Live from CES: Mommycast Moving Into Omnimedia

There oughta be a big red sign at the entrance to the Consumer Electronics Show: The Hype Starts Here. Aside from the parties and the schwag and the schmooze, the real hoopla's in the numbers. Everybody's spinning statistics and as a market researcher I can't help but sometimes hoot right out loud.

Which is why I was so delighted to literally stumble upon a genuinely hype-free, solid success story: the podcasting duo called Mommycast.

Paige Heninger and Gretchen Vogelzang , two Virginia Moms with seven kids between them -- are the brains -- and the voices -- behind this growing phenomenon. The duo chats about everyday topics from home in Virginia, reaching legions of Moms (and Dads) too time-compressed for traditional types of face to face community.

The mission of Mommycast is "to hold the world together, one child at time," a phrase Gretchen told me came to her in one fell swoop just days after they decided to try their first podcast back in 2005.



Theirs is the proverbial American success story: Learn about new technology (Gretchen's husband Paul told them about podcasting and Apple's Garageband). Experiment with new technology. (Gretchen's brother is an acoustics whiz; Gretchen credits his expertise in creating a professional quality from the inception.) Stay true to your target and wind up as one of the first podcasts posted on iTunes. Get big enough and good enough that sponsors come to you. Enter Porter-Novelli, Atlanta, to handle the interactive buy and assist with execution. Next come the Hollywood agents (Endeavor).

Eventually you're sitting in The Venetian ballroom during the massive Consumer Electronics Show with Edelman's Microsoft account managers. You're juggling meetings and interviews and strategizing a move into omnimedia territory with books, television and countless other opportunities in the hopper.

You only have to check out the Media Kit posted on the Mommycast site to see not only their solid success but how far their version of pod marketing has come. What makes this duo unique in the realms of podcasting is that they're actually making money. "Lots of it," Gretchen told me. "North of six figures." Aside from their first major $100,000 sponsorship with Dixie, the paper-goods company, they now have deals under discussion with a list of heavyweight consumer products companies any content provider would envy, not just the podcasters.

They've also drawn the attention of other major players: Microsoft and Disney. Gretchen and Paige, were in fact, among the recipients of the now infamous laptops Microsoft sent to bloggers.

For me, cynical researcher looking to sniff out hype, the satisfying part of the Mommycast success story is that these smart, tech-savvy, heartfelt Mommies have managed to win the monetizing wars by tightly targeting what has been widely perceived as a non-traditional audience for these emerging participatory media tools.

Podcast advertisers have typically gone after a young, tech-savvy male demographic. That group is now stumbling all over each other. So are the bloggers, trying to eke out revenue, while sponsors eager to reach that sweet spot of Moms 25-54, are eagerly searching out Mommycast.

(Note: The sexiness of the female market is hardly new, although perhaps it has been largely unheralded in Web 2.0. Think back to iVillage, which was originally an AOL Greenhouse property called Parent Soup. iVillage is now owned by NBC and from what I can tell every morning as I watch the Today Show, iVillage seems to be driving Today Show programming.)

Aside from the appeal of their rapidly growing audience, (Gretchen said there is a surprisingly high pass-along rate with their podcasts), sponsors are also apt to be dazzled by the depth of sincerity and passion this duo feels for their sponsors.

It's important for them to be comfortable with the product lines. Passing on traditional interruptive commercials, they opt instead for what Gretchen dubbed "NPR-like" sponsorships, with guaranteed intros and mentions per show.

The Mommycast grassroots voice and approach is genius, especially in today's uber-hip, yet under-monetized, social media landscape. Gretchen, in fact, doesn't have a lot of heart for social networks targeted at Moms: "Those things take a lot of time to keep up, which Moms don't have."

Speaking of which, the Edelman folks were begging Gretchen to stay over for Microsoft's Vanishing Point promo. Gretchen was resisting. She wanted to fly home to Virginia to see her children before next week's MacWorld visit.

I haven't been able to reach her on her cell, which may mean she's flying high over Sin City on the way back to Virginia.

I have a feeling Moms all over the world will be hearing about her choice on the next Mommycast episode.

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