The problem is that there is simply way too many people wanting way too much money for stuff. Everybody that has a business model that includes startups is doing some kind of Chinese Math that begins with "if we can take 1 million startups and help them make 50K per year, and then we only ask for 20% of their profit in return...."
The problem is that most startups fail, even with the super-awesome help you are providing. That means there's no money for anything. There are far too many companies selling the dream of doing X instead of X itself. So yes, I can provide you with a master class on product positioning, and hell, at the end of the day you can even feel like you've learned something and took lots of action items, but did I actually help you position your product? Or just give you stuff to do in the "product position" space? Acceptance critera has to be either "this mandatory overhead" or "this directly generated X amount of sales". That's it. Leads don't count (unless you've established a pipeline and can demonstrate it works). Being pleased with content -- even having a great feeling after consuming content and picking up things you feel are really useful -- doesn't count.
Like I said, I'm not trying to knock Andrew. For the few interviews I've seen, he's doing a bang-up job, and if the issue is just what to pay for quality entertainment, I'd much rather pay 20 bucks a month for that kind of content than something silly like a cable movie channel. I'm just saying that over a period of years I have grown exceptionally careful about spending money on anything. It's way too easy to spend more for stuff than you'll ever make back.
Want to know where I feel like I've picked up the most value? Serendipity. Some guy posts a random link on HN. I'm doing a Google search on one thing and come across something else. Those kinds of things only happen once every year or two for me. If I had my way I'd make a big house and invite the top 100 scrappy entrepreneurs to live there while I just hung out. Now that would be worth making a sacrifice and taking a gamble. Once again, this has nothing to do with this particular offer. Some kinds of information transfer work best in an interview/publish-subscribe format. Some work best in a P2P, informal, indirect setting. To me at least, important startup lessons seem to fall into the second category.
As for me, right now I am cash-rich (well, relatively) and time-poor. I barely find the time to do any of the important stuff. You know, like figuring out how to get leads out of linkedin and redoing our website to generate more leads. So for me, if I can pay some double-digit amount of dollars and make progress on those important objectives that have a bottom line impact of tens of thousands of dollars, as I said, it's a no-brainer. I know it's an easy argument to make, but if I sell a single client because of one of Mixergy's talks that will be worth £5-10k this year (based on our average claim size) - and that's not counting future years and other leads that may come from that client. And from following the instructions in the LinkedIn masterclass, I have already generated about half a dozen leads. Sure, maybe none of them will convert, but that's half a dozen more leads than I generated through LinkedIn ever.
Sitting through a bunch of videos that teach you about stuff you can't really apply is a waste of your time and your $25/m. Sitting through a video that teaches you, in a concise manner, something you can use right now in your business is priceless.
Anyway, so to summarise, Mixergy is gold dust for the time-poor and cash-rich, but not the time-rich and cash-poor.
Aside from the cash-rich/cash-poor discussion, which has some merit, the problem is that harvesting useful information from startups is tough because there's a vast amount of selection bias going on. Everybody who succeeds believes that the things they did helped them succeed. This would seem obvious. But the math doesn't work out. The problem is that most of them are much better at telling their personal story than drawing useful conclusions.
I think that somebody like PG is starting to see enough samples that he can make some broad and rather useful statements. I believe you may be able to start teasing out the signal from the noise once your sample size gets into the hundreds or thousands. But the vast majority of this is just people sharing their own experiences -- and sometimes being a bit reluctant to dive into the juicy details. Nothing wrong with that, and as you say if nothing else there's a lot of solid things to learn also. You have to be careful to clearly understand whether you're buying the steak or the sizzle.
When I consult, I make enough to spend it on a lot of things, and I have. For instance I love being a pro member of SEOMoz. But after a couple of years of membership, I'm just now thinking I have a handle on using it to gather real returns, and the return rate isn't worth the investment right now -- no matter how much sales I'm making. Same goes for a few other helper subscriptions. To me having the cash doesn't change much: I'm still left looking at an industry that makes people feel as if they're well underway to internet riches or whatever instead of actually sending them there. This isn't meant as a ding against anybody doing it. It's just a damned difficult subject. If anything, having the cash to buy whatever I want makes the problem much tougher. Suddenly I'm awash in all kinds of content and services that each require attention and all promise incredible returns if I just follow along. Do you have any idea how much regular content is pushed out each month for folks interested in business?
I used to listen to a lot of pop-business audio. Stuff like "Learn to master NLP and increase your sales overnight!" I found that while I enjoyed a lot of it, it just didn't have immediate value. When I thought about how disappointed I was, I thought about quitting. But there was always that next one. Surely it would pay off. Out of maybe 50 of these things 2 or 3 actually paid off (and they paid off in a big way). Looking at the startup-helper community, I get the same feeling, only more so. I don't feel cheated or anything, I just feel like what people want -- feel-good useful-sounding advice and encouragement -- and what they need are two entirely different things.
Yes, if you get one lead that converts it's easily worth it. Say a 5% conversion rate, you'll need 20 leads to make that happen. If you learned something that gets you 20 leads, and if they convert at that rate, then it's worth it. Congratulations. Track those leads and come back to us with some numbers. You know, it's entirely possible that you could be generating leads that don't convert at all. Or they could convert at a higher rate. We just don't know anything at all right now.
I hate to sound like an asshole, but I don't want others to go down this same track. Too many times you just listen to the audio, get excited about the possibilities of what can happen, take a few notes, make a few changes, then move on to something else next week. You're purchasing an emotional experience, not leads. Yes, the leads appeared. That's a number. Work the numbers, not the feelings.
As I said: Sitting through a bunch of videos that teach you about stuff you can't really apply is a waste of your time and your $25/m. Sitting through a video that teaches you, in a concise manner, something you can use right now in your business is priceless.
You say: I'm still left looking at an industry that makes people feel as if they're well underway to internet riches or whatever instead of actually sending them there
I couldn't agree more. If you're thinking of watching/listening to Mixergy just to "get on your path to riches", then that's a terrible reason to do it. Much like watching Peepcode screencasts "to learn about programming" without actually having any programming you want to do.
On the other hand, if you're looking to learn something specific, a mixergy masterclass is a great way to do that.
As for the criticism of sample size, most of the interviews are not presented as holy truths, but just as "this is what happened to me" report. If you read some absolute truth in them, that's your fault, really, since the interviewees are generally humble enough not to claim that their experience is universal. Consider the Mixergy podcast as a place where you can expand your sample size somewhat.
And finally, re: leads, ask me again in 2-4 months - that's how long leads usually take to convert in this industry... Some of them, though, are qualified leads - I can tell that already - and the discussions are going well with them, so at the moment I'm hopeful. That being said, I think I've been around the startup advice block enough to be able to tell useful actionable information from hogwash - so I don't think I'm just fooling myself by believing I've learned something when I haven't.
Edit: talking of being time-poor, time for bed!