Podcast Service to Give Ad Revenue Cut to Audio Hosts

In keeping with an emerging trend in ad-supported CGM, a just-launched podcast service is offering audio content creators the chance to earn a cut of its ad revenues. Week-old TalkShoe, a free service that allows anyone to create audio podcast content or listen to it via phone, cellphone or VoIP, will offer its podcast “hosts” a percentage of revenue based on the number of people who listen in on their shows.

“We’re trying to connect people through a combination of voice and text,” said TalkShoe CEO and founder Dave Nelsen, who noted that audio ads inserted within podcasts will be enabled “roughly within the next 90 days.”

The site currently runs Google AdSense text and banner ads targeted contextually according to show name, description and content category. However, added Nelsen, “The larger revenue opportunity over time will come from the audio insertion into the podcast.”

“We have three clients right now that are exploring very seriously [advertising in TalkShoe’s podcasts],” commented John Brady, president of marketing communications agency Brady Communications, which is located in TalkShoe’s home base of Pittsburgh. A healthcare advertiser client of Brady’s that sells supplements has expressed interest. “That audio tag would be a nice non-traditional way to get the message out there,” he continued.

Brady also anticipates corporate clients using the service to create their own podcasts for internal purposes or for B-to-B marketing. A product development company client might have each employee involved in the product cycle explain his role to help promote its services to potential clients.

Surely, the TalkShoe site could become a haven for advertorial podcasts, but Nelsen doesn’t worry about users exploiting the service to pitch their wares. “I actually think that’s a great use of the service,” he said. As for the potential for pornographic content, he stressed that such subject matter is not allowed. All site content is rated and reviewable by users, too.

Although other free podcast hosting services like those offered by Google and Yahoo are available, Brady explained that the convenience of being able to call in a podcast “streamlines the process” for his clients. Most podcasts are created using computer microphones and mp3 encoding software, although Blogger’s free Audioblogger service allows users to create short audio posts for their blogs using their phones. TalkShoe’s podcasts can be of any length and can be made public or kept private for invited ears only.

According to Nelsen, a “half dozen” agencies and podcast media buyers have contacted TalkShoe about possibly forming relationships, including podcast ad networks CastFire and Kiptronic. He expects that 15-20 minute shows will include 5-15 second pre-and-post show ads, while longer shows also may include mid-show insertions.

Currently available podcasts touch on topics like Italian cooking, wedding planning and spirituality. One that’s attracted particular interested is a show featuring Pittsburgh Steelers players Brett Keisel and Max Starks discussing football along with other subjects. Over 600 people have registered with the site, allowing them to listen to or create content. About 100 podcasts were available on the site as of Friday afternoon.

The service, named after Ed Sullivan’s “really big shoe” catchphrase, enables any number of users to listen to live audio shows or download them in mp3 format once recorded. Up to 25 people can contribute to the live conversations as they’re recorded, and the shows can be accompanied by text chats that can also be archived.

A podcast ad is “really more similar to a radio ad than it is to any online ad,” suggested JupiterResearch Analyst Emily Riley, who added that Web advertising has traditionally been used for direct response campaigns, while radio ads are often used for local brand advertising.

Another barrier to advertiser use of the service, noted Riley, may be the fact that once a podcast is downloaded, an ad is “stuck there.”

Brady contended that the permanence of such ads is no different from a magazine ad. “That doesn’t concern me at all,” he continued, explaining that he’d use the podcast ad medium mainly for brand advertising.

“The key really is if TalkShoe can become a brand and drive traffic to their site,” opined Riley.

Nelsen said the company is relying on word of mouth and search marketing to promote the site for now. Still, he’s hoping that an offer to provide 25 percent of podcast host ad revenue to people who help bring in host talent also will spur buzz.

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