Pitt grads create podcast powerhouse with Wizzard
Trace the history of an East End company that's quickly become a dominant force in podcasting, and you will find four guys tinkering in an Oakland dorm room in the late '90s.
And not at CMU, but at Pitt.
"We weren't the guys programming robots to do crazy stuff, but technology was always a big part of what we did," said Marty Mulligan, one of the brains behind Libsyn.
Launched in 2004, Libsyn was one of the first companies to offer cheap, fixed-rate online hosting for podcasts -- audio or video broadcasts that can be downloaded onto an iPod or enjoyed online.
Wizzard Software, a tech firm based in Bloomfield, snapped up Libsyn last year for $15 million in stock.
Wizzard boasts 3 million downloads a day, and last week, its shares began trading on the American Stock Exchange.
"If you asked me who has more power in the podcast space, Microsoft or Wizzard, I would say Wizzard," said Paul Colligan, co-author of "The Business Podcasting Bible" and host of several podcasts on new media.
Research firm eMarketer reports U.S. companies spent $165 million on podcast advertising and sponsoring last year, a figure it expects to triple in five years. Almost 19 million Americans downloaded a podcast last year, the report said.
Wizzard's growing roster of 8,500 shows includes the popular "Grammar Girl," as seen on "Oprah."
Wizzard's CEO, former WVU student and serial entrepreneur Chris Spencer, is focused on integrating ads into the programs the network hosts.
Spencer lives in south Florida, but the four guys from Pitt still are in town.
The most flamboyant, Dave Chekan, shows up to work in a trilby hat, black jeans and a pinstripe jacket over a Homestar Runner T-shirt. He credits Pittsburgh's "angstful vibe" for spurring the group's creativity.
"You get depressed because it's raining all the time so you go home and make noise in the basement. We kind of do the same thing, except with computers," Chekan said.
It started when theater student Dave Mansueto started hanging out with computer engineering students Chekan and Matt Hoopes, mostly because he coveted their song files and CD burner.
The trio started staging variety shows at a local coffee house. Mulligan joined the team, and Chekan sold his Transfomers collection on eBay so they could start a Web site for local bands and artists.
Chekan, Hoopes and Mulligan left Pittsburgh after college. But Mansueto, unemployed and living off insurance money after wrecking his car, called his friends to tell them about his new hobby -- podcasting.
The group launched Libsyn, and its $5-per-month base package won over early podcasters. Soon, Mansueto was alone in Pittsburgh no more.
"He laughed his (butt) off when everybody came back," Chekan said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.