10 Questions with David Nelsen of TalkShoe.com

picture-23.pngTime to continue the ongoing series of 10 Question interviews with great services and sites that have community as a strong component. We have several more interviews in the works, but next up we chat with David Nelsen of TalkShoe.com!

1. What is TalkShoe?
www.TalkShoe.com is a website where you can talk (and text) live with others who share your interests. For example, if you love “Grey’s Anatomy” on ABC, you can connect with others who do too. Or maybe just talk with your friends. We can this “Social Conference Calling”.

2. What prompted you to create this tool?
So many people are becoming part of groups online. I thought it would be really cool if these groups could actually talk live. With TalkShoe, up to 300 people can get on the phone together. It sounds like chaos, but we’ve built it in a way that works!

3. TalkShoe seems to be aimed, in no small part, at helping online-only content producers (bloggers, vbloggers, podcasters, webcomic artists, etc.) go from small and static into big and dynamic. Did people think you were crazy for targeting an audience that (seemingly) “doesn’t make much money”?
To use a video analogy, you can be ABC television or you can be YouTube. Both are valid businesses, but I like YouTube better because it’s video entertainment democracy — anybody can do it. In many ways, TalkShoe is like an audio version of YouTube. Our users generate all of the content on the site. They do amazing things that we would never have thought of ourselves.

4. I assume that VOIP is the rockstar of this project; without it, would you be able to cover the hard costs?
I’ll rephrase it this way: Free calling is the rock star. Social conference calling is going mainstream because people can now call anywhere for free — with Voice over IP (VoIP) from their computer, with free night and weekend minutes on their cell phone, or with flat rate unlimited calling from their home phone. With TalkShoe’s “ShoePhone” feature, people can join a TalkShoe call from anywhere on the planet for free. So now you can talk to Grey’s Anatomy fans in Australia too.

5. Speaking of costs… usage is free, and has been for a while. Talk to us about the future plans for keeping the lights on.
TalkShoe makes money in two ways. Even though people are calling in on Skype, or Vonage, or free cell phone minutes, TalkShoe and our partners earn a few cents per minute for every caller from the long distance companies because of an FCC rule. In addition, most of the calls on TalkShoe are recorded (at the option of the originator). We place short audio ads at the beginning of these recordings (like on the radio) and earn a few cents every time someone listens in the future.

6. Do you see any patterns, or gut feel about how audiences are growing?
We see the fastest growth when existing online groups in MySpace, FaceBook, Ning, Yahoo Groups, etc., use TalkShoe to start talking to each other. Typically, they pick a specific day and time and talk for about an hour every week. Of course with tens of thousands of live participants, there’s every pattern you can imagine.

7. I’m a huge PVP fan (www.pvponline), and have followed some of their shows which are great fun. What’s the effect, in your view, of combining a TalkShoe show with their own Web site?
The fans of PVP are a perfect example of an online group. TalkShoe allows them to connect with Scott Kurtz and the rest of the PVP team, and with each other.

8. What do you not see TalkShoe users doing much that you’d love them to use more often?
Each month we see 1,000,000 people listen to social conference call recordings (yes, there’s lots of interesting content here) while fewer than 50,000 (<5%) actually participate live. I’d like to see the 95% that have not done so, yet, actually call in. I think they’d find it to be a fun and satisfying experience to really connect with other people. Voice is a lot different than text. It’s a way to turn your online buddies into real friends.

9. What feature(s) would you just love to implement, if not for those pesky technology limits?
I wish we could just do everything sooner. We’ve now built everything that we first imagined when we started TalkShoe in 2005. But users have suggested literally hundreds of new features. If only there were steroids for software engineers — I’d be a major pusher.

10. Any parting words, or new upcoming features you’d like to share?
Every day we’re working to make TalkShoe simpler. In January, we’ll launch a new version of TalkShoe Live (our voice + text chat environment that’s used to run and manage calls) that works right out of the box. You can come to talkshoe.com and just immediately jump in to any interesting call — no sign-up or download required. And starting your own call with your friends will be much simpler too. And free as always!