Wednesday, July 25, 2007

...and who's going to listen?

Last post I offered up some ways podcasters are trying to monetize their work. There's lots of ways to do it (be sure to check the comments for that post, Sean Tubbs of the Charlottesville Podcasting Network shares his strategies).

Most of the ways discussed are scalable: the more traffic a site has, the more income it generates. So how do you generate traffic and raise your site's profile?

The best way is to have really compelling content. That's what happened with Mignon Fogerty, better known as "Grammar Girl." She combined a down-to-earth approach to grammar with a well-written concise script and a sense of fun. Within six months, her podcast had been downloaded over 1.3 million times. Fogerty's grown her podcast into a franchise, and it's become her full-time job.

Grammar Girl grew primarily by word-of-mouth. The program answered a real need, and the rest is history.

Regardless of content, the growth of any website pretty much relies on kindness of strangers. There are several ways to get the word out, but its up to the folks who come to your site (and are excited by the content) to share their discovery with others and build critical mass.

If you're already a celebrity (even in a highly specialized field), then you have an advantage. Leo Laporte was already a recognized tech authority, as well as a radio and television personality when he started "This Week in Tech" podcast. He continues to be heard on the radio, and appears on television as well. This, plus his appearances on panels at tech conferences and other events keeps his profile high, and helps bring traffic to his site.

Of course, if TWIT wasn't such a great program, no one would stay subscribed, but it -- along with the other programs built around it -- sustain a healthly audience. And LaPorte now enjoys advertising from major corporations.

Another really effective way to spread the word is to be sociable. That's what Web 2.0 is all about.

The more you link to other sites, the more sites link to you, sending potential readers back and forth across the web. Social media sites can also help. It's almost a requirement for an up-and-coming band that they have a MySpace page (that's why I'm working on one for DCDRecords). And there's FaceBook, Twittr, Flickr, and many, many more. All designed to share who you are and what you're about, and all designed to help like-minded individuals find each other. Or in this case, linking niche businesses with potential customers/audiences.

Most of these resources are free, but they do come at a cost -- time. Right now, in addition to this blog, I maintain a corporate blog for DCD Records, produce a twice-monthly podcast for the label, and manage two websites (one for DCD, the other for its parent company). While none of it takes a great deal of time, it can represent a significant part of a 40-hour workweek if I let it.

There are still many social networking sites I haven't even signed onto yet -- but I won't. It's possible to spend all my time blogging, and posting, and never get a lick of work done.

Even with just the little bit I have done, though, I've seen a significant growth in webtraffic, and in our business' income as well. Where possible, I've provided readers opportunities to share my posts on and other social news sites.

Finally, going offline can help traffic online. Just as a radio station promotes itself with billboards, bumper stickers and print ads, generating news and taking out ads in other forms of media can help a website. It works, because you get your message before folks who otherwise wouldn't be aware of you.

Many newspapers ran the story of Grammar Girl's success -- which helped further fuel that success. Leo Laporte regularly appears on radio and TV -- which helps attract people to his site. Cross-promotion in other media can be very effective, if you have the resources and connections to take advantage of it.

Any other suggestions? I'd love to know how everyone else manages this trick!

- Ralph


  1. I've started my response to this about three or four times now, and then have to go back to work.

    It's trickier for someone who is trying to produce something at the local level. Some of my strategies have worked, others have not. What I lack is a media partner.

  2. I agree. And while local content is the most valuable in many ways, it's a niche market (by definition) and therefore somewhat limited in ways to get the word out.

    What kind of media partner would you be looking for? Someone like Media General, WVTF, Channel 29, or a mixture of any or all of the above?

    I'm wondering about either the Hook or C'Ville Weekly, as those papers are very closely tied to the community and tend to skew to a slightly younger (and therefore more Internet-friendly) audience.

    I have a feeling you've explored all of this in depth, but I look forward to whatever information you choose to share about this.

  3. Hey, I didn't see this one.

    A media partner that things 21st century, instead of 20th century. Yes, that's a cliche, but it's paramount. Media has been fragmenting for years, but it's spaghettifying at the moment. I think there is still an interest in it, but coming up with a way to scale back the ad rates is going to be tricky, and the media partners of today are often worried about how to hold on to what they have, rather than figuring out how they're going to make money in the future.

    More on this later!

  4. Too true.

    There are efforts to create ad networks for podcasts, websites, etc. that mirror the services of traditional media. The goal is to provide a one-stop source for the client who can then place an ad (or a family of ads) in various genre programs.

    Probably the most successful version of this is Google Adsense, although there are at least two ad brokers for podcasting (that I'm aware of) that haven't quite hit critical mass yet.

    - Ralph