Interview: Bernard Gershon, SVP/GM, ABC News Digital Media Group

gershon1.jpg[Staci D. Kramer] charges for video but its new podcasting service is free to download and free of ads — for now. Bernard Gershon, SVP & GM, ABC News Digital Media Group, isn’t making promises. “We are certainly looking at this as, definitely, a marketing opportunity and a way to reach consumers in new ways but I would not rule out putting in commercials top and bottom or sponsor mentions or anything else,” he told Wednesday. “I wouldn’t rule out, at some point, saying we’ll create a bundle of podcast stuff and people may subscribe on a monthly basis to get the content.”
Gershon is experimenting with content and with length, offering a mix of each. “We want to play with different lengths of content and see what people like. The longer stuff will be up to an hour and the shorter stuff will be 2-3 minutes. We think, and again this is our guess at this point, iPod people are generally playing songs that are three to four minutes long.”
As part of determining what steps to take next, ABC News will try to capture data on repeat users and the kinds of content downloaded most often. Gershon thinks Apple’s decision to support podcasting on the next version of iTunes will increase podcast listening.
The network’s first podcast, “The AfterNote,” launched without fanfare earlier this month and, after a week with no corporate promotion other than mentions inside the daily newsletter “The Note,” was drawing 200 or so downloads a day.
Even without Apple, “there’s enough usage out there that a major broadcaster out there like ABC News would want to get into trying to kick the tires and see if there’s some content that we can supply to people that might make them more likely to watch ABC News on television or consumer any of other products.”
Gershon is pleased with the results so far of another “terrific opportunity to play in a new space” as the news content provider for Sony’s PSP. “They tell us our content (clips from an ABC News Now tech show)is doing really well. There’s a little bit of a learning curve for people who have the PSP.” The downloads are free; for now, as with podcasting, the PSP is a “marketing opportunity” for ABC News. Says Gershon, “It probably will evolve to either an iTunes-type pay-per-download model or a subscription model but there definitely will be some way to monetize the content longer term.”
Related: After ABC, NBC Jumps Onto Podcasting Wagon
ABC News Dips Little Toe Into Podcasting Waters
Audio: Interview, ABC News President David Westin