Dec 272010
Image representing TWiT as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

Balancing on a giant rubber ball in a broadcast studio and control room carved out of a cottage in Petaluma, Calif., Leo Laporte is an unlikely media mogul.

From that little town in California wine country, he runs his empire, a podcasting network, TWIT. For 30 hours each week, he and the other hosts on his network talk about technology — topics like the best e-book reader or how to get rid of a computer virus — for shows that he gives away online.

Nerdy, yes. Silly, no. TWIT gets its name from Mr. Laporte’s flagship podcast, “This Week in Tech,” which is downloaded by a quarter of a million people each week. He produces 22 other technology-focused podcasts that are downloaded five million times a month. He also streams video all day long that captures his podcasting and a weekend radio show on computers, “The Tech Guy,” that reaches 500,000 more people through 140 stations.

“I don’t want to be just a carbon copy of existing media,” said Mr. Laporte, who at 54 is just old enough to remember using carbon paper in typewriters to make duplicates.

Advertisers, especially technology companies, appreciate Mr. Laporte’s reach. Mark McCrery, chief executive of Podtrac, which is based in Washington, and measures podcast audiences and sells advertising, said TWIT’s advertising revenue doubled in each of the last two years and was expected to total $4 million to $5 million for 2010.

Starting at $40 per thousand listeners, TWIT’s ad rates are among the highest in American podcasting and are considerably higher than commercial broadcasting rates, which are typically $5 to $15 per thousand listeners.

Podcasting is an often overlooked corner of the media world. The term is derived from iPod, the Apple media player that can be used to listen to these radiolike programs as well as recorded music. The iTunes store from Apple, where about 75 percent of the audience for podcasts looks for fresh material, contains about150,000 regular shows featuring has-been and up-and-coming comics and sex talk, as well as mainstream fare like NPR and CNN broadcasts. Edison Research estimates that a quarter of all Americans over the age of 12 have listened to or watched at least one. There are also video podcasts.

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