Monetizing podcasts

Last night I had dinner with a couple of friends, and for the first time found myself trading the names of favorite podcasts. I was surprised it took so long.

After all, they are free, they’re convenient, and the variety of types is growing by the day.

I suspect we will someday soon be discussing podcasts — what happened this week on one, when that one will be releasing new episodes, etc. — the same way we discuss television shows around the water cooler today.

But we pay for television, either indirectly, through the commercials, or directly, through our cable bill. The broadcast television model is certainly on shaky grounds, but somehow I think a visual medium is easier to monetize than an aural one. I could be all wet, but I somehow think podcasts are going to be very tough to turn profitable.

Perhaps the low production costs will allow advertisers to consider the occasional ad break, or full-blown sponsorship, too big of a bargain to pass up. But whereas other online media have very track-able ways to measure results, how will we know if a podcast is moving the needle for those advertisers that support them?

Perhaps there will someday be a podcast solution that is similar to the Brightcove streaming video player, and its ability to enrich ads with more information and relevance.