Sunday, March 19, 2006

The 1 Penny Podcast Project

Warning: Long post alert. In this post I touch on podcast advertising, the 1 Penny Podcast Project experiment (plus the little joke I played on my good buddies Steve and Chris) and babble on about some of my marketing thoughts. Feel free to tune in to tomorrow's post for our regularly scheduled web quick hits ;-)

So without further ado...

For every new media channel that is developed (telegraph, newspapers, radio, television... etc. etc.) a model (or many) for profitability must eventually emerge or risk the death of the medium itself. Advert supported content has long been an effective model for content producers and businesses alike (subscription and advert/subscription combinations being another popular method). The low costs associated with producing a podcast/vidcast make it tremendously easy and inexpensive for you or I to produce content online. As this content becomes increasingly popular, marketers start to look at tapping this new medium.

In this regard podcast advertising is not a new idea, just an extension of current advertising models in a relatively new medium - podcasting (although I would argue it's hardly new, rather it is just now beginning to be recognized by mass-advertisers). There are however numerous models used across the various forms of media and so it's important to find out which model is most effective and sustaining for the benefit of podcasters, advertisers and the medium itself.

Some advertisers are dipping their toes in the water and inserting small 10-30 second spots at the beginning, middle or end of podcasts such as Motorola on some of the "The Podcast Network" podcasts or Earthlink on Adam Curry's "Daily Source Code". Having listened to some of these efforts I'm not convinced this is the future for podcast advertising. The ads cut into the content in much the same way as television or radio adverts, a method which is becoming increasingly ineffective in reaching markets (ie. you and me Joe consumer). It's quite frankly getting annoying. I know how easy it is for me to tune these ads out, fast forward past or even just switch the channel. As someone who studies marketing I've got to wonder just how effective this type of advertising can be?

It's my personal opinion that placement advertising (like product placements in television shows) and outright sponsorship podcasting (similar to what Acuview is doing with the Heather and Jonelle podcast) is the way podcasting adverts are going. Certainly this brings up lots of ethical questions about how to deal with the distinction between paid adverts and the content itself (ie. like when a blogger is paid to post a positive review on a product without disclosing the fact that they were paid), but issues of transparency have been going on in every medium for a very long time (ie. when radio stations are paid to play the same crap songs over and over to drive sales) and need to be dealt with accordingly.

This brings us to Jon Watson's 1 Penny Podcast Project. It's Jon's opinion that the quantified intersection between the podcasters interest to generate revenue and marketers desire for value-for-the-money advertising in podcasting is the one cent price point. That's one cent per download to be exact.

[For the sake of this argument we're putting aside the fact that a download does not necessarily equal a "listen" (ie. many automatic downloaders like iPodder download many podcasts for users who never get around to actually listening to them, I know this from my own personal experience as I usually only get around to listening to 50% of my downloaded pod/vid casts)]

Jon's assessment is that for each (possibly targeted) earlobe a podcast captures, marketers will happily pay 1 cent to get their 3 line message across. I have to agree that this is pretty good value, or at least starting point for the industry. It is however the method of delivery which I find key to the whole deal.

What makes this arrangement work is that the ad is not a traditional 10-30 second sound byte, but rather a spoken audio placement within the podcast. This is more valuable to everyone involved as it's quick enough (and contained within the content stream of the podcast) so that it's not skipped by the listener, yet effective enough that marketers are confident that their message is reaching the intended audience. Without going into this in too much detail, keep in mind that I find the method of delivery of more experimental value than the actual monetary value of one cent. Nothing new here (this has been going on forever in radio already) just applied to a new medium, podcasting.

It was a fun premise and I like the idea of getting involved to see what would happen (besides, it was the same cost as one of my green beers I had on St. Patty's Friday so what the heck!).

So what did I choose to advertise and why?

Originally I wanted to somehow tie in something with the City of Hamilton's Recreation program. I'm currently working for the city in Strategic Services on some marketing projects for Hamilton's Recreation Department and after recent efforts fell through to have the Mayor of Hamilton personally feature Hamilton's technology efforts (the Technology park at McMaster University for example) on the Toronto based weekly tech roundup videoblog CommandN due to a scheduling mismatch, I figured this might be a good time to focus on using some innovative advertising for our Recreation department.

Problem was, the Jak Attack podcast wasn't exactly targeted to our market segment as it's a Linux foccused podcast(although I'm sure there's a few Hamiltonian based Linux geeks that could use a little exercise... counting myself as one of said geeks!). Of course you can still help me out in this regard by checking out www.myHamilton.ca and letting me know your constructive criticism: (Rossiroo@hotmail.com)

1 - The City of Hamilton's "portal" site (layout, design, functionality, integration of community partners, etc).

2 - The City of Hamilton's Culture and Recreation Department's section of the "portal". (here's a hint, it's located here, not under the "Arts, Sports and Recreation" tab... confusing? You bet. Let me know your thoughts!)

3 - The registration process which uses the "CLASS" registration system (registrations for city residents started Saturday, non-residents can register starting Wednesday March 22, 2006 for the Spring/Summer session). Anyone have experience working with CLASS out there who wants to share their opinions?

4 - Our current recreation guide (pdf can be found here).

5 - Anything else that will help the City of Hamilton more effectively serve its constituents. (wow that's broad! ;-)

Anyways, so instead of this I decided to spend my 5 bucks in a totally unrelated endeavor, reaching out to my friends with a little humour. You'll have to check out the Jak Attack podcast #8 to understand what I'm talking about below (fast forward to 18:30 to get more background on the 1 Penny Project or go straight to 25:15 minutes in to hear my advert).

Done listening? Well here's the rest:

Why did Steve and Chris's relationship fall apart? Well Helen Fisher discusses why people fall in love with each other in the first place:

1. Timing
2. Proximity
3. Mystery
4. He/she/it fits into your love map
5. We naturally gravitate to complimentary brain systems

Steve and Chris now live 60km apart and perhaps no longer fit into each others "love map". I'm guessing however that in this particular case the "breakup" probably had something to do with an extra-relationship affair. Either that or the fact that they are two good buddies (both male) of mine that I'm playing a little St. Patty's Day joke on! :-) :-)

It reminds me of the time we signed up one of our (male) friends for some free tampon sample packs, imagine the look on his face when he had to sign for that delivery in his name!! :-)

Anyways the 1 Penny Podcast Project is an interesting experiment that I'm glad to have been a part of. I'm pretty sure this type of advertising will be commonplace in podcasting in the near future.

Going forward I think there's a few important issues podcasters and advertisers need to consider which are paramount to a successful podcasting campaign:

1 - Relevancy, both for the advertiser (to make sure they are spending their meager advertising dollars on the right target market) and the podcaster (to make sure there is a tie between the show and the advertiser). A podcaster focused on animal rights certainly wouldn't want to be promoting a fur coat store for example.

2 - Transparency, you've got to be transparent with your listeners/customers or risk losing them forever. Talk to Shel Israel or Scoble about the importance of transparency in blogging, it applies equally to podcasting.

3- Fun, ads need to get the core message across for sure, but they need to do it in a creative way that makes the listener want to listen. Some of this is achieved with relevancy (see above), but some can/should be attributed to the spirit of the medium, conversational fun.

As for the little joke... well let's just consider it an early April Fools for my pals out there ;-) Consider the Jak Attack podcast officially "EuroRoss-Attacked"! ;-)

Thanks to Jon and Kelly for letting me be the first "official" One Penny Project "advertiser" and to Stevie and Chris for being best buddies with such an idiot like myself. As the penny podcast ad says: "Keep your chin up" guys! :-)

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