Publishers Monetizing Podcasts – Can Spoken Word Save an Industry?

Starting this year, popular finance podcasts from, hosted by Tom Keene, are paid subscription-based podcasts. Having listened to the podcasts for years, I always thought to myself that they should charge for the content. According to highlights from this recent Forrester Survey, I am in a minority. Only 20% of Internet users would pay for news content. The findings also point to users accessing paid content through different channels – computer, mobile phones, and eReaders. What is the perfect medium for a multitude of electronic channels? Audio podcasts.

Audio podcasts are a perfect candidate for news monetization. Unlike text, audio can be played on almost any electronic device nowadays. You can play an mp3 file on your tiny iPod when at the gym, listen to it on your laptop at a coffeeshop, listen to it in your car on your way to work, or even play it when in the shower from your desktop computer speakers. It’s just more comfortable and convenient to consume information when in audio format. Plus, audio transmits tones and emotions in voices you just can’t replicate in text. When Tom Keene interviews economists for his On the Economy podcast, you get much more of the zietgeist when you hear the economists speak in their own voices.

It’s been noted in surveys that people are more likely to pay for finance news or sports news than other content. It makes sense. Finance news directly affects peoples’ wallets, and many people are fervent about sports. So it would seem monetizing content has a lot to do with the category of the content.

So how do you get people to subscribe and pay for content? Give them a free sample. Give them a free sample and make it the best sample they ever tasted. I knew the Keene podcast was worth paying for because I listened to the free podcasts. (Bloomberg is using to monetize their podcasts.) People need to know or perceive value in order to pay for news.  As I mentioned in an article on Facebook Connect, the Web needs more universal logins to facilitate purchasing of content. Buying things on the Web should be fast and the checkout process needs to be streamlined. This explains the success of the Apple iTunes store. Given the chance, I think consumers wouldn’t be so tight-fisted when it came to news subscriptions if they could order them in a few seconds.

So can audio podcasts save the news industry? Probably not, but it can help add additional revenue to at least keep them in business –  and that would be good news for us all.

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