Home Talkr Sold – New Owners Plan To Make Money Via Audio Advertising

Talkr Sold – New Owners Plan To Make Money Via Audio Advertising

Last month we reported that
automated text-to-voice service Talkr was put up for
sale, by founder Chris Brooks. Well Talkr has just been acquired – by a company who found
out it was for sale via Read/WriteWeb! The buyer is LiveOnTheNet, a Huntsville-based digital media
company which is developing a new social networking VoIP product. They decided to buy
Talkr because of its synergies with their new product.

The sale price is not large, just $25k up-front plus a $25k earn out for a 100%
buy-out of Talkr. The low price (by industry standards) probably indicates that Talkr was
more of a ‘feature’ than a business, long term. We discussed in our previous post
about how Talkr struggled to get a revenue stream going, a common affliction of ‘web 2.0’
startups. And Chris admitted to me after the sale: “I’ve come away from this experience
with a new respect for the importance of focusing first and foremost on revenue

But still it’s interesting
to see how LiveOnTheNet will implement the Talkr technology. LiveOnTheNet has been doing
streaming webcasts since 1996, according to its History page. For example they
produced the webcast of the 1996 Democratic National Convention and they were the first
official webcaster for the Cannes Film Festival.

I spoke to LiveOnTheNet CEO Roger Schneider and asked him about the deal. He firstly
told me how blogs played a role in the decision:

“For the record, we did indeed learn about Talkr via your blog… and positive
mentions of Chris and Talkr in other blogs also helped us reach our decision to buy.”

Robbie told me that over the past 10 years, LiveOnTheNet has “generated close to $50
million in online revenue, and over $20 million in the last 3 years.” So it is a thriving
and growing online business.

How will Talkr be integrated into a new product?

So how will LiveOnTheNet use Talkr? Robbie told me they’ll be integrating Talkr into
their new “embedded conference call technology”. It’s basically a VoIP product that runs
in the browser via Java (so it requires no downloaded software, apart from the latest
version of Java). They’re calling this an “embedded softphone” and it will support live,
spontaneous voice chats among lots of callers. 

Right now the service is not released, but Robbie said that it will extend on Talkr’s
current functionality. He explained:

“…bloggers can sign up for the existing Talkr services and do automatic podcasts of
their content, for example. And very soon, they’ll be able to place a new
“Talkr” on their blog and conduct conference calls with their audience on
topics of interest. Or even just let the audience talk amongst themselves about the
blog’s content.

Also, a group of Web 2.0 blogs can all place a Talkr on each of their blogs, all
pointed to a common conference, and all the audiences can share a single conversation on
Web 2.0 topics.

These conference calls can be password protected (optional) and other things, of

As well as blogs, the service can be used on social networks like
MySpace and YouTube. Future functionality will include the ability to mash-up the
softphone with webcams, Meebo, Flickr, etc.

Getting the elusive revenue stream…

The new softphone-Talkr service will be supported by audio advertising, “with a simple
pre-roll audio clip inserted as each person enters a conference call.” That advertising
revenue will be shared with bloggers.

Which brings us back to the main issue plaguing web 2.0 entrepreneurs today. If Chris
was unable to achieve an audio advertising revenue stream from Talkr, how will it be
different for LiveOnTheNet? Robbie told me:

“… a vital step for attracting advertising, as we’ve seen in the past, is
getting a critical mass of viewership (“when you get to 30K uniques, we’d be
glad to place some ads”). So, we’ll be tackling this with 2 products instead
of just one and hopefully, giving bloggers an exciting new way to interact with their
audience and fellow bloggers.”

However these revenue expectations appear to depend on how the big Internet companies
move forward with the nascent audio advertising industry. In particular, Google’s announcement
in December that they are expanding from text-only internet ads to audio ads.
LiveOnTheNet sees this move by Google as an indicator that audio advertising will become
a viable business model in the near future.


Overall, it seems like a win-win for both Chris Brooks of Talkr and the buyer
LiveOnTheNet. While it was by no means a YouTube-like lottery win for Chris (he probably
only covered his time and cost expenses with the sale price), at least he got a
reasonable payment for all his work on Talkr. And I’ll be watching closely how
LiveOnTheNet goes about trying to create a revenue stream from their new softphone-Talkr
product. How do you think they’ll go?

About ReadWrite’s Editorial Process

The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

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