As mobile phone carriers try to lure more subscribers into all-you-can-talk monthly plans, here’s one potential winner: Portland, Maine-based Foneshow. Their business: Podcasts and radio via your phone.
How does it work? Find stuff you’d like to listen to, like audio versions of The New York Times (NYT) front-page stories, CNN (TWX) news updates, Politico.com podcasts, popular NPR content, or The Onion‘s radio news. Subscribe via Foneshow’s Web site. When a new episode of the show is available, Foneshow sends you a text message. Dial the number in the message, and Foneshow will play back your selection.
Turning your phone into an audio player isn’t a new idea, but Foneshow has simplicity going for it. Carriers offer streaming radio services, but they’re rarely free and often require a wireless data subscription. And while there are many podcasts available on Apple’s (AAPL) iTunes store, you have to sync up your iPhone/iPod with your computer to listen to them.
All Foneshow needs is a mobile phone — which 240 million Americans already have. The only cost: The cellular minutes you use for the call, and whatever your carrier charges to receive a text message. Text messages running around 20 cents a piece, and much less if you have a monthly messaging plan, and carrier minutes get cheaper every day. And since the idea is to listen to short clips, not entire audiobooks, the service won’t strain your phone’s battery.
What’s in it for publishers? Mostly distribution — they can fill their shows with whatever ads they’d like. Foneshow makes a tiny bit of money thru text ads in the text messages you get when your new content is available, and co-founder/CEO Erik Schwartz tells us that once more people are using the service, he thinks he can sell short, “pay-per-click” audio ads that listeners can respond to.
Schwartz, former Yahoo! (YHOO) entertainment head, started the company with New Yorker Nic Wolff in 2006. Last summer, they closed a Series A round with CEI Community Ventures, Masthead Venture Partners, and Small Enterprise Growth Fund of Maine.