A Tireless Evangelist Takes Up a New Cause

Robert Scoble Talks About Leaving Microsoft for a Podcasting Upstart

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Since news broke late Saturday night that famed Microsoft corporate blogger Robert Scoble was leaving the Redmond, Wash.-based giant for an upstart podcasting outfit called PodTech, his phone has been ringing off the hook. At about 4:30 a.m. PDT today, he wearily told Ad Age he was planning to go home to try to sleep for a few hours.
Robert Scoble
Robert Scoble

The tireless evangelist was recruited away from Microsoft by John Furrier, CEO and founder of PodTech, a one-year-old producer, aggregator and distributor of professional podcast content. At PodTech, Mr. Scoble will be part of the executive team and help the company bolster its media offerings, which include news, information and entertainment podcasts -- mostly covering the technology, venture capital and marketing spaces. PodTech sells sponsorships around its podcasts and also helps marketers such as Intel and Yahoo create and distribute their own programs.

"Robert's a different kind of employee, his own brand," Mr. Furrier said. "He'll be very key in leading media initiatives by producing his own and building out his own platform similar to [Microsoft vlogging play] Channel 9. That's a direct business model."

That model can easily be applied to brand marketers as well, he added. "Smart marketers are using their websites as on-demand media libraries and pushing out content using RSS protocol."

Mr. Scoble agrees podcasting is a means for marketers to connect with their consumers in a richer way -- much as his blogging did for Microsoft. He explained to Ad Age what his role will be and how he views advertising as a part of it.

Ad Age Digital: Tell me about your role at PodTech.

Mr. Scoble: I'll keep writing the blog [Scobleizer.com] and also creating a variety of micromedia content, video blogs, etc. And I'll spend a lot of time playing around in [the virtual game] Second Life. In Second Life you can put podcasts in the game, have a podcast play when characters cross a particular bridge, for example, or when you come into my building. Eric Rice, for example, started a music company in Second Life. It combines all of these media into a virtual world.

Ad Age Digital: You've written a little bit about this on your blog, but was there a turning point where you decided, hey, this podcasting thing is for real -- there's a real opportunity here, and I want to be part of it?

Mr. Scoble: I would say when I talked to the people who started [the video podcast] Geek Brief TV. They started in December had are now getting over 2 million downloads a show -- in six months!

Ad Age Digital: What is podcasting in it's largest form?

Mr. Scoble: It's a whole new distribution channel that didn't exist 10 years ago. There are millions of iPods and millions of cell phones. There are probably more cellphones out there that play audio than there are iPods. And so many people using their computer for audio and video. If I'd wanted to start a radio show 10 years ago I would have had to talk ABC Radio into distributing it.

Ad Age Digital: What will the podcasting market look like in five years?

Mr. Scoble: I expect there'll be some sizeable brands. Already there are some in development -- Rocketboom, for example, gets 300,000 downloads a day. It was on "CSI"! In five or 10 years, if they keep growing ... Listen, I remember listening to Rush Limbaugh on talk radio in San Francisco years ago before anybody knew him. He was on evenings and weekends -- the worst time slots -- and now look at him. So we have seen people come out of nowhere and get big. That's happening in podcasting too. ... Audiences are starting to get interesting. In five years we could see a podcast getting 10 million downloads.

Ad Age Digital: Will you be working with advertisers?

Mr. Scoble: I'm not sure. When I work on the news channel there will be a distinct firewall between editorial and advertising. In fact, one of the things I will be working on is making a much clearer definition of what was paid for on their site. But we could do commercial properties like Channel 9. If Kraft Foods said will you build us a cooking show, sure we'll do it -- but we'll disclose that it was paid for by Kraft.
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