The recently released Infinite Dial 2009 Study by Arbitron and Edison Research offered insight into what listeners are looking for when they listen to Internet radio. For example, when asked why they listen to online radio, monthly listeners indicated that the biggest reasons were to listen to audio they could not get elsewhere, and to have more control over the music. Broadcasters should note this, evaluate and modify their online streaming strategy.
Most streaming broadcasters are streaming the same programming that they are running on the air and inserting different commercials. While there’s nothing wrong with this, it’s not a programming strategy that will satisfy listeners long term. Listeners are looking for audio that they can’t get elsewhere, and they are also looking for the ability to influence what they are hearing. They’re not getting those things by listening to an over the air station’s stream.
Interestingly, when asked how they heard about their favorite online station, the majority answered that they heard about it from an on-air source. Broadcasters are doing a great job of spreading the word about streaming, however, without a better online platform, broadcasters who only stream the same programming they are running over the air are at risk of pushing listeners online and then losing them to more diverse, flexible online choices. To avoid this, broadcasters should expand their online platform and offer various channels in addition to their main broadcast stream that expand on their format, and allow listeners ways to interact. There are actually several companies that will develop these side channels for broadcasters, such as Slipstream and Custom Channels.
Broadcast stations have a great chance to build their online audience. To survive, they’ll have to do more than simply redistribute on-air content on their streams and expand their online audio offerings to make sure those listeners don’t jump to another platform looking for more interactive features.