Hear and Now

Sound Bytes

One company that creatively uses sound is Voxxy Inc. (www.voxxy.com), an online network in Hermosa Beach, California, for girls aged 13 to 18. Co-founded in 1999 by president Kristi Kaylor, 29, the company posted revenues of less than $1 million last year.

"We wanted to create a dynamic online environment for our audience, and sound elements helped us to accomplish this," Kaylor says. "Audio really increases your ability to connect with your users. It's powerful and personable, and it allows users to become more interested in your site." Since last year, visitors to the Voxxy.com site have been treated to whiz-bang sounds that assist in navigation. These creative audio elements have actually helped in boosting monthly visitor totals from 70,000 in early 2001 to 150,000 today.

Kaylor attributes the success of these audio elements to her Web development partner, Backbone Technology Inc. in Vancouver, British Columbia. Backbone hosts Voxxy's site and is also responsible for adding the audio elements, which were developed by outside sound producers Dewey Reid and Allie Willis.

When it comes to adding audio, outsourcing is usually the best way to go. Most Web developers today can help you add basic audio elements, like bells and whistles, to your site. Some may even offer more robust audio content, such as a recorded script read by actors. Just be aware that production work without professional help may not sound as good as your customers expect.

According to Backbone CEO Marc Charalambous, Web audio hosting costs vary depending on traffic. They can be free or included in regular monthly Web fees, or they may cost tens of thousands of dollars. "Background sounds will not change your hosting requirements or overhead requirements at all," he says. "But if it gets into something dynamic, development will cost more."

A one-time dynamic project, for example, carries a starting price tag of $1,000. A site like Voxxy.com, according to Charalambous, can cost anywhere from $25,000 to $100,000 to build, and the sound would just be an element of the production.

Melissa Campanelli is a technology writer in Brooklyn, New York, who has covered technology for Mobile Computing & Communications and Sales & Marketing Management magazines. You can reach her at mcampanelli@earthlink.net.

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This article was originally published in the April 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Hear and Now.

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