Request to Talk with *8 (*T)

| Author: Dave Nelsen | In Announcements, What's New Print This Post

This week’s new release has been our most stable ever (still not quite perfect - there are occasional streaming failures that we’re working to resolve). That said, the two coolest new features are:

- Number of Participants; this count is displayed just above the show image on the home page, and just below the “Join In” button on the Live Now page. Frankly, we should have added this feature a year ago.

- Request to Talk via phone only; this is by far the more important new feature. Tell your callers that when muted they can now press *8 (as in *T for Talk) on their phones to request to talk. Very handy! When you notice phone-only users requesting this, please acknowledge it verbally as our system does not provide any other audio feedback.

By the way, both of these features were the result of your suggestions and requests. Please keep the great ideas coming.

Online Audio Advertising Market Still Developing

| Author: Dave Nelsen | In Announcements, Events, What's New Print This Post

Given the still-nascent online audio advertising market, TalkShoe has decided to pause its TalkCash program. While we remain true believers in the concept, the primary purpose of this action is to allow us to focus our resources on continuing to enhance and grow our popular Community Calling service.

The original concept behind TalkCash was to share ad revenues with audio content creators (aka podcasters), creating an economic incentive to use TalkShoe. It turns out that most people engage in Community Calling for two other non-economic reasons: 1) to more deeply connect with people having like interests [as humans, it’s in our DNA], and 2) to share their voice [essentially the same force that drives blogging]. We estimate that on TalkShoe less that 10% of people are in it primarily for the money.

Two supporting data points: In the past 12 months, the percentage of unpaid host listens on TalkShoe has risen from 3% to 61%. And during the same period, the average time a caller remained on the phone has gone from 31 minutes to 51 minutes. Yes, this is my baby, but even I am amazed at this level of engagement with an “Internet” application.

One other relevant detail: TalkShoe has been paying a subsidized ad-share rate of $10 CPM (1 cent per episode-listen) to hosts. While we sell ads at $20 CPM and higher, we’ve actually been paying out far more than we’re generating due to limited ad inventory. At this time, there are more important things to spend our investors’ money on.

If you’re a casual reader not involved in driving Web2.0 and new advertising models, stop reading here.

For those of you actually interested in the guts of this stuff, read on. I’ll share insights gained through almost two years of testing and tweaking our online audio ad program (aka podcast advertising). I’ll cover Micro-Segmentation, Podcast Advertising Effectiveness, CPM Rates, Host Read Endorsement vs. Non-Host Recorded Ad Insertion and more. And I’ll tell you about a campaign worth $2,747 CPM.

Micro-Segmentation

TalkShoe has demonstrated that audio advertising can be very valuable when properly targeted to narrowly-segmented audiences. An example of this is my Cellar Dwellers Home Winemaking show. Brad Ring, the editor of WineMaker Magazine, emailed me after discovering the show on iTunes. He wrote something to the effect of “Dave, every one of your listeners is a perfect candidate subscriber for my magazine; let’s do a deal.” And even though I average just 500 to 800 unique episode-plays per week, we did. Anecdotally, it appears that a very high proportion of my listeners now subscribe to Brad’s magazine, although neither of us knows the exact numbers.

Now that I’ve seen it in action, the power of micro-segment targeted advertising is undeniable.

Podcast Advertising vs. Internet Advertising Effectiveness

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting pretty good at ignoring most Internet text and banner ads. I suspect that I’m not alone, as I’ve heard that Google’s click rates are dropping.

By comparison, Internet audio ads (my generic name for podcast advertising) have one big positive and one big negative. On the plus-side, our evidence indicates that people actually listen to them. When you turn on your iPod, you’re not talking so you listen. How many times have I heard an Acura ad on an NPR podcast, and yet I still notice them? Heck, as a lifetime Toyota/Lexus driver, I might even consider an Acura next time.

On the minus-side, unlike with Internet ads, an iPod provides no mechanism for clicking on something. Attention: Steve Jobs, entrepreneurs, and/or any venture capitalist; solve this problem and make a billion or two. Cell phones may be the key — texting a code or pressing a button on an Internet-enabled phone could provide for that immediate response. We need it.

Audio Advertising Rates

In addition to advertising for WineMaker Magazine, TalkShoe has run campaigns for Ambrosia Software, Audible.com, Citrix Systems (GoToMyPC and GoToMeeting products), GoDaddy, PageFlakes, and a couple dozen individuals. Rates have ranged from:

• A low of 2 cents per impression to…
• A high of 5.5 cents per impression.

We also tried some “remnant” advertising at 0.3 cents per impression, just to prove to ourselves that it is a very bad idea and should not be repeated. Ads that aren’t relevant to a listener are simply clutter and diminish the value of the good stuff.

Even higher rates can be justified where there is a good match between advertiser and audience (don’t miss the Brehm Vineyards example at the end).

A side note: As with Google AdWords, TalkShoe allows individuals to run online audio ads on a small scale; as low as 1,000 impressions for just $20. You simply can’t do that on offline channels such as radio. But many of these people didn’t understand how to craft a relevant or compelling message, nor did they execute sufficient repetitions. Even though most of us are experts in watching ads, creating them is a lot harder than it looks. Seriously, don’t try this at home!

Host Read Endorsement vs. Non-Host, Recorded Ad Insertion

We’ve experimented with two different approaches to podcast advertising working with Blubrry, a leader in host read endorsement, and Kiptronic, the torchbearer for non-host recorded (dynamic) ad insertion.

Host read endorsement has been the preferred model in radio for years. Rush Limbaugh gets probably a 30% premium for his personally voiced ads flogging the Sleep Number Bed because if you like Rush (or even if not), his endorsement is more likely to influence you. However, while this proven approach works for individual podcasters with substantial audiences, it doesn’t scale down very well to the network-of-lots-of-hosts model. The costs of matching a specific advertiser with a specific host, developing and delivering the message, and then verifying effective delivery, just don’t make sense on a small scale for a network. How would an advertiser even choose the hosts to whom they’d hitch their reputation? They’d have to find 100 hosts to reach 100,000 listeners. It’ll never happen.

To me it’s obvious that non-host recorded (dynamic) ad insertion is the path for a network! Among other reasons, over 30% of TalkShoe’s episode-plays are for recordings more than a month old (the legendary “long tail”). Only by putting a fresh ad in an old recording can you monetize it. Believe me - the folks who made “Snakes on a Plane” won’t still pay you for running their ads today.

Matching is done based on category (e.g., sports) or topic (e.g., winemaking), and listener demographics (age, gender, etc.) and location (derived through IP address). It’s far better than radio and will get better still.

By the way, ad insertion technology still needs to be enhanced in two other ways: 1) interstitial insertion (in program, not just pre-roll and post-roll), which we know our friends at Kiptronic are all over, and 2) a comprehensive “Audio Ad Words” type marketplace for buying impressions. Come on Google; unleash your dMarc technology on the Internet for podcasting. We want it; we need it!

Critical Mass (Audience)

It may be obvious, but a certain scale and a certain level of automation are required in order for micro-segmented advertising to be meaningful and cost-effective. You can’t pay a salesperson to chase deals that generate $10 - $16 per week (that’s what it would cost WineMaker Magazine to advertise on my show at 2 cents per impression).

TalkShoe is now delivering more than 12 million unique episode-plays annually and we can see that our business will become more valuable per unit as we grow to 50 million or, better yet, 100 million unique episode-plays. There’s a definite knee-in-the-curve where growth drives “extra-linear” value (I’d say “exponentially”, but that connotes hype I am trying to avoid).

Inventory Utilization (Emergence of the Online Audio Ad Market)

As all of the airlines know, having a seat on a plane is one thing; filling it is another. The third quarter of 2007 was TalkShoe’s best yet, when 23% of episode-plays carried paid audio ads. However, fast growth in episode-listens makes this number hard to keep up with.

Advertisers generally targeted “categories” rather than individual shows. The Business, Computers, Education, Sports, and Technology categories were most popular. I expect us to average 20% utilization over time, but with less interest in advertising in Politics, Arts & Entertainment, Pets, or Government categories (poor demographics or too controversial). The Religion category is a wild card.

To repeat the subject of this post and not to be forgotten is that the online audio advertising market is still in its infancy. A lot of work needs to be done to establish credible case studies and compelling ROI data. But it’s not all bad news. TalkShoe is using its unsold inventory to drive its own growth and it’s working! Last quarter, volume was up 70% over the previous quarter.

The Most Effective Advertising Ever

So here’s the story of what may be one of the most effective “ads” in the history of the world, on TalkShoe or anywhere else (a claim that I realize can’t be fully proven, but hang with me). In early 2007, a listener sent me a bottle of wine he made from Peter Brehm frozen grapes. It was fabulous, comparable to the best wines I’ve ever tasted. If you’re not familiar with them, Brehm Vineyards grows fantastic grapes and freezes them when they ripen each fall. That way, a winemaker can buy them and get started any time of year.

On January 16th, my wineaux partner “The Other Guy” and I bought Brehm grapes and broadcast the first of six episodes about “Frozen Grapes”. We involved listeners and participants-by-phone in vicarious winemaking with our own Brehm grapes. By the time of episode six on February 20th, at least a dozen listeners had written to say that they too purchased grapes from Brehm. With only 1,547 episode plays during that period, we generated at least $4,250 in sales for Brehm Vineyards. On a CPM basis, that’s $2,747. That’s the power of micro-segmented advertising.

The Bottom Line

So I’ve seen the future of audio advertising. It’s still lacking an instant click; dynamic interstitial insertion is not yet widely used; and no automated marketplace has achieved either full functionality or critical mass. But the ads are relevant to me and they work! As TalkShoe grows and the market develops, we’ll unpause our TalkCash program for the 10% of you who want to “broadcast yourself” and get paid! Until then, just enjoy actually talking with your online friends and groups.

Chatfest with iJustine, Win a FREE Flipvideo.

| Author: Aaron | In Announcements, Hosts in the News, What's New Print This Post

Justine will be giving away a Flipvideo on tonights (Monday May 11th, 2008) special Mother’s day Chatfest. Join her here for the chat and even call in and talk.

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Lucy Walsh joins TalkShoe on Monday nights!

| Author: Aaron | In Announcements, Hosts in the News, In The News, What's New Print This Post

Lucy Walsh, right off her appearances on MTV’s Rock the Cradle, will be hosting a TalkShoe call every Monday night at 10:00 PM Eastern, 7:00 PM pacific. Join in live to listen to what Lucy has planned next. You can text questions or even call in and talk to Lucy. To participate go to www.talkshoe.com/tc/5829 . To call in dial 1-724-444-7444 enter Call id 5829 (LUCY) on your phone.

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MTV camera crew visits Jesse Blaze Snider during Jesse’s TalkShoe show (featuring Dee)

| Author: Aaron | In Announcements, In The News, What's New Print This Post

Jesse Blaze Snider’s show on TalkShoe continues to a attract a growing number of fans of comic book writer, musician, and MTV “Rock the Cradle” contestant, who talk and text live with Jesse on Sundays each week at 10 p.m. ET.

Jesse’s depth of knowledge on a range of eclectic issues is impressive, and he always holds his own. If you haven’t done so already, check him out on TalkShoe.

This past weekend, during a special Saturday edition of Jesse’s Talkshoe broadcast, Jesse’s father – rock legend Dee Snider of Twisted Sister – phoned in for a candid give-and-take with his son.

A MTV camera crew was there as well, recording Jesse as he chatted live with his father and his fans on TalkShoe.

Tune into MTV’s “Rock The Cradle” this Thursday, April 24, at 10 p.m. ET. And keep tuning into Jesse’s show on TalkShoe!

Jesse Blaze Snider from MTVs Rock the Cradle, LIVE on Sundays!

| Author: Aaron | In Announcements, In The News, What's New Print This Post

Come join in on Jesse’s live internet radio on Sundays at 10:00 PM eastern / 7:00 PM pacific. He will take questions about what is going on with MTV’s Rock the Cradle or anything you want to talk about. You can listen along, text chat a question or even call in and talk with Jesse. To call in dial 724-444-7444 and enter Call ID 1000# or click this link - http://www.talkshoe.com/tc/1000

Special Jesse Blaze Snider Call for MTV!

| Author: Aaron | In Announcements, Hosts in the News, In The News, What's New Print This Post

Jesse will be doing a special TalkShoe call tomorrow (4/19/2008) at 2:30 PM Eastern/ 11:30 AM Pacific. Come join in and talk with Jesse as MTV films him for this week’s episode of Rock the Cradle. Click here to join in .

Talk With Jesse Blaze Snider from MTVs Rock the Cradle…Again!

| Author: Aaron | In Announcements, In The News, What's New Print This Post

Jesse Blaze Snider will be hosting calls Sundays at 10:00 PM eastern 7:00 PM pacific, Click here to join in or even call in and talk with Jesse and hear him share his thoughts about MTV’s Rock the Cradle. To call in dial 1-724-444-7444 and enter Call ID 1000#, or just listen along and text chat. If you miss the call do not worry you can listen to the recording after the call.

Jesse’s MySpace page
CLICK HERE to Vote for Jesse on Rock the Cradle

Justine is back!!!

| Author: Aaron | In Announcements, Hosts in the News, What's New Print This Post

Come join in this Sunday at 8:30 PM eastern, as Justine hosts her weekly TalkShoe Community call, “Chatfest” . Come talk about the latest and greatest stuff on the internet with the internet, iJustine. You can call in and talk by dailing +1-724-444-7444 and entering call Id 46121 or listen along from her call page. Stop by and debate her latest video about Flickr’s video support.

Rave reviews of TalkShoe and Facebook App

| Author: Scott | In Announcements, What's New Print This Post

Facebook App | PC World 101 Fantastic Freebies | VoIP News All-Star VoIP Products

By allowing users to integrate TalkShoe Community Calls into their profiles, we are empowering them to connect on a deeper level with their communities while preserving the convenience and simplicity of their social networking experience.

Award-Winning Technology

PC World VoIP News
Read about TalkShoe on PC World’s 101 Fantastic Freebies list.
TalkShoe was also awarded a top spot on VoIP News’s recent list of All-Star VoIP Products
More Talk About the TalkShoe Facebook App…
Mashable Moraaz.org Facebook App Reviews
Silicon Valley Watcher Connie Crosby
Network World
TalkShoe Facebook App: How it works.

TalkShoe Facebook App

Attributed to Justine Ezarik, blogger and TalkShoe Facebook application user
“As a new media enthusiast and avid Facebook user, I am always on the lookout for ways to engage my community on a deeper level. The TalkShoe Facebook application lets me add a whole new dimension to my social networks because I can easily and instantly invite both Facebook and non-Facebook users to join my community calls.”








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