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Monetizing Podcasts and Videoblogs
Any business built around podcasts and videoblogs has to start with the fundamentals: Compelling content that can be exchanged with an audience for their attention. Still, the past two years have taught us many lessons about how we can turn that exchange into a successful business model.
Wed., May 23, by Damien Stolarz

This article first appeared in the April/May issue of Streaming Media magazine. Click here

This is an article about the quaint notion of making money using podcasts and videoblogs.

Just two short years ago, podcasts were all the rage, and videoblogs were just starting to become popular. Since that time, the user-generated content trend has captured an audience to rival network television and has created the new crop of dot-com billionaires. YouTube started up and then exited before many of us in the online multimedia space had time to realize what was happening.

We learned some hard lessons. A lot of us were out there in the market trying to give consumers what we thought they wanted—their choice of content format, the ability to play media on any device, and a rich set of quality user-generated content.

And what succeeded? Some of the biggest winners were pure-web plays: user-generated, user-mashed-up, and user-"submitted" (ahem) mainstream media content, in a non-downloadable embedded Flash format.

So many of the predictions for so-called long tail content have proved resoundingly true. Niche media, appealing to only tens of thousands of people, can be aggregated to create highly scalable messaging platforms. Except it hasn’t exactly happened the way we anticipated.

So for those of us smarting that we missed the dot-com train twice now, I’m going to attempt to organize some of the great 20/20 hindsight we have into a few hard lessons for those now trying to monetize audiovisual web media.

Lesson #1: Podcasts and Videoblogs Are Not Really Business Models
This issue arises with all new disruptive technologies: What is the business model? Oftentimes the technology itself is nothing more than a better mousetrap, with no inherent business model attached to it.

Podcasts and videoblogs are really just enabling technologies for a new content-delivery channel. That’s saying a lot—the revolution of being able to take any audio or video message, produce it in high quality, and get it out to millions of people without (necessarily) paying a dime for distribution is incredible.

Podcasts and videoblogs certainly have their differences from traditional streaming media. They are connected with blogs—and RSS—which makes them more serial in nature. They can be subscribed to. They are downloaded, which ensures that the quality is closer to what the content creator intended.

Any content that can hold up to the scrutiny and filters of traditional media channels will certainly flow quickly through the low-barrier-to-entry channels of podcasting. And even if that content is a little more niche and a little less mainstream, it still might find an audience and generate a return.

Still, that is not a business. What is the message? Who is paying for it? Frictionless distribution models aside, who is listening and who is writing the check? For some, these new channels are no more than substantially discounted media outlets.

The answer to these questions, as always, requires real business modeling: What value is being created? Who will realize that value? How will that value be captured?

Lesson #2: Podcasts and Videoblogs Are Just Blogs
When they first started out, podcasts and videoblogs were carefully defined. They had to be serialized; they had to use blog-feed technology; they had to have just the right XML code to be automatically downloadable; and above all, they had to be downloadable to your portable media device.