Last week Cox Media made a couple of smart moves that signify their serious approach to online advertising. First they announced that they would merge Adify, a company they acquired a couple of years ago that sells online advertising across vertical networks, with Cox Cross Media to form a new division Cox Digital Solutions. Within days they added to this move, buying the IB Local Network business and advertising sales group of Internet Broadcasting. Internet Broadcasting is an online banner network company that has been around awhile. No doubt, they have well established relationships and know how to sell online ad campaigns.
With the acquisition, Cox Digital picks up the products, customers and employees, all invaluable assets to a broadcast company looking for a digital makeover. The new company will be headed by Steve Shaw, formerly a Sr. V.P. with Cox Cross Media. Shaw himself is a retooled Radio Rep executive who left Katz Radio in 2006.
“IB Local Network’s publisher relationships and media sales power are a natural fit with Cox Digital Solutions.” said Steve Shaw, President of Cox Digital Solutions. “This combination will enable us to meet a wider set of customer needs through a richer solution set, increase efficiencies, and significantly expand our opportunities for growth.”
Broadcasters have struggled to capture digital dollars from the ever increasing digital portion of advertising revenues. This move, like the earlier acquisition of Adify, is a smart approach to doing business with digital agencies by meeting them on their own terms.
Several recent articles have questioned the survival of broadcast radio in the face of Internet radio. In an article last month, the NY Times pointed to the fact that Internet radio stations like Pandora, Slacker and Last.fm allow listeners to customize their listening experience as one reason that Internet radio has grown in popularity with listeners. New devices that enable in-car listening will make listening even easier – Pioneer and Alpine are two manufacturers that have introduced new in-car devices. Other companies have introduced apps that make it easier to use your iPhone to stream your favorite Internet radio station in your car.
Perhaps the most ironic article I have read about the growing challenge that Internet radio presents to traditional AM/FM listening is one in AutoTrader.com, owned by Cox Enterprises – the same company that owns 86 radio stations. The article asks:
“are we witnessing the gradual death of traditional broadcast radio? Far from being shackled to, say, Clear Channel’s corporate playlist or a DJ’s whims, Internet radio stations put users in the driver’s seat and allow them to create unique channels based on criteria such as artist, genre, or song. Yet, a savvy, $4.99 app from Livio Radio, which turns the iPhone into a digital receiver capable of receiving over 42,000 AM/FM and Internet stations, will give users access to more broadcast radio stations than ever before, right down to tiny local stations clear across the country.”
While it’s a little strange that this article appears in a Cox owned publication, the point is right on – if streaming technology is viewed as simply an additional channel to the AM/FM dial, then Internet radio presents not a threat but an opportunity to radio broadcasters. Already in the business of producing audio content, stations now have the opportunity to extend their audience base and increase both listeners and time spent listening on a new channel.
Here’s the thing. Internet radio isn’t going away.
But that doesn’t have to be a threat to broadcasters who are willing to extend their platform and offer streaming as an option to their listeners. The mistake broadcasters make is thinking that they have a choice when it comes to streaming, and proclaim streaming as too expensive. If a station’s listener wants to listen online, and that station is not offering its programming online, they will find another station online to listen to.
Isn’t that a good enough reason to stream?