Producer Karena Love The internet empowers us to bypass the gatekeepers in our society to book our own airline reservations, read or watch news stories that appeal to us and check local weather on demand. Now, the power of the internet also allows us all to have our own talk shows and podcasts, should we wish to do so. And apparently, many of us do.
TogiNet — rhymes with yogi-net — is a “professionally produced internet talk radio network” that offers live programs and podcasts via its Tyler, Texas-based website on subjects such as homemaking, writing, psychology, medicine, career guidance, photography and about 40 other subjects that have little in common other than the passions of the individual hosts.
“We started this company about 11 years ago as a hobby,” said TogiNet partner Scott Frazier. “It has grown into a business with more than 100 weekly one-hour shows available. The man who is key to this growth is Erik Anderson, a technician who built all the components. He’s the one who showed us how to record really good sound via the internet and play it back in podcast form.”
Just a few of the hosts, as shown on the TogiNet website. Another team member is California-based Sandra Beck, who not only hosts four different one-hour weekly shows, but also created software that helps TogiNet’s other clients use social media to build larger audiences. While most talk podcasters start out with an idea of what they want to talk about and then look for an audience, Beck does the opposite.
“I decide on the desired demographics first and then make a list of the content those people care about. After surveying people in social media to find out their preferences, I build my shows around what they want to hear,” said Beck. “The least important variable in my formula is me. I don’t care about the number of ‘friends’ I have on Facebook because for my listeners, ‘liking’ and ‘friending’ are a colossal waste of time. That’s for the 20-somethings with a lot of time on their hands.”
When TogiNet talk hosts use Beck’s audience-building expertise, she asks them two fundamental questions.
“I want to know who cares about your topic and what they want,” she said. “If you don’t ask those questions, you are not ready to do a show for an audience.”
As rapper Puff Daddy put it in 1997, “It’s all about the Benjamins.” And that applies to podcasters and terrestrial broadcasters alike: More listeners lead to more advertisers.
Vice President/Marketing Scott FrazierHost and Internet Brand Strategist Sandra Beck TogiNet Radio marketing is up front about this. Its website tells potential hosts that the platform can deliver “more leads, more sales, more referrals, more opportunities, more money. … We offer more than just airtime. We offer professionally produced, content-specific, streaming audio and 24-7 downloadable shows backed by the consumer confidence of an internationally ranked internet radio station. You own the content that reaches your audience. You sell your products and services and you establish yourself as the thought leader and expert in your field.”
After working for Disney and CBS Beck knows how to create what she calls an “advertising delivery system,” and she does it with each of her personally hosted shows. Her target audiences get what they expect and want. Then Beck uses three metrics to provide her advertisers with solid statistics on her listenership: Podtrac, TogiNet Specific and Google Analytics.
THE HOSTS WITH THE MOST
The current crop of TogiNet show hosts primarily is based in the United States, but some hail from Canada, Australia and other countries. Listenership is likewise global.
President/Operations Erik B. Anderson “I’m going for world domination,” said Frazier with a smile. “We just launched our first Latino show with host Jacky Lopez and it is all in Spanish.”
Some talk shows are recorded in TogiNet’s studios in Texas where the facilities allow for up to seven hosts and five incoming Skype calls at once. Hosts pay a fee to own a time slot for a live, one-hour weekly broadcast, and TogiNet will shortly thereafter convert it to a downloadable podcast as part of the basic service. Each host also gets his or her own Web page and an audio player.
However there are two additional levels of client service, each involving more assistance with marketing and promotion. The highest level involves the personal internet brand strategy developed by Sandra Beck, and can help hosts reach up to 500,000 listeners with their live shows and podcasts.
“The internet doesn’t require people to have hundreds of thousands of dollars to start a show. They don’t have to get involved with the terrestrial radio system, working their way up from a disc jockey,” said Frazier. “They just have to have a passion for a particular subject and desire to talk about it. Listeners today don’t need more information; they need to find what they’re looking for as quickly as possible. So terrestrial radio has its niche, but it’s all changing. What we are doing here is the future of communication.”
THE ONLY SIX REASONS TO HAVE AN INTERNET SHOW
Sandra Beck says these are the only six reasons to have an internet show.
• To establish yourself as a professional
• To generate business leads
• To increase networking opportunities
• To create a revenue stream selling products and services
• To feel powerful and important
• To advocate your ideas or those of others
“If you don’t fall into those categories then you’re not monetizing it and you’re just a hobbyist,” according to Beck, who has logged more than 600,000 listeners for a single show.
WHAT IT COSTS
And exactly how low is the barrier to entry into the field of podcasting for TogiNet client/hosts? The basic package is $4,800 for 26 weeks for a one-hour podcast, slightly less if the entire fee is paid up-front. There is an additional discount for the second year.
Beck, like many hosts, works via the internet from a small room in her home. Her gear includes a factory-refurbished Mac ($300), a Blue Yeti USB microphone ($100), a Knox pop filter ($19) and a pair of Skull Candy headphones from T. J. Maxx ($14). Add in some off-the-shelf software like Skype (free), Audacity (free) and SAM Broadcaster PRO ($300 or less), and a would-be podcaster is in business.
TogiNet, with four full-time and four part-time employees, has annual billings under $500,000. For those who are curious, the word “Togi” in Japanese means “the master who sharpens the samurai sword.”
Ken Deutsch is a former terrestrial radio talk host who in 1973 interviewed Moe Howard of the Three Stooges. He says his life has been downhill ever since.