that's where I kind of fell in. Yeah, what was the original question? {laughter}

Phillip: [00:12:35] Let's say that you're in an organization that's decided that providing media in-house is the differentiator, and we've seen this through a few organizations in the past. I think of Webflow and think of like, "Oh wow, their educational content and their marketing content are superlative." How does how do you get to that point? So let's say you've made the decision to do it. What does the team look like and how does someone like you help them to do it?

Tommy: [00:13:01] Sure. So I'll tell you what my experience was at Shopify Plus in this regard and where it was at. So Shopify Plus, I was employee 14 on that side. We had to answer the question of what was the difference between Shopify Plus and the rest of the market and what was the difference between Shopify Plus and Shopify. And when I was there, a couple of circumstances need to be considered because it's so hilarious now to think that this is where the market was at, but this is just what it was. Cloud eCommerce wasn't being taken seriously, which is the most laughable thing of it all.

Phillip: [00:13:38] Yeah from this vantage point anyway. Right?

Tommy: [00:13:40] Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And then the other part was from a features perspective, we didn't have anything that was very wildly different. We had dedicated customer service, and the ability to customize your checkout and lower transaction fees. That was it, so we had to then go to market and say, how are we better than these other larger companies that are way more established and how are we different from Shopify? Because we're trying to carve out a very distinct area within this market. At the time, and they'll never admit this now, but at the time even Shopify didn't think that Shopify Plus was going to work. They didn't want to go upmarket. And there were some times where it was like actively conspiring against anyways.

Brian: [00:14:33] Say more. Say more about that. {laughter}

Tommy: [00:14:36] No more tea on Shopify back in the early days. But [00:14:41] what I had to do at that time was just a ton of research. This is it. This is the complete unsexy answer to the entire thing. It was a ton of research. I spent three months just researching. I was looking at what the competitors were doing. I was looking at what the influencers were saying. I was looking at what the trades were saying. I was looking at the entire... I had a list up on Twitter that was just constantly looking at what everybody was saying in this DTC space that was really kind of emerging in 2014/2015, where it was becoming a little bit more democratized. [00:15:19] And I just had to listen, right? So I would, I kid you not, and this is without hyperbole, I would go to a competitor's website and I would read 200 of their blog posts. I would listen to every single webinar that was in their back catalog. I read all of their white papers and all of their trades or all of the lead generation material to the point where my brain was fried. I had to get it into my bones, though, because I had to understand what was the difference between what we were saying and what they were saying. And what came from that? There were a few things that really stood out to me on how we were able to differentiate at that time. And the first one was every single case study on every single website was company X works with company Y and sees Z results. Now as a as a reader... Problem, agitation, solution. Everybody was following the same types of formulas. And what that did was make them all very hard to distinguish from each other because from a feature standpoint, everybody was still touting the same features as each other and then thinking, and you still see this. This isn't unique to that time, but everybody says, "Hey, we have AI, and it's like, "That doesn't matter now. Everybody has AI." Everybody has the ability to customize or whatever widgets, Yay. So we couldn't compete on features. So I'm going, okay, what's everybody talking about? What's nobody talking about? So if all of their white papers were about features and all of their case studies were a company X works with company Y and sees Z results, I'm looking at that and going, "Well, nobody's telling the story of the customers."

Phillip: [00:17:17] Yup.

Tommy: [00:17:17] What's interesting to me is not I mean, it's interesting how they solve the problem. Sure. But what's interesting to me is how the problem came about. So I'll give you an example. One of our customers at the time, the company X works with company Y, and sees Z result narrative was this guy got a call from his CTO in the middle of the night that their server rooms were on fire. So eventually they moved to Shopify Plus and now they're happy to have secured and have the confidence to know that their platform is safe and they no longer have to worry about their onsite servers blowing up in the middle of the night.

Phillip: [00:17:56] Wow.

Tommy: [00:17:57] Cool. All right. Neat. Servers on fire, there's a little bit of drama there or whatever. Add a layer to that, though, the CEO got a call in the middle of the night at 3:00 in the morning on the night of his bachelor party.

Brian: [00:18:13] That's a totally different story.

Tommy: [00:18:15] Right. And what we were looking at, what I wanted to look at in each one of these case studies that we were doing was what is the common spark between all of the people? What's that common, entrepreneurial spark that we can speak to? But then the second part of that was what does this mean that this thing works or these results happened to the person who executed them? Everyone says, "Oh, the company did whatever. And we increased conversions by 500%." But if that person's job was on the line before that happened or if their marriage was about to implode or they started their business as a big F-U to the bullies that told them and we got all of these, as a big F-U to the bullies who bullied them when they were in high school because they were gay, all of these things took a much more human approach. And I said, "We're not going to treat them like this. We're going to treat them like Rolling Stone interviews." And having that direction is what started to inform my hiring at the time because one of the people on my team was an Emmy Award-winning journalist. I didn't know he had won an Emmy until much later, but he was one of those journalists gone marketing people. And I knew that he was a journalist. And I said a journalist would be the best person to handle our case studies, especially with this being the approach that I want to take. And he would have people crying sometimes on the calls and there would be, you know, because he knew how to ask questions. That was his job. That was his whole career for 20 years before he ever got into it. And that to me was really interesting. And one of those reasons how you stand out... It's just one little thing where you can stand out. Now, take this into a different direction. Okay. We need to do lead generation material right? Cool. Everybody else is lead generation material was the webinar that said here are all of our features, check out how cool our features are, look at how distinct we are from everybody else. {whisper} I'm having the same features. And our webinar approach at the time was we'd have a little pre-show where we'd have music and it was inspired by when you go to the movies, the trailers before the trailers, right? How do we do that? How do we give a little bit of cool music? How do we have stats and things that are interesting? I still take some of these approaches in my own media today, and nobody else is doing it still. Or at least nobody was doing it then. It happens a little bit more now, thanks to Twitch gamers and whatever. But the idea then was how do we make these experiences a little bit better? So it's not just, you know, talking heads, talking to each other, but something interesting, something cool.

Brian: [00:21:12] Yeah.

Tommy: [00:21:12] Yeah. Another example of this. All of their lead generation material, I think was starting to say this before it was all, you know, features, features, features. And we weren't competing on features. So I said, "We're going to do a series of industry reports based on the verticals that we have, but they're not going to be just these blank white papers that are literally white papers with black text." We took a very, very, very editorialized approach. And these things were coffee table books. They were beautifully designed. I know listeners can't, you know, see my background here. But it was enough that when we launched the book, we had physical copies printed out. We had an art gala that was in New York. Our events person, Cody DeBacker, had put together an event for partners where it was an art gala in the front where we had blown up interior pages framed on the site, on the walls. And then behind it was a speakeasy, so these were just experiences that we were trying to create using cool media as part of the process. And the reason we took that editorialized approach and shut me up at any point in time here. The reason we took this editorialized approach was because we wanted the subtext to be like, "Yeah, we might not have the same features, but we know your industry better than anybody else in the market."

Phillip: [00:22:46] There is a truism, right? There is a truism here which is [00:23:46] there are unspoken expectations that people have that they don't even know they have until you meet them and that's where in all of the activations that you just described, what you're doing is you're setting a higher bar for production and engagement that feels much more like a consumer type experience. [00:24:09] And where it doesn't reveal that you care more directly, but it feels like that is the effect. The effect is that you have put more attention and intention into the consumer-like experience. I'm used to receiving incredible programming and content everywhere else in the world. Why do I have to have a substandard experience when I'm dealing with things at work? And that sort of consumerification of B2B has been happening across the board from the app experiences to business messaging to employee experience. It's happening across the board. Why not in the media experience as well?

Tommy: [00:25:02] And by the way, I just want to give you guys a huge shout-out. The Archetype stuff that you do is a perfect example of this. You're marrying traditional storytelling tropes with business and that in itself is a unique premise on its own. But take that a step further and you've got this really cool interactive experience that really elevates it to this whole different level that stands out in my mind beyond anything else. You don't get that anywhere else. And the reason you don't get that anywhere else is because most people are on a churn-and-burn mentality of creating their media. And it's very clear and very evident that you all put a very intentional design behind all of that experience. And experience is the word to really think about there.

Phillip: [00:26:03] Thank you. Yeah, I appreciate that. And I would never want to be self-promotional for anyone to put themselves into the world of Archetypes and and discover your Archetype, maybe, but also buy our book. Pretty please. In fact, I'll go ahead and hold it up. Since you brought it, you opened the door. This is your... I'm just going to walk through it. Archetypes. It is a 240-page coffee table book for those in the eCommerce retail and marketplace ecosystem to understand why your customers behave the way they do, how do they think, what is the space they occupy in the real world. But when you're thinking about this kind of engagement, Tommy...

Tommy: [00:26:48] That was smooth.

Phillip: [00:26:48] The thing I think would be critical of is that organizations start well and they resource early and then it's all downhill from there because the sustaining of that effort in the organization requires somebody with a vision internally. And, you know, high growth organizations have high churn sometimes, too. And so while the willingness is there at the outset to launch some sort of media property or to really set the bar really high, what I then see is a lot of the same motions with degrading quality and waning investments. How do you protect against that?

Tommy: [00:27:26] You don't.

Phillip: [00:27:27] Okay. It's cool. Next. Next question. {laughter}

Tommy: [00:27:30] Yeah, next question. No, I mean it's hard because... {laughter}

Phillip: [00:27:36] I'm failing as an interviewer in this. {laughter}

Tommy: [00:27:38] No, no, no, no, no, no. It's hard because from the brass perspective, brass tacks, you're looking at things and going eCommerce in particular but SaaS as well is dollars in, dollars out, pay the ads, we're doing a good job, and here's the direct result. I put in a dollar. I get five back. Easy. That's easy to wrap your head around. What's really difficult and this is really difficult on the executive buy-in level. And honestly, like I generally don't deal with this on my consulting engagements is an executive goes, "Yeah, that's a really cool idea. Let's throw some budget behind it. It'll be an experimental budget. Cool." You go out, you make a splash, people don't buy. So they're like, "This campaign was a failure." And it's like, yeah, but if you're looking at the wrong metrics in that case, like, are you getting the buzz? Are you driving some traffic?

Brian: [00:28:35] Yes.

Tommy: [00:28:35] If you're not looking at the cohorts of the people who are coming in through that time and seeing how much further they retained throughout, then you're looking at the entire experience a little bit incorrectly.

Brian: [00:28:49] Yeah. [00:28:50] Are you establishing those true fans? The [00:28:53] impact of doing that is something that's not like a two month timeline, even 12 month timeline, but two years from now, those people, the word they have may have spread about your business is exponentially larger. And I think there's a level of instinct and understanding of how people work and discernment that's required to run a campaign like that and understand the impact on the business in the long term. And founders often get this, some of them at least, upfront. It's like you said, [00:29:30] when you start to get an executive team that is looking for a quick return or has quarterly results they have to answer to that it gets way harder to say, "The long term success of our business depends on creating things that people actually care about." [00:29:51] And that's where things start to go awry I think in the long term.

Tommy: [00:29:57] Well, and I want to say this, too. If the conversation is "Every company needs to be a media company," or "We need to treat ourselves like a media company," then treat yourselves like a freaking media company. You think AMC wanted to keep Breaking Bad on the line when the first season didn't perform as well as they wanted it to? Absolutely not. And the metrics on that first season were not great and they were considering do we cut actors? Do we pull the show entirely? And then the show goes on to be a fricking cultural phenomenon that I'm still talking about ten years, God, ten years after it debuted, right? And if you want to treat yourself like a media company, then you have to look at these things as an investment. Because the other side of that... I'm going to get real heated about this.

Phillip: [00:30:44] Bring it.

Tommy: [00:30:44] The other side of that is that if you pull your stuff, you do something really well, and then you never do it again, the people who were brought in through that forgot that you did the first thing and are very easy to forget that you could do it again if you just tried. So you spent a ton of money on doing the thing. You got the handful of people. But if you're not keeping them engaged throughout, then what the hell is going on? And I would say the best company that does this, especially in the DTC space and especially in retail, Hundreds. The Hundreds is one of my favorite examples of this because I would say they're a media company first and an eCommerce thing second. They wouldn't look at it that way. They look at it the other way around. But gosh, do they put out some really good stuff?

Phillip: [00:31:33] Yes. Did you read "This is Not a T-Shirt?"

Tommy: [00:31:38] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:31:39] I have a pet theory that people that were in bands have a greater sense of understanding and an intuition around brand building than anyone else. Because not only are you having to constantly innovate because you cannot live on a catalog of hits that are five years old. You have to keep making something new to stay relevant. And the other thing that you have to do is you have to reimagine the brand of your musical act over and over and over again, and then license other people in your community to create on your behalf and mold it into the thing they want it to be. And you have to be sympathetic to that and allow them the ability and the latitude to do that without your control. That is the nature of music because it's participatory. And [00:32:24] if we live in a participatory economy and we have multiplayer brands, brands look more like bands in the future. And that's why you have these marketers that are so good at what they do. People like Bobby Hundreds who come from local scenes. They come from a scene, and a scene fuzes fashion, art, culture, entertainment, and music. It's a state of being. [00:32:49] So for me, I'm totally there with you in that if you're going to be media first, you have to understand how to hold people's attention. Nobody knows how to do that better than an entertainer. And that's where I think this falls down, because what I see today, Tommy, and I'll set you up to kind of make my gripe for me, is a lot of YouTube shorts content that is produced by a few SaaS companies that are meant for a B2B audience that are pervasive in the dispensation of their logo, but have very little concept of what brand is. And I think that that's where I see a lot of logos and I see a lot of sponsorship of a lot of business media. But I don't think anybody really understands what the long term... The engagement of a YouTube short is not the same as the immersion of yourself in the promise of your brand. And the outputs are so different of like how much of my attention I can give to somebody versus the need to want to buy their software as a result. I don't see that being a sustainable model for every SaaS company to be competing against each other for people's attention in 2023, 2024, 2025. Anyway, thoughts on that? Because that's what I'm seeing right now is especially in YouTube shorts and TikTok, where there's an audience arbitrage opportunity.

Tommy: [00:34:15] I am so glad you mentioned that because I was literally listening to the Colin and Samir podcast last night. Great guys, by the way, anybody in the audience, if you don't know them, they're really dialed into the creator economy and especially the idea of the brand deals that are happening with influencers right now. And the episode that I was listening to was with the Founder of Night Media. He's the guy behind MrBeast and a whole bunch of other creators like that. And what he was saying and this isn't really my space, so I'm just going to parrot him and play it off as my own because I'm a marketer and that's what I do. Right? Why not? What he was saying was that he's seeing these TikTok influencers and whatnot, millions and millions of followers, he couldn't tell you what their names were. And it's the same thing as what you're talking about right now. And there is something that is there. But you have to be picking somebody, I think, who is really treating themselves as a media business. TikTok and Shorts and all of that are maybe a part of what they do, but it's not the whole thing of what they do. If you want to see a really good creator, who then also has DTC stuff on the side, my favorite of this is the team over at Film Theorists. Matthew Patrick, are you familiar with Film Theorists?

Phillip: [00:35:56] I'm not.

Brian: [00:35:56] I'm not.

Phillip: [00:35:56] Yeah. Give me a little bit.

Tommy: [00:35:58] So Film Theorists, he actually hosts a network of shows. So he's got Film Theorists, Food Theorists, Game Theorists, and now more recently Style Theorists. So they're taking over several verticals within the YouTube space and one of the things that they do that's really great, they have brand deals all the time. [00:36:17] The brand deals are a lot more memorable because his retention on his videos is insanely high. The production value is insanely high. They have their own unique approach to Shorts. They're still telling their own little story, but they started doing Shorts only after they got bought out by a bigger company and had the resources to do it and do it right and do it unique and do it different. It wasn't just repurposed versions of what was going on. [00:36:45] It's inherent to the format and because it's inherent to the format and because they do more stuff, I think that makes it a little bit more memorable. But they were doing something bigger before they went smaller and once they went smaller, they were doing something new, not just a repurpose. So this is hard to do. I want to say that as an independent creator myself, as a team here, there's nothing wrong with the repurposing, but it's so much harder to do. And this goes back to what we were talking about before. It's so much harder to do if you haven't built it into your infrastructure. They didn't do it until they had the resources to do it and do it properly. And if they were lazy about it and just doing small little snippets of the show, it wouldn't be different or it would be very different because their show was intended to be 15-30 minutes long.

Brian: [00:38:30] The thing is, I think he just gets back to something else that you said, Phillip, which was these people inherently have to be talented entertainers. And I bring this up because I was immediately drawn to this, the game theory, etcetera, and went and started doing research, right as you were talking about it. And it's actually the guy who started it was this guy named MatPat.

Tommy: [00:38:59] Matthew Patrick. Yeah.

Brian: [00:39:00] Yeah. He goes by MatPat. And one of the things that ended up on his Wikipedia page is that he met his wife creating a Legend of Zelda parody called The Epic of Stew. And just I think that that to me...

Phillip: [00:39:18] {laughter}

Brian: [00:39:18] It's a level of creativity and a level of commitment to something that, you know, he and his wife, that's how they got together. {laughter}

Phillip: [00:39:29] That's the commitment to the bit is actually I think it's how you become successful in anything. This is a totally random aside but once upon a time we had somebody working here at Future Commerce, and in the exit interview, I was like, "What are you going to go do next?" And she was like, "Yeah, I think I'm going to go into the nonprofit space, what have you." If she's listening, which I'm sure she's not, this is the greatest thing ever, because it really puts something in perspective for me. And I was like, "Oh, that's such an interesting shift for you. I hope that works out for you." She goes, "Yeah, I'm just not that interested in commerce." And I looked at her and I was like. But neither am I. Neither am I.

Brian: [00:40:24] {laughter}

Phillip: [00:40:27] But I'm really committed to the bit. I'm extremely committed to the bit at this point. I think there's a separation between the ability to try to take an owned audience that you have that has a general need or a reason to exist, for a SaaS organization, maybe for a brand. There is a reason to exist. A reason the audience exists.  [00:40:54]What makes a compelling media play is when you can continue to reinvent that so that you yourself stay interested in it. [00:41:02] And that, I think, is the biggest downfall. I see a lot of prolific media companies have visionaries at the head of it that have been in the space and at that in that seat as like Editor in Chief for a long period of time. They are committed to the bit. They're sold into it and they keep it interesting by the nature of they are bored and they want to continue to reinvent it. And you will never get that in a software company trying to deliver media when it is purely existing just to sell licenses or when it purely exists because it is an item on the budget that you see the head creator, the Editor in Chief of that as being replaceable every year, year and a half and be a high churn role. I don't think that that's possible.

Tommy: [00:41:57] I want to take it back to what you were saying about musicians earlier because I think it ties together really well. And it does this with TV shows, too. But musicians are particularly a great example of this. Some musicians, like Aerosmith, make the same type of music over and over and over again, and we come back to them because they're consistent, because they make that same music. It's fantastic. Then you have other bands like Linkin Park.

Phillip: [00:42:25] The Smashing Pumpkins.

Tommy: [00:42:27] Smashing Pumpkins. Yeah. You've got plenty of bands who are reinventing themselves between every album. Taylor Swift. And the thing about that.

Phillip: [00:42:37] Better example.

Tommy: [00:42:37] Yeah, I know. But she's making bank. But the idea is it's exactly what you're saying. Somebody is either bored and trying to make it interesting for themselves or from a hiring perspective, to bring it back to the framework element of it. Somebody gets bored, but you can bring somebody else in who's like, I'm going to continue doing this. The New Yorker has been The New Yorker for God knows how long. They haven't reinvented themselves, but they've certainly had other people at the helm. What's important in any sort of media brand is that you've got to set the tone. You have to be willing to go all in and set the tone. My introduction to you guys was through the Archetypes Journal and experience and all of that. That set the tone. You've since done slightly different things and it's great. It's an evolution and you as a media brand are willing to evolve and do more cool things so you don't get bored. You're committed to the bit.

Phillip: [00:43:35] So let's actually shift gears a little bit. Tommy, it's been great having you on. What I did was I kind of put myself into... I'd like to improve. And one way to improve as a writer and a communicator is to look at others and look for outside critique. Something that we talk a lot about at Future Commerce this year is sort of this age of critique, and sometimes I think critique is best received when it comes from people that you know and respect who are trying to help you because they see the potential that you have. So I asked you a few months ago to help me to become a better writer and communicator, and we sat down. You looked through a good deal of my writing, I thought maybe it'd be a fun way to wrap it up here to maybe take a little bit of a inside look inwards at the content that Future Commerce is creating. Maybe how you perceive it to be interesting or different, and what we've done well, what we could do better because I think that that would for people who are this far into the podcast, I think they'd find that uniquely interesting.

Tommy: [00:44:46] So what do you think you're doing well? If we're going to run through it, like this is how we did the conversation initially.

Phillip: [00:44:55] That is exactly right. Yeah.

Tommy: [00:44:56] What do you think you're doing well?

Phillip: [00:44:58] Oh, I think we strive for originality. And I think that we do that very, very well. So we are devising original ideas and we're going deep on those ideas and exploring the implications of commerce around those original ideas.

Tommy: [00:45:15] I agree. And one of the things that I really appreciated about reading the writing that you were putting out there and about reading the publication, in general, is that you are not doing what a lot of people say to do, which is simplify the writing, use smaller words, use shorter words. You have a very good way with words and you know how to structure, you know how to turn a phrase, structure a sentence, keep it unique, keep it interesting, and keep me reading. And as somebody who is well-read, I appreciate that there are times where you're telling me to get on your level, not telling me to go, you know, trying to cater to my base instincts. And that is something I appreciate and that is something I think you guys do well. I think sometimes, Phillip, you and I talked about this a little bit. Sometimes it can go easy to go off on a tangent when it comes to doing that. Sometimes it's really easy to get lost in context and tell little side stories of how I got to this particular thought. And this is true. I mean, this is true even of this podcast. In this episode, I went from one place to another just to get to the good point. And that's just the power of editing of all of it.

Phillip: [00:46:35] Do we edit these?

Brian: [00:46:36] Do we?

Phillip: [00:46:38] Do we edit these? {music breakdown} Do we edit these? {music}

Tommy: [00:46:48] But I mean, the power of editing is pulling out only the things that serve the story, that have the backbone, and keep somebody going. Have a throughline. I suppose that is the main case is having the throughline from beginning to end and making sure that everything you were doing serves the premise that you've set up in the beginning. And that is difficult. That is difficult for anybody to do. And setting the premise for a lot of brands is the hardest part. You guys do a really good job of that.

Phillip: [00:47:21] Thank you.

Tommy: [00:47:21] And from the broad perspective, and this is the thing that I like as a whole, from the broad perspective, you also have a premise for the media brand that you're putting together. It is very clear who Future Commerce is for and what it is that you do and how you approach that from a micro level, sometimes it can be difficult to go off on. It can be difficult to keep yourself off tangents, but that's anybody, and that always takes a set of objective eyes or somebody whose job it is to be objective, to see that, and to be honest about what that looks like. But I think where Future Commerce goes well, and what I hope to continue seeing out of you is that you continue to challenge your readers and your listeners to get onto your level because you are Future Commerce. You're looking towards the future and that is very important. And I think the work that you're doing does a great job of that and bringing people along and seeing what that looks like.

Brian: [00:48:21] Those are kind of words.

Phillip: [00:48:23] Everybody could use some editing. Tommy, I'd love to point people to The Content Studio so they can devise a better strategy for making their media the best that it could possibly be. Maybe you can give them some good critique too. Where can people find you and get involved?

Tommy: [00:48:41] I am TommyIsMyName on all channels, including Threads, and the website is We do consultation, we'll do a free hour long consultation just to get a sense of where you're at.

Phillip: [00:48:58] Very good.

Tommy: [00:48:58] That's it. Oh, oh, one more thing.

Phillip: [00:49:01] You have your own media brand.

Tommy: [00:49:02] I have my own media brand. I'm missing the opportunity. So I also host a live stream once a week every Tuesday called The Cutting Room, where I talk to industry-leading marketing professionals about their content marketing, philosophy, process and pre-game before they edit an article live on the stream. So if you want the opportunity to get into and watch how people from Asana, Airtable, Calendly, Vimeo... We've had those types of marketing leads on the show, walking through their process and how they're thinking about content while they're editing. So also also if you go to, you can get access to all of the documents that they've ever edited. So you can see in the doc how they're thinking about this stuff and get really hands-on with the work.

Phillip: [00:49:53] I love that. When does my stuff get in there? The Vault. Yeah, you would talk about editing. You did a heavy lift. {laughter} Just kidding.

Tommy: [00:50:05] We'll see.

Phillip: [00:50:06] We'll see. We'll see. That's subscriber-only content.

Tommy: [00:50:10] Secretly I did edit... We did have one of the Future Commerce articles on the show, so I just didn't tell you about it.

Phillip: [00:50:17] Oh. I love that. Very cool. That means that everybody here needs to go check that out. And where do they find that?

Tommy: [00:50:26]

Phillip: [00:50:29] The Vault. Okay. Got it. Very cool. Been a pleasure. I'm really excited to see what you do in the future. I'm really excited also to kind of continue to have someone in our universe who we can lean on for perspectives in the way that media is informing the way we buy things, specifically the way we buy software and the way that we operate businesses in our ecosystem because I think it's more prevalent now than ever. Tommy Walker. Content Studio, Thank you so much for coming on Future Commerce.

Brian: [00:50:55] Thank you, Tommy.

Tommy: [00:50:55] Thank you for having me.

Phillip: [00:50:58] Thank you. And thank you all for listening to Future Commerce. You can find more episodes of this podcast and other Future Commerce properties at And hey, we are in your inbox three times a week with insights for futurists in the eCommerce retail marketplace and direct to consumer ecosystems. If you're a futurist, and I think you are, you should go and get that insight into your inbox three times a week. Monday, Wednesday, Friday. You can get it all at Thanks for listening to this episode of Future Commerce.

Recent episodes

By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.