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Publisher to use automated ‘podcasts’ for new revenue

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The Tech Media Cast service that will soon debut on PostNewsweek Tech Media’s Government Computer News Web site, www.gcn.com, is more than a cool technology that automatically converts ordinary text stories into MP3 audio. It is also, the b-to-b publisher hopes, a way to generate new revenue with existing content—with no editorial effort required.

PostNewsweek Tech Media will be the first publishing company to use the Click-2-Listen technology of an 18-month-old Fairfax, Va.-based company called Newsworthy Inc. Utilizing advanced text-to-speech technology, Newsworthy takes an FTP feed of any text article, converts it into MP3 audio format within minutes and returns it via an RSS feed. The b-to-b publishing company will brand the new audio feature for all of its sites, calling it Tech Media Cast.

“There’s an icon on the article page, like the ones that allow readers to print or e-mail a story, users can click on to listen,” said Alec Dann, senior VP at PostNewsweek Tech Media. Readers can then download the file to an MP3 player, making it a podcast or listen to the story immediately through the computer.

“One of the reasons we embraced this technology is because our advertisers have been asking about our audio and video offerings,” Dann said. “But it’s not easy to develop a body of audio content and we can’t do it overnight.” With Newsworthy, any text content is eligible for conversion to audio, from news blurbs to full-length articles. The only effort on the publisher’s part is to select the stories, send them to Newsworthy and decide where to place the Click-2-Listen icon.

“H-P [Hewlett-Packard] is our charter advertiser for the Tech Media Cast,” Dann said.

Before the audio version of the story, a 15-second pre-roll ad will play. There will also be a 30-second ad at the end, “but, it could be anywhere,” Dann said. A custom Flash player will launch on a user’s computer to play the audio. “It will be able to accommodate a 336-by-280 ad,” he said.

The Click-2-Listen feature goes up on GCN.com this month. Six to eight weeks later, it will launch on sister sites www.WashingtonTechnology.com, www.DefenseSystems.com and www.GovernmentLeader.com.

Newsworthy CEO Marcus Heth explained that the company has a podcast service that goes beyond Click-2-Listen. “We can build podcasts for publishers that include multiple stories on a topic or theme, such as a defense podcast,” Heth said. “We have multiple [automated] voices that we can alternate among.”

There is no up-front fee to publishers for the text-to-audio conversion service. “We don’t charge publishers out of pocket. Our revenue model is based on sharing advertising revenues,” Heth said.

Meanwhile, podcasts are rising in popularity, according to the results of a survey of b-to-b technology buyers released earlier this month by KnowledgeStorm and Universal McCann. More than half (53%) of 3,900 respondents indicated they had downloaded or listened to a podcast at least once, with one-third of that group indicating their usage of podcasts had “increased” or “significantly increased” over the past six months.

Although the word podcast implies that the listener is using an Apple iPod or another portable MP3 player, the study found that two-thirds of listeners had accessed podcasts directly from their PCs.
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