The Rube

I made a costly mistake this past week.

Since deciding to pursue Sleep Tight full-time, one of our biggest challenges has been “monetizing” our audio to pay ourselves, pay for help, and fund future products. Unfortunately, this has proven to be very challenging for us, and while our goal is to move away from advertising, it still presents the largest share of our revenue.

We’ve long since passed the threshold (if we were in a different topic category), where we should have enough revenue to support a couple of full-time salaries.

Unable to solve the lack of advertising alone, we first signed a non-exclusive agreement with Redcircle. This gave us access to their marketplace, a minimum guarantee, and other benefits. Unfortunately, in the year we were with them, they didn’t sell one ad, and they reneged on the contract.

Next, we signed an agreement with a company in Denmark to license our audio in other languages. While our lawyer might bristle at the terms, I didn’t feel that holding on to these language rights had much value, as we would likely never have the bandwidth or interest to do it ourselves. After ten months, our agreement has yet to result in any activity.

This year, we signed an exclusive agreement with Airwave for advertising and growth. And this as well has failed, with minuscule impressions sold and no growth.

So when a couple of other agreements came our way, I decided to have someone look over the agreement that we thought most interesting to avoid terms that would bind us and our IP to another unfruitful term. I have no contacts with experience negotiating these kinds of contracts, so I turned to a local law firm. The fact that Sheryl and I produce Sleep Tight Media without outside input is part a problem of our location and our personalities. I know of no one whom I might consult.

Here is the mistake: I knew lawyers were expensive but didn’t realize how expensive. My expectation of costs was so far off the mark that I almost laughed when told how much the services would cost. I expected someone to spend an hour reviewing and an hour writing notes of concern. I got a meeting, no notes, and whatever information gleaned was from my terribly written notes. Getting their “red lines” would cost extra. None of this was communicated until the meeting was concluded.

I like the people whom I dealt with; they are smart and personable.

I should have asked upfront the straightforward question: how much is this going to cost, and what do I get in return? I did that with my mortgage, though they could have been more forthright, too.

So I feel like a rube.

Before going to this meeting, I asked the same questions I had for them to ChatGPT and got exhaustive answers, many of which were as good as they gave. Some answers were better. They laughed when I mentioned ChatGPT, but I look forward to the not-so-distant future when I don’t have to spend a month’s salary for a 60-minute conversation.