Marketing 101: How Dr. Dobb's Technetcast Can Make Money from Web Content
Last updated: 8/3/2002; 2:08:31 PM
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Marketing 101: How Dr. Dobb's Technetcast Can Make Money from Web Content

This is a little different from some of my Marketing 101 pieces.  It's essentially a case study of how a rich media content website can make money from their content.  They put out a call for suggestions and the FuzzyBlog was quite pleased to answer. 

Note – I've had a very good response to these case studies and they are actually very easy to write so you'll see more of them unless people email and say "NO !!!".

To: Philippe Lourier
From: Scott Johnson, a Technetcast Fan and Devoted Listener
Date: 8/3/2002
Re: Options for Technetcast

As I've blogged about before, I'm a total fan of Dr. Dobb's Journal Technetcast, a web site which provides streaming audio and video of high tech proceedings like conference keynotes and such. This is probably one of my top ten favorite content websites and one that I'd actually pay money for. You're probably not surprised to learn that this site is having financial troubles and may be considering discontinuing the service. Philippe, the lead interviewer / programmer for the site, has asked for suggestions as to what they should do and this essay is my response. If you have ideas as well then you should send them to:

15 Suggestions For How to Make Money from Your Web Content

If you look at what this site does, it provides rich media versions of technology centric content.  There is close to no advertising right now on the site except for simple banner ads.  Clearly they can do better.  Here's what I'd do:

  1. Cut Your Costs to the Bone. When you're not making money, you always, always start by cutting costs to the bone. Remember an extra dollar you make only buts .10 to .20 to the bottom line (assuming those are profit margins) but a dollar saved is $1.00 to the bottom line.
  2. Look at What Rusty Did With Kuro5hin. A lot of websites are having this problem right now. The outstandingly good community web site recently moved to a non-commercial, NPR like model. There's no reason why Technetcast needs to be a profit driven enterprise.
  3. Is this a Profit Enterprise or a Public Service like NPR?.  Related to #2.  Make a decision.  If this is valuable and you want to continue, a valid model could be NPR and then a lot of issues get cleared up.
  4. Sell a CD subscription. To be honest I like to listen to Technetcast in the car. Why not provide this on a CD sent monthly? And since Technetcast is a part of Dr. Dobb's Journal, make it available as an option when I renew my DDJ subscription for an extra fee.
  5. Charge for Access Based on Time of Release. Its increasingly common that you charge more for information close to it's release date (hardcover books versus paperback books, for example). Why not do the same here? If someone is using Technetcast instead of going to a conference, it might be worthwhile for them to pay for content.
  6. Insert Spoken Ads into the Content or At Least a "Underwritten By Message". There isn't anything stopping you from inserting audio ads (think radio commercials into the middle of a recorded talk. And, even though people can skip past it, they're unlikely to bother if it's not done in too intrusive a fashion (fast forwarding an audio clip isn't as easy as flipping a channel).
  7. Charge a Fee to Vendors that Have their Content Featured but Disclose It. I've seen an increasing number of vendor presentations featured on Technetcast – and I don't have a problem with that. Why not charge the vendors a content fee for making their presentation available (but you might want to disclose that the vendor paid the fee).
  8. Drop Real Media and Streaming. I don't know about anyone else but I never, ever use the RealMedia versions of the audio and video on Technetcast. I like actually downloading the MP3 locally so I can play it again, take it offline, etc. Why not focus on that since the bandwidth hit is one time only?
  9. Allow Mirrors and Revenue Share. Given the number of potential audience members that have their own servers and bandwidth, why not take a big chunk out of your bandwidth costs by allowing mirrors to exist and share revenue with them. Done correctly this is actually pretty painless and not all that hard to code (my firm at least can help).
  10. Come Up with a Compact Voice Format. Anyone who's ever looked at voice only audio file sizes knows that MP3 is actually a _lousy_ voice format. The fidelity is just too good – which makes the files much larger than they need to be – and thus dramatically increases bbandwidth costs. Given the expertise that DDJ has available to it, it wouldn't be all that hard to come up with a simple and dirty ADPCM based audio format that cut files dramatically and was available in a multiplatform player (most of the code is already available). If you were even smarter then you could try and license the format to people making Digital voice recorders – all of whom stupidly use a different, proprietary format meaning that recordings can't be sent to other people.
  11. Allow Vendors to Advertise on the Page Where a Speaker of Theirs Appears. There's no reason why a vendor couldn't sponsor a page where one of their speakers was featured. For example, when Bruce S. talked about security at the O'Reilly Emerging Technologies conference, it was basically an ad for has services.  Why not let them advertise if they want to?
  12. Move to a peer to peer content distribution model like Kazaa or Morpheus.  This is particularly true if you go with option #2.  You could cut costs and still have audio ads inserted into the content.  How you do metrics, however, is another question (a strategic relationship with Kazaa might work).
  13. Get a Technology Vendor Involved. Why not get a technology vendor in the voice recognition space involved? The Technetcast content is an ideal showcase for a powerful voice recognition / transcribing technoloy vendor - there's lots of it, a specialized vocabulary and it's regularly updated. This would be a great showcase application for someone. ViaVoice? ScanSoft? The new British audio transcription company funded by Autonomy?
  14. Dump the Video. I don't know about anybody else but I find the video clips as on Technetcast as useless as wings on a pig – at my PC, I'm working and Technetcast is nice background noise – it's not something I'd choose to watch. Still some people probably do use the video and it has to be a big bandwidth hog so why not just kill it.
  15. Limit Access. The most radical solution of all is simple – limit access by bandwidth restrictions over a time period. For example, unless you "subscribe" ($10 per year?), you might only be able to download two clips per week or something. This doesn't require any kind of really complex technology; approximate it by assuming that people have fixed IP addresses and technology like Lincoln Stein's application in combination with your own log files. (Again, my firm can help you with this if you need it).


Bias Disclaimer : I'm a past DDJ author and the previous creator of the DDJ CD-ROM titles (92 to 96 I think and, yes, they made me $$$ to do it) so I do have some bias towards DDJ. And I've been a reader since at least the late 80s.

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