BlogTalkRadio is a service that hit my radar earlier this year and I keep hearing more and more about them. I got curious and decided to explore it a bit further to see what BlogTalkRadio (BTR) might have to offer authors and publishers. Fortunately for me, Alan Levy, CEO and co-founder of BlogTalkRadio agreed to an interview for my blog. Here's what Alan had to say:
JW: What's the market need that BTR aims to serve?
AL: It terms of function we're focused on the audio market, but our sweet spot is in allowing people to interact in real time with technology that allows people listening to a live audio stream to call in via their phone and chat with hosts/guests. Since hosts can use text chat to communicate as well, and mix in pre-recorded mp3's to a live stream, the experience for listeners is the same as when they listen via terrestrial radio.
However, our chief value in terms of market need is in building community. In just over one year, our thousands of hosts/publishers have produced more than 35,000 segments. Notable guests on the network have included Presidential candidates, Academy Award winners, top selling authors and many more. A complete list can be found here.
JW: What sort of equipment does someone need to create their own talk show on BTR?
AL: A computer to program their shows (takes about two minutes to put in a title, pull down a menu to pick a time, etc.) and any type of phone to host their shows. Listeners can listen online or via their phone to the live shows or listen in demand via a flash player which resides on the hosts blog or RSS into Itunes, Google Reader, etc. There is no download required for the host, listener or guest.
JW: What are some of the common characteristics shared by the most popular talk shows that your service hosts? What makes them successful?
AL: The characteristics match terrestrial radio or any other form of major media network, which is what we are. (We call ourselves The Social Broadcast Network). Our most successful hosts pick a specific niche to focus on, know their topic inside out, are personable/funny/edgy (or a combination of these) and deliver consistent, high-quality shows on a regular basis. Take our political director, Ed Morrissey (here's his show). Ed's got an extremely popular blog and well respected for his views on Republican/Right issues. He's gotten John McCain on his show (three times), John Kerry, Fred Thompson, and Rudy Guiliani. These are top people (and potential Presidents) chatting in an environment where anyone can call in. That's a powerful medium and our audience knows that (as Ed's numbers show).
JW: You mentioned in an e-mail message to me that BTR is doing a lot with book authors. Can you share some of the specifics there, what's working and what techniques authors could use on BTR to expand their platform and communicate with their readers?
AL: First off, many authors can't afford a lengthy book tour. We offer them a "virtual book tour" where they can interact with a live audience while sitting at their desk at home. Plus (like all of our shows) the archive (mp3/audio file) of the show is available within half an hour after the show is recorded and they get a podcast feed. This provides authors a series of shows that are available online, 24/7 for readers to get to know their work/voice in a way that instantly builds rapport you can't get from a rear book jacket.
The live element is also great for promotion and contests. Authors can offer their books at a 10% discount if listeners enter in a pin code just while the show is live and so on. Having both live and archived shows provides great incentive and opportunity for reader interaction.
Finally, publishers are always looking for innovative ways for their authors to promote their books. By using our White Label product (our technology on their sites with their branding), they can promote their content, reintroduce successful books to the public and build a community around their authors. There are plenty of advertising and sponsorship opportunities for the publisher and their authors as well.
JW: Individual author talk shows are interesting, but what could we be doing from the publisher/marketer side to tap into the potential of BTR?
AL: Great question and thanks for asking! We have created a co-branded "Stations" for publishers on the BTR website. As our site generates millions of unique page views a month and an ever-growing demographic/user base, Stations allow publishers to create their own community on BlogTalkRadio. This will operate like the rest of our site (live calls that are archived, etc.) but feature the Publisher's branding to increase our visitor's awareness of their books/authors. We can also individualize sponsors/advertisers for their Station and insert customized audio, pre-roll ads in the archived shows. Authors can also be included in BTR's program guide under their unique category (i.e. sports, politics, etc) to provide additional exposure to the author and publisher. Finally, while publishers cannot post an Amazon book jacket on their website, there is no such restriction on BTR to post the book jacket on the author's profile page.
Publishers know that typical book buyers go to Amazon online or Barnes & Noble in person. So any way to enhance the publisher brand and build reader interaction with their authors is essential. By creating a co-branded Station (on our site or off), Publishers can create a unique community around their brand and generate book sales while enhancing the visitor/reader experience.
P.S. -- Here's a link to a PDF you can download called "The Digital Podium" which talks about BTR's Virtual Book Tour platform.