We caught up with Bob Charish, one of the two co-founders of BlogTalkRadio, a web-based platform that allows users to host a live, call-in Internet broadcast from anywhere in the world using a computer and a phone. With more than three million monthly US uniques (ComScore June’13), BlogTalkRadio has developed a sizable audience who tunes in regularly to hear experts talk about politics, current affairs, entertainment, sports, health, and finance.
How did BlogTalkRadio get its start?
In early 2006, my co-founder Alan Levy and I realized that blogging was becoming more and more prevalent, and there was power in the conversations people had. We both come from a telecommunications background. From a journalism perspective, blogging was democratizing media, and we thought there was an opportunity to create something powerful from an audio angle where conversations could be had in real-time. The idea sounded cool, so we built the technology for it, and we launched. The start of anything new is difficult, but we got a couple of write-ups, and people started coming to the site. BlogTalkRadio has grown primarily from word-of-mouth, where people will go to the site, create their own show, and leverage social media to promote.
What is your company’s mission?
We empower people and democratize media. There are other platforms that have done this for text and video, but we were one of the first companies to create a platform strictly for audio; we believe this is a very compelling medium. There is an emotional aspect to our platform, and we believe it is a great way to consume content.
How would someone either host or listen using BTR?
All that is needed to get involved is a phone and a computer. For our hosts, we make it easy and that offers us a competitive advantage. For the most part, you just need a phone and a computer and hosting a show can be done out of the comfort of your home. Listeners can tune in online or via their phone for the live show, or watch past shows through our on-demand option.
How do you differentiate?
Audio is the stepchild of the Internet. No one was interested in audio when text and video were the main mediums. When we started, there were people offering a similar service, but we had a strong edge, and the ease of use has definitely empowered our users to get involved and contribute content. The real differentiator for BlogTalkRadio is the live aspect of our platform. Unlike blogs and podcasts, BlogTalkRadio hosts can engage their audience by accepting live callers, which creates a conversation with a lot more depth. There is also a large on demand consumption of our content. Through social media and word of mouth, we have listeners tuning in years later to archived recordings. People who use BlogTalkRadio are blown away by the power of our platform and the level of engagement we create.
What has been one of the largest obstacles of your endeavor?
We always get the question, “What about video?” but we stuck to our guns and really focused on audio because we believed in the opportunity. This has been a great challenge. The other challenge was figuring out how to turn our service into a business. As the market evolved and pre-roll video gained momentum, we have been able to leverage things like a real-time-bidding marketplace and other programmatic buying opportunities that have have helped us turn BlogTalkRadio into a true, revenue-generating business.
What tips do you have for bloggers trying to create syndicated content?
We empower content creators through our platform. When you have an idea, figure out how to validate it. Why are you in your business, and what is the objective? If you are trying to become an expert in any field, that should be your main objective. If you provide interesting content, and you have engaged users, there is no shortage of ways to monetize your endeavor.
What is on the horizon for BlogTalkRadio?
BlogTalkRadio has primarily been a service where we enable people to create content, and democratize audio publishing. What we are focusing on today is turning BlogTalkRadio into a media property and a destination. Creating relationships with known content creators who create content on BlogTalkRadio for BlogTalkRadio. PandoDaily, for example, has become a weekly show. We want to build momentum with properties that are known content publishers, but not necessarily working in the audio space.
What parting advice do you have for bloggers?
You have to stick to your guns as far as what your overall objective is. What are you trying to accomplish? You will have ups and downs, but you have to stick to your goals. You want to grow your niche audience, and it is not necessarily a bad thing to grow that audience incrementally. Instead of worrying about capturing the world, make sure to stay focused and cater to the audience that is truly important to your endeavor. If you maintain this focus, things will spread and grow. Give the best experience to the people that are consuming the content you create. They will spread the word and become your best promoter.
If you are interested in starting your own BlogTalkRadio show, you can learn more here!