After launching a dedicated Web site for podcasters—and potential authors—in September 2007, Macmillan is deepening its foothold in the downloadable audio market by selling expanded podcasts. The company's Quick and Dirty Tips series, spun around podcaster-turned-author Mignon Fogarty (whose book, Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips to Clean Up Your Writing, was released in April 2008), has expanded to include 13 “experts” who offer advice on how to do everything from travel smarter to eat better. Now, with its first foray into paid content—up until now quickanddirtytips.com has been supported by online ads—Macmillan is looking to make Quick and Dirty a more viable brand and a bigger springboard for creating successful print authors.
Although the stats on quickanddirtytips.com are fairly impressive—in 2008 more than 20 million Quick and Dirty podcasts were downloaded, and Web traffic was up 125%—the effort for Macmillan is still largely about test-marketing potential books and authors. Richard Rohrer, director of digital business development, said that while he's happy the site is a “financially successful enterprise,” he's more interested in seeing which podcasts and podcasters gain an audience. “The thing about podcasts is that they're a cost-effective way to test a subject area and talent,” he noted.
Fogarty, who has a stake in Quick and Dirty with Macmillan, is the best known of the podcasters. She has a second book slated for later this year, Grammar Devotional, and in January Macmillan launched a Grammar Girl digital newsletter. To further support quickanddirtytips.com, Macmillan recently brought on a full-time editor for the site, and Rohrer said the house works with both freelancers and the podcasters for the written and aural content.
Moving forward, Rohrer would like to add five to six new subject areas to the site each year and, as he put it, “test them out.” Macmillan will charge $5.95 for the Quick and Dirty audiobooks, one-hour downloads that will expand on themes touched on in the free six-minute downloads.
According to Rohrer, 2008 was about expanding the Quick and Dirty brand and its breadth of coverage. This year he's focusing on creating new forms of paid content and will continue to look for viable new print authors. The hope is that another Grammar Girl can come out of the mix, someone who has a solid platform before she or he heads into print.