“Dave Wiskus wants you to beta test the 5by5 app,” Ren told me via IM.
I didn’t know who Dave Wiskus was. I was a senior writer for Macworld, I beta tested a lot of iOS apps at the time. I knew what 5by5 was. I agreed to beta test the app, and Dave and I started IM’ing. Ren—Serenity Caldwell—was a coworker (and still is a friend).
I Google’d Dave, and suggested that in exchange for his working on the app, and my testing it, that 5by5 should give us our OWN show. We laughed. Oh, how we laughed.
I mean, I assume we laughed. It was instant message, and neither Dave nor I would deign to drop an unironic “lol” in a chat window. (I’m not above a “haha,” though.)
The 5by5 app Dave was working on at the time didn’t get released as such. That’s not my story.
It eventually became the Mule Radio app. That’s my story.
* * *
As Dave became tight with Mule and its fledgling podcast network, through rejiggering (via his job) the 5by5 app as a Mule app, he brought up the idea of our doing a show together on Mule.
At the time, we still had not met in person.
Mule, for whatever reason, agreed that indeed, Dave and I should have a podcast. We went through many incarnations of what the show would be. We recorded many, many pilots. Hours of podcasts that never got released. Eventually, Unprofessional shot down the Skype birth canal, and a new podcast was born.
* * *
“Mule sold an ad for the show,” Dave told me.
Whoa! I didn’t know that there was money to be made in podcasting. I thought we were doing it for fun. Money didn’t break that; money makes many things MORE fun. I was stoked.
Mule sold a couple ads. But they weren’t great at it, through no fault of their own: They had no one selling podcast ads full time; a developer was kind of in charge of it, and also of, you know, writing code.
Dave and I asked Mule if they’d mind if we sold ads for Unprofessional ourselves. They didn’t mind. Dave sold a couple. We went stagnant for a bit again.
I had no experience selling anything, let alone podcast ads, but Dave already did most of the work: He edited every episode, I showed up and made jokes for an hour a week. I felt like I should try to sell ads for the show.
I was pretty good at it. This, I discovered, to my great surprise.
Glenn Fleishman, whose show at the time was also part of Mule, asked if I would try selling ads for his show, too. I got Mule’s approval, and started selling Glenn’s show, too.
Mike Monteiro, Mule’s owner, observed my sales success on Unprofessional and The New Disruptors. He soon asked if I would just sell all their damn shows.
I agreed. That meant getting to sell The Talk Show, which was a goddamn hoot, let me tell you. I got to work with/for John Gruber consistently; we knew each other from the Apple tech circle and had shared drinks, but now I would be in regular email/iMessage contact with the man. And sell his delightful podcast, which commanded top dollar, had no unhappy advertisers, and introduced a whole lot of new blood to the podcast ad space.
* * *
Success begat success. The Talk Show sold out so far in advance that I lobbied John, successfully, to add a third spot to the show. My success with Mule led to my selling Boing Boing’s podcasts, and then Accidental Tech Podcast, and then Macworld’s, and Bits und so, and more and more.
I was then recruited by the company that became my new employer, Midroll Media, to join their management team and help sell podcast ads for some of the biggest podcasts in the world—WTF, Comedy Bang Bang, and plenty more.
I got that job because I was good at selling podcast ads. I was good at selling podcast ads because I beta tested an app while writing for Macworld, met Dave, and convinced him to do a show with me, and he convinced Mule to host it, and Mule said yes.
Late last year, Mule took its ad sales in-house, which was a bummer for me. At the end of last year, I recorded my last episode as a host of Unprofessional, though the show is still going strong.
When The Talk Show announced it was going solo, leaving Mule, I expected the writing was on the wall for Mule Radio; The Talk Show was—and is!—huge; its absence would leave a huge vacuum.
So I’ll toast Mule tonight as it announces it’s effectively shutting down. A series of quite fortunate events, centered on Mule, landed me a great job with a great team in a great industry. Cheers.