Murgesh Navar envisions just such a solution under a patent he was granted last week. The patent specifically refers to dynamic ad serving onto set-top boxes connected to a cable network. But Mr. Navar's company, Podbridge, has been working to do the same thing with podcasts in iTunes, through a plug-in that captures listening data and refreshes ads within podcasts.
He thinks podcasting is more than just subscribing to favorite audio files; it's the "automatic delivery of content for time-shifted and space-shifted viewing."
He talked to Ad Age Digital by phone from a coffee shop near his office in Mountain View, Calif., and explained why he thinks podcasting is the media-delivery system of the future.
Ad Age Digital: You said podcasting deserves a wider definition. Why?
Mr. Navar: Podcasting is the best way to deliver digital media on the internet. Think about what happens on your television today -- NBC, ABC, CBS are right next to each other, all coming straight to your household. If you have cable you have hundreds of channels coming straight to your household. Now think about an online infrastructure where you have to go to each content company every day. CBS will have to build a site that draws millions of people every day. ABC? The same thing. Every media company has to do that and it's too much work for the consumer to go to all those media companies on the internet every day -- it's too many places. Podcasting lets you go to those sites once, say "I want to receive this" and get content from as many content providers as you want to watch or listen to every day. Content is delivered to me vs. my having to go to five different places.
Ad Age Digital: What exactly is it that Podbridge can do?
Mr. Navar: Content is delivered to the user's storage and it sits there until the user is ready to listen to it. They'll have a lot of content stored and they'll listen to some of it at certain times depending on mood and other content at other times. If you insert the ads into the content that's sitting there you have a very different proposition than on the server side, because now the ads don't expire. We can move ads in and out of the content while the content is sitting on their desktop.
Ad Age Digital: Is there a back-end accountability to the system? Can you tell when people are listening to the ads?
Mr. Navar: Yes, with this infrastructure you're close to the user, in the media player. You can tell when someone listens to or views the content. We are trying to be as our name says: a bridge between major media companies and major advertisers, helping media owners create a recurring revenue stream by providing them consumption data.
Ad Age Digital: What inspired you to create this technology?
Mr. Navar: We filed it in 2001. You've got to think about Google vs. Skype or Yahoo vs. Napster. The architectures are very different. One is based on building massive scalable servers, the other is based on the idea that there is a lot of storage on people's individual computers that they never use and you can pitch it all together to get scale. So we started thinking about where content is going to live when Napster became hugely popular. It was a 20-person company here in the Valley and at one point responsible for one-third of the Internet traffic. I said, "Wait a minute -- this is small a 20-person company, it doesn't own expensive infrastructure and it's responsible for one-third of internet traffic? Maybe there's something here. Why can they do that?" They can do that because they depended on peer-to-peer architecture. So we decided we had to make software that's more personal and closer to the user [to take advantage of that peer-to-peer architecture].
Ad Age Digital: What's next for you?
Mr. Navar: You'll see us in the next six to eight weeks launch with major media providers both on the audio and video side. The major media companies are in two different groups: one, the early leaders who want to try something new and are very excited by it, and two, the ones who are excited about it but want to be first to go second.