As podcasting begins to mature, it is only natural that some folks will work to profit from it. I think, for the near future, the vast majority of podcasts will remain free. But for those that move into the commercial realm, they face the daunting task of finding a monetization model that will be acceptable to users who have absolute control over their listening (and viewing, for videocasts) devices.
Some profit models will simply be that you need to pay to subscribe and be done with it. This is challenging as, with so much content available out there for free, there will have to be very compelling content for folks to pay for it up front like that.
The most probable model will fall back to advertising. The targetted demographics of podcasting are astounding. An audience that has actually made the effort go seek out particular content, download it and then listen to it. TV of old with its “elephant gun” approach to advertising (we have x million folks watching our (one of three competing) station, they’re loosely in this demographic so hopefully we can convince advertisers to sell stuff with us), was somewhat successful and it was the best model available for a long time.
I was watching “Star Trek” (the ancient series) on G4 a couple of nights ago and was pretty amazed how tightly focused the advertising was.
But the thing I have been finding with the podcast advertising is that they haven’t clued in yet that the advertisements need to be as entertaining as the content. Listening to a daily show with the exact same ad every day will have you skipping the ad in no time flat. As with radio and TV, especially with TIVO, if the ads are not engaging they will not be viewed. Even if folks do not outright skip the ads with a flip of the finger – there is legislative and technological bumbling to try to prevent such making its way through their courses now – in this era of “continuous limited attention” folks will simply tune out the drivel and focus on their laptop, their blackberry, that other channel, that magazine in front of them. In short, you can no longer force folks to pay attention to content that they don’t wish to.
With more entertainment and diversions available to us than ever before in the history of this planet, people are not going to waste their time with what does not appeal to them.