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As one of the founders of Ando Media I keenly follow developments in measuring Internet radio audience. As can be seen in the following graph, terrestrial radio’s Internet radio audience has flatlined for some time, no pulse, no signs of life.
This data is taken from Triton Digital’s monthly audience ranker (formerly Ando Media). The slight dip in July 2011 represents a summer seasonal decline as this same listening pattern happened in 2010. Of course Pandora stands out on this graph. The top 5 broadcasters include Clear Channel and CBS. They have a long way to go to catch Pandora. I am hopeful that Clear Channel will close at least some of the gap due to its elimination of all ads in its streams and new customization options announced 9/8/11. The most recent Triton Digital ranker for September is too soon so reflect any impact these moves may have.
I have just read Steve Jobs biography. He stated that “if you don’t cannibalize yourself, someone else will.” This is the position the radio industry is in. Many broadcasters are afraid that promoting their stream will result in declines in their over the air audience. Yes it may in the short term but long term it’s either offer the listener what they want or they will go elsewhere. Where did all of that Pandora listening come from?
This is the position the radio industry is in. All stations should cut back substantially on their ad units. This is one tactic that stations can take immediately and increase their audience. Sell two spots per hour make it a premium offering to advertisers. These two advertisers get audio, preroll and display opportunities. Make sure there are a number of different creatives for each ad type to avoid listener fatigue. This is only step one in what terrestrial radio stations that are streaming need to accomplish. Personalization and customization are next.
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There have been a number of recent developments in Internet Radio:
- Pandora has filed to go public and raise $100 million
- Spotify has concluded deals with leading U.S. record labels and announced a $100 Million equity raise
- Rdio announced it had received $17.5 million in funding.
- Slacker raised $3 Million in additional financing
- Clear Channel Radio acquired cloud based music system Thumbplay
- 2/26/10 MOG raised $9.5 Million
- Grooveshark raised $3.5 Million
Internet radio takes two forms, subscription model (all you can eat for low monthly fee or pay for no ads) and advertiser supported. There are pros and cons to both the consumer and the business model for both forms. In general I would favor the ad supported model but Internet radio companies such as Pandora pay a significant amount in music royalties thus making the business model less attractive.
I find it ridiculous that terrestrial radio executives and Sirius/XM don’t believe that they are in competition with Internet radio or that listeners don’t want a personalized experience. Customization can be actively managed (Pandora) or derived from one’s social media graph. I do understand that radio groups still derive 95% of their revenue from terrestrial and this is where they need to devote the bulk of their resources. However, they must be prepared (literally) for what is coming down the road.
When talking about music with my 16 year old son, I asked him how he learns about new music. He had two responses; 1) Facebook (when his friends “like” a song or artist and 2) www. thissongissick.com. The later is a site containing new artists or mixes/mashes curated by an individual. A shift from professional curation (the PD) to crowd sourcing and opinion molders has taken place. My son does listen to terrestrial radio in the car but he seems to already know just about every song that is being played and on only two occasions can I remember when he was excited about something he did not immediately recognize. Of course terrestrial radio playlists are extensively tested to weed out anything he would not recognize and like. On the way to school this morning (a 20 minute ride) I counted 72 changes of radio frequency due to commercials or monotonous jock talk. He was searching for music. This is a broken search function model which will be fixed in car dashboard 2.0.
XM/Sirius does have some unique content not available elsewhere (e.g. Howard Stern) that consumers are going to continue to want. XM/Sirius is a different distribution system with the advantage being ubiquitous across the U.S. I question whether their all-music channels can compete unless of course there is no Internet connectivity.
We just returned from the Fall National Association of Broadcasters convention in Washington, D.C. The mood was significantly more upbeat given the positive growth in radio revenue this year. One of the key themes of the convention was developing a digital strategy. Of course there are those who don’t want to acknowledge that the world has changed. Advertisers now have a way to measure results and be more efficient in their advertising expenditures. This structural shift in advertising has taken a heavy toll on traditional media including the radio industry. Lay a recession on top and well 2009 was a year the industry would like to forget. However, increasing revenue in 2010 has caused some to believe that “radio is back” and that digital is not important.
The radio industry is confused as there are so many different strategies and groups hawking digital initiatives and tools including social, web site, mobile, couponing, etc. Some of these products have a “cool” factor but I question the ability for a station to generate revenue given what little resources are being devoted. Just having a tool does not lead to revenue generation. In one of the panels a gentlemen lamented that he had done everything recommended, he had a non-station centric website, he was streaming, using Ando, but had no clue as to how to effectively monetize it all. Someone needs to bring some order and research to this chaos. In future blogs we plan on addressing each of the silos in a station’s digital media arsenal.