Nov 12, 2021

Monetizing—Or, In Plain English, Cashing In

Make money while you sleep without getting tired

By Ed Goldman

I’m not sure when “monetize” became a word but in the past few years it’s become a fairly ubiquitous go-to word in our lexicon. So have “schadenfreude” and, let’s face it, “go-to.”

Since “schadenfreude” is pronounced shod-in-froid, you can’t be blamed for thinking it means someone sporting footwear designed by the father of modern psychiatry (as suggested by today’s cartoon). But no. Its best synonym is “comeuppance,” which itself sounds like a slapped-together word, possibly in Esperanto. But it’s actually what’s called a portmanteau (a hybrid word) even if it still sounds to me like a driveway you can turn around in.

Edgy Cartoon

Shod in Freud?

“Go-to” has problems of its own, but at least everyone has an idea what you’re talking about when you call someone a “go-to-person” for donating to your nonprofit, for showing you how to find the reset button on your garbage disposal and for advising you on dealing with grown children who think you became incapable of making decisions once they left home.

Monetize,” as you know, simply means finding a way to make a product, service or even a random idea you came up with make money. It also implies but doesn’t really mean this—that it’s the kind of product, service or idea that’ll allow you to make money while you sleep. This, as you know, is the actual Great American Dream, even though builders want you to believe it’s owning your own home. To date, I’ve owned eight homes—and I can’t remember a single time when I was scraping up money to pay property taxes, a midnight plumbing bill or sprinkler installation that I hit myself in the forehead and exclaimed, “Dear God, I am livin’ it!”

I get why people laugh their heads off when someone says, “Money isn’t everything”—to which my favorite retort is from that great philosopher, Alfred E. Newman, Mad Magazine’s what-me-worry kid, who said, “Yes, but it’s way ahead of whatever’s in second place.”

I also understand the Biblical admonition about money being the root of all evil, which is from Timothy 6:10—though he might have said it around 5:30, before he’d had his supper and was therefore a tad grumpy. Maybe so, Tim, but in the course of a lifetime, many people will dye their roots.

So I get why, in an era when seeming nerds get crazy notions about software, video games and electronics in general, many of us watch them and think, “Hey, I can do that! Wasn’t it me who suggested the creation of black dandruff to sprinkle on summer suits?”

What’s always left out is that these “kids” who come up with these inventions are often geniuses. Not Hollywood geniuses—where if you come up with the idea for a sitcom like “WKRP in Cincinnati,” which already had been made only they called it “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”—but genuinely original thinkers, the kids who hadn’t dozed their way through their math, chemistry and engineering classes. They ended up monetizing zany notions that became absolutely vital parts of our lives and economy, (the Internet springs to mind, possibly because as I’m writing this on my computer, I’ve been notified that new emails await my perusal, many of which will insist I need to refinance my Great American Dream with a reverse mortgage).

When I was a kid and had a million things I wanted to do with my life, many at the same time, my Dad warned me that if I made a hobby into my job, I’d no longer have a hobby. He was right, I suppose. I eventually discovered that while many of the things I enjoyed doing (hobbies) could have been profitable if I’d stuck with them, by focusing on writing (the hobby I loved the most), I might just be able to eke out a living from it.

“Eke” is a favorite crossword puzzle word. So’s “ort.” I’m finishing up a play right now about two people who are or have been obsessed with crosswords. It’s called “Two-Down.” I hope to monetize it.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).