In the category of really cool ways to extend your online audio platform, Public Radio International has developed widgets that feature an in-page audio player, as well as headlines of PRI stories so listeners can freely embed them on Web sites, blogs, social networks and personalized Web pages. Individuals who subsequently find these newly embedded widgets can “grab” them and perpetuate the free viral distribution.
PRI produces and distributes programs such as “The World,” “The Takeaway” and “This American Life,” and distributes news services like the BBC World Service and Capitol News Connection. The Minneapolis-based network provides more than 400 hours of audio content each week. Headlines and audio in three categories are available in widget extensions that can be co-branded upon request. There are no setup, licensing or hosting fees.
The widgets are powered by NewsGator, the social computing company, which enables syndication, tracks usage volume, and lets PRI editors customize the widgets’ look, feel and behavior. The widgets help PRI capitalize on the radio listeners’ growing interest in the Internet: radio-related Web sites saw a 30 percent jump in visitors last year, up to more than 65 million, according to comScore.
Allowing sites and stations to carry their programming is an excellent way for PRI to extend their online audio platform. Clearly, they understand that it’s all about letting the listener choose how, when and where they want to consume their content.
In a similar move, CBSRadio recently partnered with Spacial Audio, an ad insertion and scheduling software provider, to distribute newsfeeds to all stations on that platform. It may not be quite as nifty as offering a widget that can be embedded into any station’s website, but the idea of extending their reach by distributing their news to online partners is a good one.
Spacial Audio, a Streaming and Ad Insertion provider, has partnered with Google to sell streaming audio inventory on Internet only stations in its network. Over the past few months, Spacial and Google have been conducting an Alpha Test of a new system for selling and placing audio ads with companion banners on internet-only radio stations, using the Google AdWords-based system.
This announcement comes as Spacial has decided to make this system available to all Internet based stations on its platform. The alpha test is not offered to streaming broadcast stations at this time. A couple of months ago Google announced that they were planning to end their broadcast radio sales efforts and focus on building an online streaming audio ad platform (reported here). Last week, speaking on a panel at the RAIN Summit, Jag Duggal, Group Product Manager, Google Audio, provided bits and pieces of their plans and initial tests. This announcement by Spacial is the first clear indicator of a direction.
Both the choice of Spacial Audio as a partner and the decision to focus initially on online brands makes sense for Google. The online brands have more flexibility in ad insertion since they do not need to be concerned about matching lengths to over the air spots and timing. Spacial Audio’s software for ad insertion is well suited and widely used by online broadcasters’ needs. Google can experiment with commercial lengths that optimize results for advertisers.
Spacial has announced a list of criteria that stations must meet to qualify for the test. All stations will be paid for ads run during the test phase of the system. Stations must be using the Spacial Audio’s Ad Insertion software, which will be provided for free during the test for stations that are not currently using it. In addition, stations must be using Windows Media for streaming, and must use a proprietary Spacial player. The announcement adds that stations should have a minimum of 100 concurrent listeners, although smaller stations may be considered.
This is exciting news for Spacial and Google, and for Internet radio in general as it adds another major player to the rapidly evolving streaming audio ad revenue marketplace.
Triton Digital has announced that they have inked an agreement to sell ReplaceAds Internet radio ad inventory. This adds more than a billion streaming audio and video impressions to Triton’s streaming network.
“The ReplaceAds™ Network further increases our digital sales footprint allowing us to provide a dramatically larger, more exclusive list of affiliates to our advertisers,” said Bill Freund, executive vice president of Triton Media Group. The ReplaceAds network has thousands of stations as affiliates, including both streaming broadcasters such as Sandusky Radio, Buckley Radio, Pamal Broadcasting, Main Line Broadcasting, Forever Broadcasting and Fox News Talk; as well as many large online brands like 977 Music, Radioio, Star104, and 1.FM.
The Triton Digital Network becomes much larger and more interesting with this move. Triton also has access to lots of streaming inventory through its relationship with the Dial Global Broadcast Network, which is owned by Triton. Freund says it’s still undetermined whether ReplaceAds will use AndoMedia’s Webcast Metrics to quantify the size of their audience. A few months ago, ReplaceAds announced that they had inked a deal to utilize Arbitron comScore for audience measurement, but since then that service has been halted. Since Targetspot and Katz Online – the other large online streaming networks – are now both being measured by Webcast Metrics, it would make sense for not just ReplaceAds, but all of Triton’s online network to be measured by the same service.
Triton becomes a major online audio network player with this move, competing with the above mentioned Targetspot and Katz Online. Each network can claim substantial coverage in terms of stations and impressions, but there’s crossover between all three as well. Targetspot and Katz Online share CBSRadio’s stations in their network, and Targetspot last week announced a list of new affiliates,some of whom are Katz clients as well – such as Saga and Bonneville. ReplaceAds and Katz Online share several stations: Sandusky, Fox News Talk, WOR and Radioio are a few. 977 Music is listed by all three networks.
This kind of crossover is practical from the station’s perspective, since they are working with multiple networks in an attempt to fully monetize their inventory. However, it could create confusion and concern about duplication in the marketplace, as well as put negative pressure on inventory as networks compete for sales. Online display ad networks saw cpms drop as the number of networks grew and exclusive relationships between sites and networks dropped. Google Audio’s entrance into the space in the next few months may complicate it further.
It may be time for networks to begin seeking more exclusive contracts with their affiliates than they have in the past to avoid those pitfalls. Stations should also carefully control inventory and pricing among multiple networks. This could be tricky – I’m not sure how many stations have systems in place to maximize rates and track inventory on their streams.
Ando Media has released audience data for their measured group of stations for March 2009. The big gainer on the ranker is CBSRadio, with a weekly cume of more than 6.5 million listeners to their network. The CBSRadio network now includes both Yahoo Launchcast and AOL Radio audiences, as well as Last.fm and all the streaming channels of CBSRadio’s broadcast stations. As RAIN: The Radio and Internet Newsletter pointed out in their report of this new data on friday – CBSRadio’s streaming audience is second only to YouTube, per David Goodman in his speech at the RAIN Summit last monday.
Other stations or networks saw gains in their streaming audience: Clear Channel’s online network audience grew modestly, as did Citadel’s, Cox’s and Bonneville’s. Entercom has seen some large audience growth in the past couple of months and now has a weekly cume of over half a million. Online brand Digitally Imported continues to gain audience and hold fast as the most listened to online brand on the Ando Media ranker.
A few weeks ago, Ando Media announced that former Arbitron measurement client Targetspot had inked a deal to use Ando’s measurement services. The size of the Targetspot network is not yet reflected in this monthly data. Arbitron, which had partnered with comScore website measurement service to measure stations and networks using panel based data, recently halted that service following defections by several of their large clients to Ando Media’s Webcast Metrics audience measurement platform. Stations and networks prefer Ando Media’s server based audience measurement tools which enable them to accurately pinpoint the size of their network, stations, and channels.
Attendees to the RAIN Summit this week in Las Vegas were immersed in a deluge of discussions on Internet radio platforms, strategies, legal issues. The keynote addresses were delivered by two thought and execution leaders in the space – David Goodman, President of Digital Media and Marketing for CBSRadio, and Joe Kennedy, CEO of Pandora. Goodman provided an overview of their digital platform and strategy, including CBSRadio’s willingness to invest in the future with its major purchase of Last.fm. He humbly credited his boss Dan Mason with a futuristic approach that has driven them to create their impressive digital platform.
Kennedy was equally inspiring, talking about the way media must shift from a mindset of broadcasting one channel to thousands of people to a one to one approach that understands the way listeners wish to consume their media in the future. Both companies have seen remarkable success in the past year with their digital platforms, and have lead the space in terms of audience growth and innovation. They’ve also generated substantial buzz which has benefitted the industry as a whole.
Highlights from the five panels were too numerous to mention, so here are some random notes. On a panel about monetizing streaming audio, Jag Duggal of Google Audio provided hints of their new Internet radio ad platform which will resemble AdSense in many ways. Later he told me that within a month or so we’ll hear more. Cheryl Lucanegro talked about Pandora’s :10 audio units with banners or links that are seeing very high click through rates (.02 to .10).
On a panel about Performance Royalties, moderated by legal expert David Oxenford, Citadel’s John Rosso provided a very good explanation of the benefits and thoughts behind the recent negotiated settlement between NAB and Sound Exchange. Most interesting was his statement that his company is already monetizing streaming at a higher rate per listener hour than broadcast.
There were two panels discussing Internet radio’s new devices, mobile, automotive and tabletop. Bonneville’s Russell Banz noted that station’s shouldn’t have “digital strategies” separate from broadcast strategies at this point, rather, digital platforms are an essential part of any broadcaster’s strategy. RadioTime’s Dan Halyburton added that times are certainly tough, ad sales are challenging, but now is the time to move toward establishing a mobile platform.
There were so many industry wizards in the room it’s hard to mention them all: Cox’s Gregg Lindahl hosted a panel; Targetspot’s Perlson, Katz Online’s Benedik, and Triton’s Freund sat side by side to discuss revenue strategies; Online stations like Radio Paradise and Digitally Imported shared their wisdom; the CEO of Goom Radio Rob Williams talked about their strategy; Bob Maccini of AndoMedia, Paul Jacobs of Jacobs Media, and Tom Webster of Edison Research gave excellent research presentations. Kurt Hanson capped off the day by delivering his signature state of the industry talk, The Future of Radio, followed by a cocktail party by the pool.
I’ve been “around” Internet radio for a very long time now, since around 2001. There have been many frustrating days (years) waiting for audience to grow, advertisers to catch on, buzz to build. This week at the RAIN Summit the room was full of optimism, and everyone was bullish on the industry. It was a fine, fine day to be in Internet radio. If you were there, please comment on what you thought the highlights of the day were!
On Monday, Internet radio’s Main Event, the Annual RAIN Summit took place in Las Vegas at the Renaissance Hotel. The impressive attendance at the one day meeting is an indicator of the growing popularity of streaming audio.
One of the presentations featured Tom Webster of Edison Research and the newly updated study The Infinite Dial 2009 – an update of Arbitron and Edison Research’s annual survey of Radio’s Digital Platforms that date as far back as 1998. It’s a great study, and the most comprehensive annual study of national listening patterns to Internet radio and other digital platforms.
The online radio weekly listening audience has grown by a remarkable one-third in the past year. 42 million persons 12+, which represents 17% of that US population, now listen to Internet radio on a weekly basis; and 69 million have listened in the past month. Big numbers, indicating that Internet radio has clearly moved into a mass appeal media platform.
As it has in the past, listening to online radio skews slightly male – about 52% of the listeners are male, and 48% female. This is interesting as it runs counter to the gender skew for persons online, which tends to be female. The age cells for online radio listening are nicely balanced, with 19% 25-34, 19% 35-44, 23% 45-54, 12% 55-64, 23% 12-24 and 4% over 65. Online radio listeners are upscale, well educated and employed.
Internet radio is a great way to sell products or services online. Lots of people listen to Internet radio while they are researching an online product or service or actually shopping online, giving advertisers a clear reason to use online audio to support their online marketing platforms. Ads should specifically talk to an online audience.
It’s a great study, full of useful data that fortifies the buzz around Internet radio – it’s real, it’s mass appeal, and it’s growing. Kudos to Edison Research, Arbitron, and sponsor Targetspot for continuing to update this information and release it for use by the industry at large. More to come this week in Audio4cast about the RAIN Summit as well as this newly released study.
There are several reasons why WEEI.com is legendary in my book, not the least of which is that it’s the home of the Red Sox. But the reason the rest of the Internet radio world should take note of Entercom’s Boston based sports talk station is its impressive digital platform. Recently I spoke to Tim Murphy, General Manager of WEEI.com. That’s right, I said GM of WEEI.com. Murphy admits he might be the only GM of a broadcast station’s online platform in the country. By hiring Murphy, who comes from Boston.com with a significant background in digital operations and sales, Entercom recognized the importance of digital, and the potential of WEEI.com.
WEEI has a total weekly aqh, according to Ando Media, of about 3800, which makes them one of the largest if not the largest single broadcast streaming station. Their website gets 500,000 unique visitors a month, which puts it in a cume range comparable to their broadcast station. They also see 450,000 podcasts streamed from their site or downloaded onto devices by listeners per month.
In addition to a General Manager, WEEI.com has about ten employees, including three full time writers/site editors who develop 40-50 new pieces of content daily. Reporters cover all the sports teams in Boston and write blogs and in-depth articles. Last year, they made a significant investment in the site when they cut a deal that brought Curt Shilling’s blog 38 Pitches exclusively to WEEI.com.
Murphy’s emphatic about the way campaigns are sold on the site. He says right now most of the campaigns are integrated to include audio, video gateways, display, and over the air inventory. The broadcast sales staff sells the inventory, with his guidance. The most critical thing, says Murphy, is to make sure that all the online audio creative is written specifically for the streaming listener, and ties in the banner on the player. He’s got some great ideas for making campaigns work by integrating the audio and the banner, telling the listener to enter their email address in the banner on the player, or enter their zipcode to get the location of the store nearest them.
Murphy, and Sandy Smallens, SVP of Digital for Entercom, are a couple of guys that really get it. The station’s digital platform is awesome – in Murphy’s own words “A quantum leap in the radio industry.” I agree…
Grooveshark founder Sam Tarantino was driving by a used record store one day and decided to try to create a virtual version where people could upload their music and others could pay to download it, with a portion of that sale going to the person who put it there. A nice, albeit complex thought that has morphed recently into a music site where you can stream any song you want to hear.
Online music sites can be divided into two basic groups – there are sites that let you listen to songs on demand, build playlists, and control exactly what you hear; and there are sites that are online radio controlled by the listener. Internet radio stations have compulsory licensing, meaning anyone can be licensed to start one, but requirements include established performance royalty payments, as well rules as to how many songs by one artist can be streamed within certain amounts of time. On demand sites don’t follow those rules, and the licensing is not automatic, instead they must negotiate licenses with the record companies.
Grooveshark is an on demand streaming music site. They have an “experimental” license with the record companies which allow them to stream songs on demand and share revenue with the labels and artists based on how often a certain song or artist is played, according to a “Master Rights Agreement.”
Grooveshark is streaming 50 to 60 million songs per month to more than 400,000 users. Their audience is growing at a rate of 2 to 3% per day. When you visit the site and type in an artist, you get a list of songs that you can choose to hear, put in a listening queue, or embed in a web page.
Recently, Grooveshark has launched a new service called Grooveshark Artists which is designed to complement the streaming on demand site and give independent artists a chance to find an audience. For $500 an artist can purchase 5000 song plays on Grooveshark. The songs will be played to listeners who have chosen to listen to other songs or artists similar to theirs. Listeners can rate the songs, and artists can see how the audience is responding to their music.
Grooveshark Artists has integrated a partnership with Creative Commons into the site so that artists can choose the permissions they want and appropriately license their music. Other partnerships are designed to help the independent artist as well – such as ticket sales with Showclix, fund raising partner Sellaband, lyric posting services from lyrics.com, and interactive store options for music downloads and more from Bandcamp.
Jack DeYoung, VP of Label Relations for Grooveshark, says they want to make Grooveshark Artists work for musicians. “Making sure the artists get paid has been a priority for us from day one. We have a master’s agreement that they can sign when they sign up that ensures they’re being adequately paid for their songs being played on Grooveshark. We also have a litany of partnerships with companies that give bands the opportunity to help fund and sell their music”.
It’s working according to Khamelien, a hip-hop/reggae artist who paid $500 per month for a 3 month campaign on Grooveshark Artists. He got 21,000 song plays and over 2500 fans from the campaign. According to his record label Goin’ Native Records; they saw a significant increase in iTunes sales as a result.
When they sign up, musicians can pick the amount they want to spend, choose to have a banner appear when their song plays, pick certain artists that they want their songs to play after, and more. It’s a great way to find listeners who are likely to like your music, and make a connection. Grooveshark Artists is all about connecting musicians with listeners and offering them tools to help them market themselves. It’s an idea that enables artists to circumvent the stifling music industry. Given all the bad press about the record labels these days, it seems like an idea whose time has come.
More and more national advertisers are using Internet radio every month. Whereas last year Katz Online Network was seeing 5 to 10 advertisers using their network of stations on a monthly basis, that number has grown to 15 to 20 this year. That’s a very healthy sign, according to Brian Benedik, President of Katz Online Network. And those are big name “blue chip” advertisers, he says, like Bank of America, Dish Network, Intuit’s Turbo Tax, Home Depot, Comedy Channel, REI, Walmart, Sears, Jared Jewelers, and WEBEX.
The company has been able to expand the number of advertisers using online radio by focusing on national advertisers who are using broadcast radio, and introducing them to their network of online stations. Many of the stations in the network are broadcast stations in top 50 markets who are now streaming and building their online audience. It makes sense for advertisers to extend their campaigns to include streaming stations and capture that audience, says Benedik.
Dollars are up as well, he says, while declining to give specifics. The number of stations in the Katz Online Network is expanding. Between large online brands such as AccuRadio, Digitally Imported, Radioio and others, and an extensive list of streaming broadcaster partners like Cox, CBSRadio, Radio One, Bonneville, and many more, the Katz Online Network has excellent coverage to offer any national advertiser.
It’s great to see such a long list of big name national brands that are using Internet radio as part of their advertising strategy. This inevitably pulls in more big brands and expands the revenue base for the medium.
On the topic of good news for Internet radio, there’s the recent announcement that the Federal Communications Commission has begun a year long process to evaluate the country’s access to broadband and create a plan to bring the entire country up to speed – with broadband Internet service that is. The FCC has been ordered by Congress to complete the plan by February 2010, and as a first step, on April 8th the FCC began by asking for comments from the public. The year long project will consider technologies, competing services and ways of doing business, and define best ways to make sure broadband access is affordable and accessable to everyone.
Equally compelling about this announcement is the fact that the Obama administration has set aside over $7 billion to build high speed networks. According to the Washington Post, there is some debate about what constitutes “high speed” with the FCC’s current definition of high speed not high enough for some experts. Part of the year long process will be to consider that definition.
The concept of blanket broadband access throughout the country would obviously benefit Internet radio in terms of audience growth. 59% of American households have broadband now – nearly 68 million US Homes. But 2008 saw a marked slowing in the growth rate of broadband subscribers, signifying that penetration of areas with access could be reaching its max.
In addition to building out the network of broadband access, the FCC aims to study ways to make broadband access more affordable. All of this is good – the concentrated effort by the FCC to plan and oversee buildout of a comprehensive broadband infrastructure, and the dedicated investment of $7.2 billion dollars are yet another reason the future looks bright for Internet radio.