shutting down, fading away or being put up for sale. The latest is Talkr, an automated text-to-voice service that we actually use here on Read/WriteWeb. At the bottom of each R/WW post, you'll see an Audio link - click on that to hear a computer-generated female voice read out the post. I introduced this feature back in June 2005 and have kept it around because it's a great accessibility tool - i.e. it provides a way for people with visual disabilities or reading problems to read this blog. There are other similar services too, such as Botcast Network.We're starting to see a lot of startups either
So why has Talkr decided to put itself up for sale? Founder Chris Brooks explained in a blog post that he hasn't been able to monetize the product, resulting in him not being able to introduce new features. He wrote:
"I began work on Talkr in March of 2005, and after nearly two years of banging on this idea, I have decided to try to find it a permanent corporate home. I strongly believe that Talkr will thrive as methods of monetizing podcasts become simpler and more robust. Bloggers will provide content and distribution and Talkr will provide increasingly sophisticated text to speech, and ad integration."
This is a sign of the times unfortunately, that a lot of web 2.0 startups haven't been able to achieve network effects and/or monetize their services. In Talkr's case, I think the technology itself has great potential - so hopefully it gets a buyer. Also, as Chris points out in the eBay sale page, there is a growing market for audio advertisements in podcasts - in December Google released a product called "Audio Ads", which allows advertisers to place audio advertisements in radio.
Talkr is up for sale on eBay, where the reserve is $10,000. Also on that page are some stats: 2,173 bloggers have registered more than 3000 blogs with Talkr; 1,179 of those bloggers have agreed to accept advertising in the audio that Talkr generates.
MP3 downloads from blogs that use Talkr have shown steady growth:
Sep 2006: 21,576
Oct 2006: 31,098
Nov 2006: 32,087
Dec 2006: 38,783
(Excludes major bots)
Chris also reveals some useful stats about his revenue and expenses:
Talk currently uses 3 servers, one, which hosts the web application, the crawler, and stores the actual audio files, a second which hosts the text-to-speech server, and a third which hosts the images displayed on blogs. Those costs run $313 a month.
DNS hosting runs $25 a year
Site monitoring runs $5 a month
Recurring annual Text-to-speech server licenses (will be disclosed to bidders upon request).
I have experimented with Google AdSense, Referral partnership with Audible.com (via cj.com) and Text Link Ads. The link ads have been the most successful, generating $42.50 in revenue in December 2006."
So it seems both expenses and revenue are pretty low right now. It sounds like the undisclosed "Recurring annual Text-to-speech server licenses" is the biggest expense.
How many more web 2.0 startups are going to put themselves up for sale or stop development? It seems like a bit of a trend right now...