Podcasting has jumped onto the scene rather quickly, and its latest trick involves enabling subscribers to receive alerts when their favorite podcasters offer new files. Essentially, LiveMessage is "a broadcast application" for information alerts. "Alerts have been around for a long time," says MessageCast CEO Royal Farros, "but the only mechanism for delivering alerts has been email." And email, as Farros points out, is certainly not without problems, like its lack of authentication.
With LiveMesssage alerts, users can pick and choose among various delivery options including cell phones, PDAs, and desktop alerts, which Farros says are overwhelmingly favored by LiveMessage users. MessageCast has recently found a new audience in the budding podcasting community, which mirrors the company's emphasis on leveraging real-time networks and awareness. The LiveMessage service is being employed by podcasters to communicate with listeners via alerts.
"I've been using LiveMessage and their services for about a year and a half and it's been great," says Vancouver-based blogger and podcaster, Tod Maffin. Maffin particularly appreciates that, unlike blog aggregators and other services, users don't have to download anything; within approximately 30 seconds, subscribers (including Maffin's mother) receive an alert that he has added a podcast.
Maffin began using LiveMessage because, he says, "I'm pretty sure they're the only game in town" and they are extremely reliable. "In technology, I like people that stay out of my way," and it's no problem with them. "It's been completely invisible to me and as far as I know, it's never gone down." Some on the receiving end of LiveMessage alerts have complained of problems such as not receiving information after signing up or extreme delays in hearing back from MessageCast, but it seems that those are minor bumps in the development road and MessageCast has made attempts to contact users to sort out problems.
Still a growing area, podcasting seems to be hitting its stride. "Podcasting is TiVo for radio—in its most basic form," says Farros. "It shows what RSS can do. Podcasting is a result of the amazing flexibility of RSS and people wanting information on their terms." With RSS, podcasting can be totally immediate and opt-in; now the customer can be both anonymous and completely in control. "We work in a double blind way with the big networks," explains Farros, so the company never knows who a specific user is, just that user 36592918 wants an alert sent to their desktop.
And there is quantifiable data showing the power of an interested audience. L'Oreal experienced unprecedented results using LiveMessage alerts in the United Kingdom and Germany. Beauty Alerts, along the lines of "Don't forget to drink eight glasses of water a day to keep your tummy flat" were sent to subscribers over a six-month period. During that time, clickthrough rates in the UK were an astonishing 24%, and 35% in Germany (clickthrough rates are generally considered successful at a paltry 0.5% to 2%).
"I don't know how they're making money, because it's free," Maffin quips. "We're continuing our growth," Farros says guardedly. Although he can not comment on exact subscriber figures at this time, he predicts tremendous growth for podcasting and says that "one year from now all major media will be available as a podcast."