Hearing Voices

More than 11 percent of American adults now have iPODs or MP3 devices. A new studio has opened to produce podcasts. And at least one network has already deployed to insert advertisements in these audio files. Does this sound like a market being born? What’s podcasting? According to Podcasting News it “is delivering audio content to iPods and other portable media players on demand.” The term was “popularized by media entrepreneur and former MTV VJ Adam Curry” who expanded on work done by Northern California programmer Dave Winer. MediaPost pointed me to the 11 percent number, which was drawn from a Pew Internet telephone survey. The survey suggests that 22 million Americans over age 18 (teens not included!) have audio download and playback devices. The summary posted by Pew Internet project director Lee Rainie notes that the distribution of devices skews upward with income: “Fully a quarter (24%) of those who live in households earning more than $75,000 have them.” PaidContent editor Staci Kramer noted the opening of a new (small?) podcast production shop called PaleGroove Studios outside Chicago. Staci says, “The founder is Kristopher Smith, a freelance multimedia producer … (whose) services include in-studio production starting at $75 per show and house calls in a three-mile radius.” In the same post Staci also noted that “Australian podcasters Cameron Reilly and Mick Stanic” have launched The Podcast Network “selling 5-10 second interstitials or 30-second spots” (presumably for insertion into the podcasts.) Staci sounds leery about their plans to create “advertorial” offerings, in which “advertisers can pay for product placement on “blog-like” sites associated with podcasts.” She adds: “Unless they do this carefully they’re ambitious plans could end up muddying the waters.” The folks who operate the network have their own blog for those who want to continue the discussion in greater detail. I want to go elsewhere. In these developments I see many opportunities to create a Tivo-like system for shifting print content to audio intake. Think books on tape goes digital, or newspapers for your ears. I’m not a big music fan, and I think music consumption decreases with age. But income increases and so does the need, and/or desire, to learn — but not the time to sit and scan a page. I will spend 6 hours next weekend driving from San Francisco to my place in Humboldt County, and six hours driving back. I often get books on tape for such drives. An iPOD would be lighter and easier to handle. I see this delivery system as a perfect opportunity for incumbent publishers trying to monetize their backlists, along the lines of Chris Anderson’s concept of the Long Tail. There should also be opportunities for small publishers to create new audio info products for sale because there is a strong value here — delivering convenience. I’ll think some more on this later. I’m jazzed.

Tom Abate
If you ain’t Mass Media, you’re Mini Media