The FT reported a few days ago that comedian Ricky Gervais is to begin charging for downloads of his popular podcast, in which he, Steve Merchant and Karl Pilkington hang around talking (sometimes) hilarious crap. This move follows newspapers like The Times, which started charging £6.95/month for read-aloud versions of its paper via podcasts (a great idea in itself).
It will be interesting to see how Ricky Gervais' fanbase reacts -- when it was free they downloaded his podcasts 4.5 million times, making it supposedly the most listened-to podcast yet. Expect polarised reactions, similar to what we heard when the NY Times started charging for the online version of its newspaper. But clearly a means of making quality podcasts commercially viable is necessary, and this will likely be a combination of advertising support and subscription fees.
The second run of Gervais' podcast will be available on Audible.com (the first was sponsored by The Guardian). It sounds like pricing will be around £4.50 (a month? one-off) and so far a lot of the online debate seems to be grudgingly in favour...
If nothing else, the three comedians will perhaps be forced to invest a bit more comedic energy in making the shows regularly funny; the trouble with free content is its highly variable quality.