Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Who's paying for this stuff, anyway?

In case you missed it, there's been a side conversation at "CE Conversations" between Sean Tubbs of the Charlottesville Podcasting Network and myself. Sean's most recent response raised an interesting question, and one I felt worth examining in a post. Recently, Sean said:

Right now, you can get listen to commercial-free podcasts of at least one of WINA's shows on the Charlottesville Podcasting Network. WNRN podcasts the Sunday Morning WakeUp Call. Charlottesville Tomorrow posts full-length audio and features from City Council and the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors. I'm working with someone else from WTJU to put their podcast up on my site. I work with Live Arts to produce in-depth interviews with the director of each of their plays. With Leadership Charlottesville, I produced a series of podcasts on poverty.

... you don't have to have a transmitter to create content. The question is, how can you pay for the talent, and how can you build the audience?

Great questions. The easier to consider is how to pay for the talent (we'll talk about audience-building in the next post).

IMHO, the primary difference between Internet content and traditional media is that its completely customizable. And that difference dictates different strategies.

Least successful (and therefore least common) seems to be the subscription model -- making the listener pay for content. Rush Limbaugh and Ricky Gervais are notable exceptions, but both built up a huge loyal audience first before launching their respective subscription services.

Banner ads are a tried and true method of generating revenue. As Google's AdSense and similar services gather more data and display ads more closely associated with the interests of the website's visitor, revenue-generating actions such as clicking through and purchasing will increase.

Some podcasters embed ads in their programs. Leo Laporte weaves the sponsor's ad copy into the conversation on "This Week in Tech" in a way that harkens back to older radio hosts of the 1960s. "Rocketboom" rolls a mention at the end of their podcast, with a link to the advertiser's site.

"Ask a Ninja" saves the end of their podcast for an ad for their own online store. Right before it, though, there's a spot for Ask.com. Go to Ask.com, type in the special word on the screen, and get more "Ask a Ninja" video.

I've experimented with a number of these with varying degrees of success. The AdSense ads you see at the top of this page have had very modest success -- as time goes on, though, I expect the ads to be more relevant to the topics of this blog, and hopefully generate a little more traffic.

The Scuffletown ad on the sidebar links to my own site, DCDRecords.com, and has done a good job in driving sales for this local band. For the online playlist postings for my radio program "Gamut" (heard every Wednesday morning on WTJU), I've become an affiliate of Arkivmusic.com. If they have a release I've aired for sale, I'll provide a link to it from the playlist.

This has proved the most lucrative of all, primarily (I believe) because the Gamut playlist is of interest to such a small group -- but that group is extremely interested in the classical music they've heard on the radio (or over the Internet at WTJU.net), and therefore have generated a significant number of click throughs and actual sales at Arkivmusic.com.

Now I haven't quit my day job yet, but I can say that all of these revenue models do work. The issue is simply one of scale.

So how to build an audience? I've some ideas, but unlike setting up revenue streams, its almost entirely dependent on other people -- as I'll explain next post.

- Ralph

Right after I posted this, an article about a concerted effort to make podcast ads effective landed in my [virtual] inbox. You can read it here.


  1. The Association of Downloadable Media is a great first step for national types. At the local level, it's a little trickier. So far, I've made about $500 or so from advertising in the past two years. Not much, but it pays for the server bills.

    How to pay for talent? Locally, the United Way paid for the some of the Voices of Poverty project. Specifically, the time it took for me to edit the 20 minutes interviews into something akin to a radio broadcast.

    They don't know it, but WVTF subsidized a lot of the original content on the Charlottesville Podcasting Network by paying me for the stories that ran on broadcast. As a convergence journalist, My editorial process assumes multiple platforms. Some examples include the 2007 Muzzles piece, coverage of a partnership between the UVA and the Legal Justice Center and a profile of a piece John D'earth was commissioned to write for First Night.

    Monticello commissions me to produce podcasts for their page, and I've also been hired by other organizations to produce content for their sites.

    In other words, funding is a hodge-podge. And much of what I do is done for free, out of a belief that public service journalism has a place online. And, a corresponding belief that doing it online allows you the freedom to experiment, and allows the possibility of more voices entering the conversation.

    (really enjoying these conversations... hope you don't mind!)

  2. CE Conversations are all about conversation! Your comments have already served as the basis for two posts, so please continue to contribute.

  3. Thanks... it's nice to have a place to talk about this besides my own personal blog. Now, on to the other post!

  4. Glad to have you part of the conversation. One of the things I haven't had time to investigate yet are some of the options available to craft homepages with a variety of content.

    Yahoo Tubes is one such option, as is iGoogle. I don't know if either of them handle RSS feeds, but if they do, it might be possible for someone to build their own radio/TV station with the content and programs that matter to them.

    If I can get it to work, there'll be a post on it for sure!