Indian & Cowboy — A Look Back at 2017

It has been a banner year at Indian & Cowboy headquarters and the team at Makoons Media Group is doubling down for 2018.

Nobody said this was going to be easy.

These are words I often mutter to myself late at night while researching, writing, recording or editing work for Indian & Cowboy. It’s exhausting and sometimes lonely.

The reward of amplifying, centring and celebrating Indigenous voices is my greatest joy however. The work we do at Indian & Cowboy is not just important to me and the rest of the team at Indian & Cowboy, the 2017 #AppropriationPrize debacle has proven, it’s necessary to our community at large.

We’re honoured to do the work we do. Without our paid members, we would not exist. We are grateful.

We still have one main challenge as a company – everyone involved in this project is doing this off the side of their desks, part-time, and for way too little money.

But.

We’re committed to changing this in 2018.

The Numbers Don’t Lie

We’re on the right track.

The analytics tell us that when we publish to our website, the internet (y’all) respond(s). There is great interest in the work we produce. This is the greatest reward of running this project — giving people a place to turn to centre Indigenous voices in the digital space.

Bootstrapping our company has proven to be a hard task. We did not start out with a pot of money to play with, we started out with a twitter account and an idea. We’re proud of how far we’ve come to date.

Here’s the tricky part. We’re in a bit of a catch-22. When we publish, the internet responds, however, it costs money to publish (something we don’t have a lot of) and in order to publish more, we need more money?!

We have been offered investment by a few investors we opted to not work with (we can’t take oil money & run podcasts about decolonization at the same time). We have swung a big bat and at time missed the ball. We have made alot happen with very little resources — this is the real story of this company — doing alot with very little.

As of the time of publishing this year in review, we have 221 paid members. The fact that we have that many people behind our work, ready to support us monthly because they see our work as important, means the world to us as a company.

Thank you to all 221 of you!

Thank you to the thousands of you that come to Indian & Cowboy to read and share our work!

Thank you to our creatives, freelancers and our team. We’re getting there, we are so close!

Indian & Cowboy — Our Year In Review

2017 was an important year for research & development, partnership building & strenghtening our voice as a brand & as a community!

We started 2017 by announcing a relaunch of the website thanks to our successful application to the IIDF, graciously granted to us by the National Association of Indigenous Friendship Centres (NAFC) & the good people at the McConnell Foundation.

Thanks to the Indigenous Innovation Development Fund we were able to start 2017 with our eyes set on an embarking on a transformative research & development stage and a complete rebuild of our platform.

The curse and the blessing of digital media is that it is a flexible and ever changing medium. We’ve seen huge swings in successful models — from membership models free of advertising revenue to platforms entirely funded through advertising revenues to some of the worlds biggest digital media companies take on massive investments only to fall short of revenues, goals and expectations of investors.

The digital media space is a goddamn mess. There’s no escaping it.

Our work around for the above truth is to fight the need for constant and exponential growth. We’re in no rush. We are patient. We are calculated.

Our formula for success is scaling up relative to our resources and our ability to reach reasonable, sustainable and ethical goals. As stated earlier, we’ve had interest from investors and we’ve turned down every offer we’ve had to date. We don’t want to fund this company with millions of dollars in debt financing while we struggle to build and grow our membership base.

Through the first quarter of the year, we dug deep into models that worked and did not work and looked at what we could adopt and what we could stay away from. The research & development phase of planning was exciting as we realized we were actually right on track (except a few tweaks to the biz plan) and pretty much right where we wanted to be.

We realized, you can’t scale up (grow) if you don’t scale down (root yourself in community) and you don’t scale out (work with, include that community in the work itself). RYAN MCMAHON // CEO // MAKOONS MEDIA GROUP

Our goal always has been to scale down and out before we ever even think of scaling up.

A SUSTAINABLE, LONG TERM VISION FOR OUR COMPANY

Very early on in our research & development phase in the first quarter of 2017, we doubled down on our commitment to be patient and to think long term about the future of Indian & Cowboy.

Our growth and our scale strategy is tied to our long term & sustainable vision. Each of our projected revenue streams are somehow tied to each other. We are not in a sprint, we’re in a marathon. Cliches aside, we well understand the company we can become if we remain patient.

We can see clearly that once our membership base is a bit more established, live recordings/small regional tours will help us build our base, solidify our brand AND provide us with content for our website.

Membership + Live Events + Recording/Filming = Premium Content

We’re the first to admit that we aren’t exactly cracking deep secrets of the universe over here but we’re putting our assets together with our partners and with communities to deliver the worlds best Indigenous produced content. We have incredible plans in this regard for 2018.

In the end, our goal of 10,000 paid members at a Netflix cost per month is our platform goal. We ask ourselves the question every day, can we find 10,000 people worldwide, that are passionate about, curious about or supportive of Indigenous stories? We think the answer is yes, we’re working hard to find them.

10,000 X $10/month = $100,000/monthly membership revenue to help create an Indigenous media company that has never existed before that will change Indigenous storytelling forever.

OUR PLATFORM RELAUNCH

We initially set out to relaunch the platform on April 1/2017 but we didn’t meet our projected target. The website was behind in its development and our team realized we had bitten off a bit more than we could chew.

We took our own advice and after a few high stress meetings, we decided on ringing in #Canada150 with the launch of our new platform. What better way to #Resist150 than to launch a platform featuring Indigenous voices on a day meant to erase our voices.

We went into overdrive and announced that the new platform would include a few new podcast offerings, we’d introduce video work to the website and we’d open up an Editorial/Opinion space for emerging Indigenous writers.

We assembled a world-class team of Indigenous creatives and we got down to work. We tested ideas, held creative jam sessions and dreamed about what the site might become?!

INDIAN & COWBOY PARTNERS WITH TWITTER CANADA

We had figured that many in Canadian media (if they were paying attention at all) had heard of the work we were doing at Indian & Cowboy. Our podcast offerings were getting good traction and the news of our relaunch had good reach.

What we weren’t prepared for though was the email we received from Twitter Canada offering a new partnership with Indian & Cowboy. We were beyond thrilled. We don’t want to over conflate what the partnership is, there are many media orgs that are partners with Twitter, but, to have the door opened to us, to be offered their platform tools and the other generous offerings they provide partners with, was a massive step forward for us as a company.

We are grateful to the good people at Twitter Canada for sharing your powerful platform with us in this way.

Indian & Cowboy published a Twitter Moment on June 21/2017 that got tens of thousands of views, highlighting Indigenous community celebrations and the ongoing resistance of Indigenous communities on the eve of #Canada150.

OUR JULY 1st RELAUNCH, #CANADA150 AND A LOOK AHEAD TO #THENEXT150

This was the front page of indianandcowboy.com on July 1st, 2017.

We hit the ground running on Canada Day.

By now, we all now how difficult #Canada150 was for Indigenous Peoples living in Canada. With all of the contention, resistance and protest aside, we at Indian & Cowboy decided to focus on building something for people to turn to — a safe place to reaffirm, articulate and reinforce Indigenous media, thought and opinion.

We chose not to protest on #Canada150. Instead, we chose to be generative, to give Youth a place to see themselves, to give them the hope that things were changing and Indian & Cowboy was a place for them to experience that change. RYAN MCMAHON // CEO // MAKOONS

On July 1st, 2017, our website was visited by tens of thousands of people. When they got there the got editorial, video, audio and opinion on the website.

Part of the fun throughout the day was watching people react to the work we did — it was an incredible feeling to see the words, the work and the heart of everything we put out that day, received so warmly by the world.

#Canada150 was a terrible day in some regards, but, in other ways, it was a very special day that we won’t soon forget at Indian & Cowboy.

THE NEXT 150 LIVE ON TWITTER

Our main offering for #Canada150 was a live streamed event from the Kanata Fest in Vancouver, BC. We partnered with Twitter Canada for this one time only live stream and it was magical.

Perhaps the highlight of #Canada150 programming for us at Indian & Cowboy was our live twitter event.

We scheduled a live show from the Kanata Fest in downtown Vancouver, BC in partnership with Twitter Canada. As part of Twitter’s #Canada150 offerings, our live event was featured in MOMENTS and on the front page of Twitter.

We scheduled a panel, special guests and music and we did what we’ve always done, looked back to look forward. We were less concerned with #Canada150 than we were with #TheNext150. We charged our panelists with addressing their comments/ideas toward where we are headed, not where we’ve been.

Kanata Pod host, Lisa Girbav and Ryan McMahon co-host #TheNext150 live on twitter during #Canada150.

Then something amazing happened - 92,000 people showed up to our live broadcast.

Ya.

You read that correctly.

Nearly 100,000 watched our live event on Twitter. We received word from Twitter Canada that Global News and CTV News’ live twitter offerings scored just a few more thousand views than ours did — a pretty successful first kick at the can for us, we’d say.

MORE NATIONAL COVERAGE DURING #CANADA150

The good people at Podcast Playlist (one of our favourite shows about podcasts) played a feature interview about the network on Canada Day. We’re really grateful to Lindsay Micheal and company for highlighting our voices on Canada Day.

You can hear our chat on CBC Radio 1’s “Podcast Playlist” here.

We also got some love from NPR on Canada Day.

We were honoured to have had the chance to chat with Lauren Ober, host of The Big Listen, on NPR. Of course, NPR is the US’s version of what the CBC is and to have a feature interview air on Canada Day, raising our voices and amplifying our efforts, was a massive win for us.

We’re grateful for the chance to have had the chance to talk with Lauren at The Big Listen. To hear that chat, click here.

OUR CREATIVE PHILOSOPHY: #LANDOVERERRRRYTHING

The work we do at Indian & Cowboy generally centres on land.

We’ve been asked how a creative company like ours can have such a “loose mandate?” It is because land is central to all that we have ever been, all that we are and all that we will ever be. Indigenous Peoples’ recipricol relationship to land is fundamental to our existance. We want to make work that reflects this.

At the core of our founding principles, a saying inside of our company started to emerge in 2017 — land over everything.

We wanted to our work to always centre on, or at least, include land. We should be clear, we don’t want to include land just to include land for lands sake (it’s a very cool thing to do now). We understand that the land, the air and the water is what keeps us well – we need to work, live and play on the land that gives us all so much.

Our work will always centre around land in one way or another. This is the great teaching of 2017 — everything we do as a company will honour, raise up and support land, land based learning, teaching and storytelling.

ANNOUNCING: THE 2167 — Connecting Our Creative Work To A Pathway Forward For Indigenous Peoples

The only way forward in Canada is Indigenous liberation. It is clear, anything short of the liberation of Indigenous Nations in Canada will be a complete and total failure.

A hundred and fifty years from now, it’ll be 2167. How will we survive another 150 years in Canada? What will Canada look like 150 years from now? How do we ensure we are asserting Indigenous Nationhood and all of its central tenants (jurisdiction, Indigenous laws & ways of knowing, economy, trade, governance, community life) into the future?

The frustration and anger that fills communities due to ongoing colonization in Canada (and around the world, frankly) is an often violent and oppressive existence for Indigenous Peoples.

The only way out of oppression, is through love and kindness. The deeper we love in Indigenous communities, the kinder we are too each other, the further we will go.

We need space to imagine.

To dream.

To think.

To build.

So.

We’re doing that to.

In response to #Canada150, a handful of us asked ourselves, “what’d happen if there was an Indigenous Think Tank that was rooted in community, empowered community and supported the work of communities and individuals that were bringing us toward 2167.

More details about THE 2167 forthcoming throughout 2018.

Visit the2167.org to join our mailing list.

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2018 AT INDIAN & COWBOY

So, where are we now?

We’re happy to announce today that we have received Stage 2 support from The McConnell Foundation as they continue to support the Indigenous Innovation space.

We are using this opportunity to do the following:

  • work with the incredible team at Media Style in Ottawa, ON to help us build our strategic plan and broaden our communication plan to prepare us for high level talks with investors;
  • complete our website (yes, finally) with the incredible team at addpbj.com;
  • hire 2 full time audio producers to strengthen and support our podcast productions teams;

WHAT WE’RE COMMITTED TO AS A COMPANY IN 2018 AND BEYOND

We love reading, hearing and watching Indigenous content. We love it so much, we want to be the number one destination for it.

In 2018, we want to make people think of us first in terms of where they’ll go to pitch, read, hear and watch Indigenous content.

We are committed to paying better than the other guys, being flexible with and supportive of Indigenous creatives, and we will pay ALL OF OUR STAFF a higher than living wage.

Sure, you can write, record and tape for the other players in the space, but we are genuinely building a company YOU WANT TO BE A PART OF.

We are taking PITCHES and we want to HEAR FROM YOU!

BUILDING THE NEXT STEPS

We want to be 100% transparent here.

We are entering 2018 with the full intent of attracting up to a $5 million dollar investment (over term) for the platform. We are currently in preliminary talks with a few investors, we’re moving slowly, but we’re very close to taking the full leap in 2018.

If things go the way we think they will, we will be fully staffed in 2018. If things go the way we think they will, our platform will be bigger and better with more consistent offerings in all mediums. If things go the way we think they will, we will finally step into the digital space the way we’ve always dreamed of.

It’s been 3 long years, but we’re close.

PARTNERSHIPS & OPPORTUNITY ABOUND

A gentle reminder, our tag line for our company is, “Indigenous stories everywhere.” This is a tip of that hat that we aim to be a global media company. We are actively building partnerships with Indigenous creatives around the world as we work to expand to tell global Indigenous stories by 2022.

We are scheduled (by invitation) to meet with the Leonardo Dicaprio Foundation in January 2018 (shoutout to Emily Jacobi and Leena Minifie for the invite to PDF17 — it was an honour to hold space with you both). We are partnering with the 1850 Robinson Huron Treaty Trust in the first quarter of 2018. Our partnership with Think Indigenous continues.

We struck amazing partnerships & industry friendships with iTunes Canada, Spotify and Radio Public. We made a big splash at the Hot Docs Podcast Festival this past year.

We will continue to develop new partnerships and new opportunities for our work to find new audiences and new possibilities.

We pitched Stories From The Land (unsuccessfully) to CBC TV, we have completed the development of our sitcom webseries (pilot shooting this spring) and we have 2 other digital properties completed and looking for (broadcast) homes.

We hope you’re as excited about 2018 as we are.

#IndigenousStoriesEverywhere

Ryan McMahon

CEO // Makoons Media Group