What: Interactive online radio show
Who: Alan Levy of BlogTalkRadio
Where: Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey
When: Started in 2006
Startup Costs: $3 million
About two years ago, Alan Levy received the devastating news that his father's cancer had returned for the third time. As a way to keep his family and friends updated, Levy, 49, decided to start a blog. Levy was blown away by the size of the blogging community, which immediately got him thinking about better ways for users to engage with their audiences. With 15 years of experience in the telecommunications industry, he was ready for his next big venture: hosting radio shows online.
After months of planning, he launched BlogTalkRadio in August 2006. "By creating a platform, it empowers people to have their voices heard," says Levy. With no extra equipment required, any blogger can call in to BlogTalkRadio and become an internet radio host by simply using his or her computer as a dashboard to manage callers. The site now has more than 5,000 active hosts and covers topics from politics and current events to music and movies. Users can create a profile that gives them access to archived shows and podcasts and allows them to promote their own programs.
Since the site went live, more than 70,000 shows have been broadcast on BlogTalkRadio. Even celebrities are tuning in and testing their skills as hosts. Author Arianna Huffington used the radio show for an interview with actor Brad Pitt, and politicians John Kerry and John McCain have called in to talk politics.
Later this year, Levy hopes to grow internationally by making it easier to dial in from outside the U.S. With more than 13 million listeners in 2007, Levy is excited about the future. "Seeing the level of engagement from an idea that came from my dad's illness to this," he says, "is very gratifying."