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Fans pay to hear celebrity voices

Swarup Chakraborty  |  Mumbai 

Companies pay a celebrity between Rs 10 lakh and Rs 1 crore to sign up for voice blogging.

Neetu Chandra’s name may not ring a bell. Regardless, she has over 100,000 fans who pay to hear her voice on their mobile phones. Even a message like “I am caught in a traffic jam and it is raining heavily in Mumbai” can be of interest to her fans.

With voice blogging, celebrities (both established and newbies) are going beyond conventional blogs and Twitter accounts on the internet to connect with their fans. Many celebrities have joined voice blogging platforms to keep their fans informed on their mobile phones about what they are doing on a real-time basis.

UTV New Media, for instance, has signed exclusive three-year contracts with film actors like Lara Dutta, John Abraham, Neetu Chandra, Cyrus Broacha, Riya Sen, Madhavan and Pooja Gandhi. While four of the celebrities blog in Hindi, Madhavan and Pooja Gandhi record in their respective mother tongues, Tamil and Kannada, thus reaching out to their fans in the south as well.

Better than twitter
UTV New Media, which tied up with Singapore-based agency Bubble Motion, to launch the voice blogging product, Bubble Blog, has already got two million subscribers, of which a substantial percentage follow the seven celebrities who have come on board. “This is like voice twitter with a difference, as followers can be sure of the authenticity of the celebrity. On the internet, there are many fake accounts in the name of celebrities and you never know if you are really following the star you want to,” says Manish Agarwal, CEO, UTV New Media.

Unlike a conventional blog where an individual expresses himself in writing and which can be accessed over the internet, a voice blog records a person’s voice. Celebrities record their voice blog post on a blogging platform which can be accessed (heard on mobile) by followers dialling the code of the celebrity. Followers are notified when a new voice message is updated: they can dial in to listen to their post.

As fans listen to the celebrities they choose to follow, it is turning out to be a revenue generator for the companies that provide the voice blogging platforms. Nazara Technologies and Hungama are some of the other players in the arena.

According to industry sources, a celebrity is paid between Rs 10 lakh and Rs 1 crore, depending on his/her popularity for signing up to voice blog. The revenue generated when people subscribe to the service is then shared between the operator, the blog platform provider and the celebrity. The operator takes around 60-70 per cent of the revenues, post tax, and the remaining amount is shared between the blog platform provider and the celebrity. To subscribe to Bubble Blog, a subscription fee of Rs 10 per month per celebrity is charged.

Agarwal says since a celebrity also earns from the initiative, his/her earnings as well as following rises with the frequency of posting a voice blog. “Actress Lara Dutta has got over 210,000 followers and Pooja Gandhi from Karnataka, who joined the platform on June 21, has already got over 50,000 followers. The highest number of followers are from Bihar and UP, and they are mostly males from small towns,” said Agarwal. A celebrity generally blogs four to five times in a week.

Nazara Technologies had started with the concept of celebrity voice offerings during the Cricket World Cup 2007. Nazara had created ‘Sachin Zone’, where followers could dial-in to hear Sachin Tendulkar sharing his views on various aspects of his life. However, it did not find many takers, as followers had to pay a monthly subscription fee of Rs 30, besides the Rs 6 per minute to listen to Tendulkar’s views.

Nazara has been quick to learn from its experience that premium pricing cannot work. Nazara CEO Nitish Mittersain said, “Nearly 100,000 people subscribed to the service during the Cricket World Cup. Now we have famous numerologist Sanjay Jumani on a voice blogging platform and a subscriber pays only Rs 10 per month. There are no additional charges to listen to the voice posts.” Around 20,000 followers have subscribed to Jumani’s blog posts.

Mittersain says Nazara has also tied up with chess champion Vishwanathan Anand and cricketer Virender Sehwag for voice blogging. They will start posting voice blogs from August.

Hungama Digital Media had designed a voice blogging initiative as a digital promotion campaign for the film Wake Up Sid, where the star cast, along with director Ayan Mukherjee and producer Karan Johar, released a series of video and voice-based blogs for the film. The content of these blogs was based on behind the scenes action and interesting anecdotes during the making of the film.

“Voice blogs are a great way for the makers of the film and other celebrities to give the audience a first-hand account on interesting experiences and to establish a personal connect with their fans. Other celebrities that will begin voice blogging with Hungama include Bipasha Basu for her digital launch and Himesh Reshammiya for his film, Kajraare,” says Siddhartha Roy, Chief Operating Officer.

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First Published: Thu, July 15 2010. 00:49 IST