In May Entercom, one of the largest broadcasters in the US, launched a new division called SmartReach Digital. The launch came initially to six of Entercom’s markets, with more to follow. SmartReach Digital is a full-service digital agency formed by Entercom, staffed with a team of experienced digital marketers. Dedicated sales reps will drive business in each Entercom market.
The idea is new and innovative to radio, but one that has taken hold with newspapers, tv, and other locally driven media outlets. Local market knowledge and resources are valuable and can be used to sell more than one media -that’s the thinking behind this strategy. With relationships with local businesses already established, sellers become trained marketing consultants, prepared to work with those SMBs to develop a digital strategy that grows business and drives revenue. Website design, search engine optimization, email marketing, mobile platforms, social media, text marketing, online reputation management, display advertising, and of course, Internet radio advertising – these are all marketing options that might be recommended. The online platforms that sell these products offer white labeled versions that enable an agent like Entercom’s SmartReach Digital to brand and execute the campaigns, perform billing, and manage the relationships directly with their local customers.
Want to know more? We’ll be examining this new and innovative approach to growing revenue and optimizing local direct sales teams at RAIN Summit Indy on Tuesday September 9th, during the NAB/RAB Radio Show week. Christine Merritt, Google’s Head of SMB partnerships and channel sales, North America, and George Leith, VP Sales, Vendasta, are two speakers who will join a panel discussion on options for turning local sales teams into digital marketing consultants. It’s a deep and lucrative opportunity, and one you’ll want to take note of.
A few weeks ago I was driving in my car listening to NPR during a pledge drive. As I listened to the announcer hawk mugs and even special solar/crank powered radios in exchange for signing up for a monthly “pledge” and heard him referring to donors as members, I realized that public radio is actually selling subscriptions, but calling it something else.
As we know, NPR is an audio service supported by its members (as well as some other revenue sources). In 2011, which was the most recent year I could find info for – NPR received an average weekly donation of just under ten bucks per listener per week. (That’s the total $ amount of pledges divided by listeners and weeks.)
While Pandora One and Spotify struggle to get users to pay less than $10 a month for their service, NPR manages just fine, netting 4 times that per listener.
Why is NPR is so successful at getting listeners to pay for programming? For one thing, they don’t call them subscription fees. Instead, they call them pledges – a far more honorable term, and they make every listener who donates a member, and send them a hat or a mug. It’s a clever marketing approach!
What else are they doing that online audio subscription services can do as well? Well, for one, they hold annoying on-air pledge drives, where they stop the programming, not for a few short commercials, but for highly intrusive on-air begging by personalities. It’s really obnoxious, and it works. Listeners respond.
Other tactics that NPR uses to extract donations – err, I mean pledges – from its listeners include bribery (as in the mug, hat, or solar powered radio mentioned above), flattery (our listeners like you are so smart), making listeners feel guilty, and – this is the best one – threatening to continue the on-air fundraising tirade unless everyone calls in with pledges right away.
So what can subscription services learn from NPR? I think the membership approach is a good one – remember the old American Express campaign “Membership has its privileges?” Creating a strong brand that people want to associate themselves with, and then selling that association – that seems to be a formula that works for public radio and a strategy subscription services may want to go to school on…
Yesterday Amazon announced a new feature that allows Twitter users to add something to their Amazon shopping cart by replying to a tweet with the hashtag #amazoncart. After connecting their Twitter and Amazon accounts, they can reply to a tweet for a product that has an amazon link and the product will be placed into their shopping cart for purchase. Later, they can visit their shopping cart and complete the sale.
“Add it now, buy it later” is the slogan used in the promo video by Amazon.
This is a pretty innovative strategy on the part of Amazon. Think about it — it encourages everyone who is selling anything to create a link for that product in Amazon and tweet about it. What’s more, if you actually take a little more sophisticated approach, you create your own little Amazon store, tweet the links to products in there, and enjoy some revenue sharing on the deal.
Amazon has more than 200 million registered users, all with credit cards associated with them. They have one of the easiest shopping cart platforms, with their proprietary 1-click purchasing. And they sell just about everything.
With their new “add it now, buy it later” promotion, consumers can easily react to a product they see tweeted, place it in their shopping cart, and purchase immediately or later. Either way, Amazon has placed itself in the middle of the transaction, making it easier for both the buyer and seller.
There are simply tons of ways that this can be used to make advertising more effective. For example, stations with a strong Twitter following can put their Twitter feeds to work. With advertiser permission, stations can tweet product links and run a coordinated ad campaign on their station and Twitter, extending the reach and impact of the ad campaign – and the bond with the advertiser. (Of course, this is for brand and product campaigns, not brick and mortar campaigns.)
Exciting possibilities exist with both iTunes and Amazon, who have so many registered users’ credit cards and make it so easy to buy. Now Amazon has figured out a great way to make it easy and attractive for everyone to want to use their platform to conduct business, and to encourage anyone with a Twitter following to promote Amazon links.
With more than 200 million registered users, Pandora’s collection of user data is substantial. Now they are beginning to use that data to create marketable audience segments that advertisers can use to target their campaigns.
The first of these “proprietary audience segments” created by Pandora are Hispanic and Spanish speaking users of the service. To create these segments, Pandora cross referenced their registered users with zip codes that have a high population of Hispanic and Spanish speaking listeners, using publicly available census data. It’s still inference based targeting, meaning that the buyer has to agree to make assumptions about the consumer based on where they live, but it’s an improvement over cookie-based technology, which makes inference based assumptions as well – usually assuming that someone visiting a certain site matches a certain set of established criteria.
Critics will argue that users often give false registration data as well, and that is certainly a factor, but probably not a significant deterrent for buyers who are looking for any improved ways of reaching more of the people they want to reach, fewer of those they don’t.
Studies have shown that listeners are quite tolerant of targeted ads online, especially when they are targeted to offer products that the listener might find useful.
In fact, Pandora’s capable of slicing up their audience by market, zip code, age or gender, or the kind of music they listen to, and has been doing that for a long time. These new customer segments are available in media buying software that makes it very simple for agencies to identify, price and purchase. It’s a smart way to market their large audience to advertisers and showcase their targeting capabilities. This video features Heidi Browning, Pandora SVP of strategic solutions, discussing the streaming service’s targeting capabilities.
Programmatic buying will capture nearly 20% of the display ad spend this year, according to eMarketer, and that’s a number that is growing more quickly than anticipated. In general, display advertising is growing more quickly, thanks to increased demand for mobile ads. Advertisers are becoming more adept at using real time buying systems, attracted to the cost effectiveness and increased targeting capabilities. Meanwhile, as mobile usage continues to expand, publishers are releasing more inventory to the programmatic buying platforms. More buyers, more inventory, more revenue.
Meanwhile Triton Digital continues to announce enhancements to their programmatic exchange for streaming audio advertising, a2x. They recently announced a partnership with Lotame to integrate its unifying data management platform (DMP) into a2x, enabling a2x publishers such as Entercom, CBS, and Univision to to collect, understand and activate audience data from any source, including online, offline and mobile.
Essentially, Triton’s a2x platform is enabling publishers to transform their largely unidentifyable inventory into units that can be targeted and sold as targetable inventory in a real time buying platform. As advertisers and their agencies become more and more interested in platforms that offer greater flexibility in targeting and real time pricing, publishers are wise to have these options in their arsenal. However, as AdAge was quick to note in this article, it’s also smart business to compliment this selling strategy with one that offers custom and sponsored ads that net a higher rate.
Last week CBS Radio introduced Audio Ad Center, a self-serve platform that enables small businesses to promote and target their products and services to their online and mobile radio listeners with customized messaging and creative copy. Small business owners can visit the website to purchase ads to run on any of the online CBS Radio stations. “Streaming audio is a very effective form of advertising and does not have to be limited to the companies with the biggest budgets,” CBS Local Media president Ezra Kucharz added. “With AUDIO ADCENTER, business owners can align themselves with the most trusted radio brands with millions of listeners between them to choose from.”
Innovative online platforms that enable advertisers to easily purchase, track and manage their ad inventory. These are the components that will drive more revenue to streaming audio platforms…
Digital revenue is the bright spot for radio according to the newest revenue data out late last Friday from the Radio Advertising Bureau. Digital revenues grew 16% over last year’s second quarter and are up 13% for the year. Serious attrition continues for network dollars which are down 4% for 2Q and the year. Digital is now poised to overtake network’s share of radio’s revenue pie.
The big elephant in the room is spot radio, which was only flat for the quarter but is still off 1% for the year. Of course this is not a good trend in the face of a modestly recovering economy. Ad revenues continue to shift to online and mobile media, as evidenced by the growth of radio’s digital revenues.
In a move that is likely a reaction to news like this, Clear Channel, which owns Katz Radio, the sales firm that controls the lion’s share of national spot revenues, has just signed on with IPG, one of the largest ad agencies, to build an automatic buying platform for radio inventory. According to Mediapost, “The initiative, which was developed by Interpublic’s Mediabrands unit, is dubbed the Magna Consortium, and is part of the agency holding company’s mission to automate 50% of its media-buying by 2016.”
Dial Global this week announced a partnership with SoundHound that will offer advertisers more interactivity with broadcast radio listeners. SoundHound is a music app that listeners can download to their mobile devices and use to identify songs. Now, advertisers can offer listeners access to exclusive offers and branded audio, video, and Web content delivered on their mobile device through SoundHound.
With this new technology, advertisers will have the ability to provide additional information to consumers via a “second screen” portable device – enhancing the interactivity of their radio campaigns. Reportedly, the consumer does not have to interact with a commercial immediately in order to tap into the “second screen” offering because the information will remain available for a period of time.
As lifestyle shifts toward mobile continue, technology that enables radio campaigns to benefit are essential. eMarketer forecasts the number of mobile shoppers in the US will increase by 24% in 2013 to 118 million consumers and represent 62% of digital shoppers. Over the next four years, the overlap between mobile and digital shoppers will steadily increase as the number of mobile shoppers grows to 174 million in 2016, 80% of all online shoppers.
Mobile interactivity both increases the impact of a campaign as well as the ability to quantify effectiveness. “Until now, radio has struggled to keep pace with the kind of measurable engagement offered by newer digital marketing platforms. Together with SoundHound, we have created a marketing solution that delivers trackable engagement between listeners and brands.” said Ken Williams, President of Dial Global.
Digital revenues generated by US radio broadcasters shot up 11% in the fourth quarter of 2012 compared to the previous year, and pushed the full year over year increase to an impressive 8%. Spot dollars increased a mere 1%, further emphasizing the brightness of the digital horizon for radio.
“The continues stellar showing of the Digital sector…underscores the fact that th eRadio industry is finding additional ways to monetize these streams and that advertisers are taking advantage of new platforms to reach our listeners,” said RAB President and CEO Erica Farber. The digital revenues category represents revenues generated by websites, Internet/web streaming and HD Radio including HD2 and HD3 stations.
As the overall contribution that digital revenues makes to radio’s revenue edges closer to 5%, Internet advertising revenues are hitting record highs. The Interactive Advertising Bureau reported that Q3 of 2012 was up 18% over a year earlier, with Q4 numbers yet to be released. With spot radio dollars stuck in barely positive territory, digital solutions that enable broadcasters to unlock a portion of that pie become an important piece of the radio economy.
RAB president and CEO Erica Farber will deliver a keynote speech at RAIN Summit West on April 7th, offering her perspectives on radio’s digital initiatives and prospects for the future. Other panels will explore online options to capture more revenue as well. For more information and to register, click here. (Early bird registration ends next week.)
Triton Digital is getting ready to launch an online ad exchange for audio ads that will be the first platform to enable automated buying and selling of online audio impressions. a2x is the first audio advertising exchange that enables advertisers to buy targeted online and mobile audio inventory in real-time. The solution provides a system for managing, buying and selling third party advertising campaigns. In addition, a2x facilitates the execution of digital advertising trades between third parties, providing an information database featuring lists of advertising bid and offer values.
To offer targetability, the a2x solution integrates consumer data from partner eXelate which provides data and insight on online purchase intent, household demographics and behavioral propensities that enable digital advertisers to make optimal marketing decisions.
Following this announcement came one from media buying division of worldwide ad agency behemoth WPP, which includes GroupM, that they would be partnering with Triton’s a2x platform to offer a real time audio ad buying technology to ad partners. According to coverage of this announcement in AdWeek, Triton Digital has access to digital audio inventory from publishers like Pandora, Cox Communications, NPR, and Slacker Radio, though not all publishers are yet on board for RTB (real time buying) advertising.”
While banner ad exchanges have been around for a long time, both the launch of an automated real time buying solution for streaming audio ads, and the partnering with a major worldwide ad agency buying group are major announcements that hold the promise of having a significant impact on the online audio marketplace. It will streamline cross platform integration of streaming audio ads which in turn will stimulate spending.
This morning’s Inside Radio reports that Hubbard owned WTOP will no longer insert ads in its streams, opting instead to simulcast 100% of its broadcast programming online. This is a decision made earlier this year by small market broadcasting group Saga Communications, who at the time blamed imperfect ad insertion technology for its decision.
The biggest reason that a broadcast company would opt to simulcast 100% of its programming rather than inserting different ads into its stream would be that Arbitron will only measure the online audience and the on-air audience as one if the station simulcasts the exact same thing on the stream as it broadcasts. There’s nothing wrong with Arbitron’s thinking in this regard – it would be flawed for them to represent the two audiences (streamed and broadcast) as one if the programming were not completely identical. That would be misleading to advertisers who might look at the combined audience number and conclude that their commercials achieved that reach when they had not.
WTOP is up front about the reason for its move. Inside Radio quotes SVP/GM Joel Oxley : “Since WTOP is now a simulcast, those listeners can now be added to our Arbitron ratings,” he says. “For WTOP even a slight move up in ratings can mean a significant rise in revenue.” For the top billing radio station in the country, that can make a big difference.
This move by WTOP signals a growing interest by broadcasters in blending their audiences into one to create ratings uniformity. It’s a clear decision to sell the audience as one, rather than two separate audiences. It makes sense in some ways, but there are problems as well. Ads created for over the air listeners often have a call to action like “Call this number” while ads that are streamed should have an online call to action. As well, streaming ads have more targeting and tracking capabilities than broadcast ads do. But times are tough and revenues are down. Broadcasters, like everyone else, are forced to take a hard look at their options and in a case like this prefer the one that promises a more immediate uptick for revenue.