10/15/13: CBS Radio’s new ad platform the latest innovation for streaming revenue

Brad Hill
October 15, 2013 - 9:55am

This guest column is by Jennifer Lane, CEO of RAIN Enterprises. It first appeared in Audio4cast.

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 and transform it 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 complement 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.

Brad Hill
October 15, 2013 - 9:55am

David Byrne (Talking Heads) is getting a lot of media attention for his OpEd in The Guardian, in which he contributes the latest high-profile artist opinion about Spotify, and streaming music generally. Much of the commentary on the column attempts to feed the fire of controversy: note the Digital Journal’s inaccurate headline: “David Byrne lambasts music streaming.”

In fact, Byrne provides the most balanced, sober, high-altitude opinion recently published -- a refreshing antidote to slashing rhetoric unleashed by Thom Yorke, Nigel Godrich, and others. Opinions center on artist payouts from Spotify and other services, and the truth is that sentiment falls liberally on both sides of the fence. Spotify, as a proxy for the streaming distribution model, can be, and is, viewed as both an extraordinary exposure platform and an agent of devaluing music product. 

Byrne properly notes that the benefit or deficit inherent in streaming depends largely on the artist’s career stage. Exposure at any cost is more important in early stages than later, when monetization of a growing fan base takes priority. 

There are times in Byrne’s 2,200-word disquisition when he seems disconcertingly like a Spotify newbie, or unfamiliar with essential aspects of the service. “There is also, I’m told, a way to see what your ‘friends’ have on their playlists,” he writes with unnerving cluelessness about Spotify’s industry-leading social connectivity. But Byrne’s above-it-all perspective does give him a solid grip on the major levers which shape the streaming business for tech companies, record labels, and recording artists.

It is the end of Byrne’s skeptical prospectus which lends the most credence: he has no answer to the inevitability of streaming music, and he avoids demonizing. More than that, he short-circuits quick conclusions by backpedalling from his own misgivings: “Were recording artists simply spoiled for a few decades and now those days are gone? Even Wagner was always in debt and slept with rich women to get funding -- so nothing’s new, right?”

But you know there’s another rhetorical shoe to drop, and Byrne lets it go by extending his thinking beyond music to all Internet-delivered media. This is the quotable quote: “It seems to me that the whole model is unsustainable as a means of supporting creative work of any kind. Not just music. The inevitable result would seem to be that the internet will suck the creative content out of the whole world until nothing is left.”

An apocalyptic view to be sure. But Byrne’s column is must-read for its intelligence and scope of thinking -- and as a tutorial to flame-throwing artists who scorch the earth with simplistic indictments of streaming music.

Brad Hill
October 15, 2013 - 9:55am

Pandora’s fledgling concert presentation division, called Pandora Presents, has shot into greater public awareness with the announcement that Celine Dion will perform a Pandora-hosted, Pandora-branded album pre-release concert.

The event is scheduled for October 29 in New York. The fact that another Pandora Presents concert is slotted for the 26th (Bridgit Mendler), but the series has not substantially been in the news until now, speaks to the obvious awareness advantage of celebrity.

Getting Pandora in the news is one reason to rope in a big name. (Although P doesn’t exactly starve for attention.) Brand reputation is another motivator, especially for a successful Internet radio service that struggles with controversy around its artist royalty concerns. (See this interview with Pandora’s CFO Mike Herring.) In the wake of scalding criticism from Thom Yorke and others, collaborating with Celine Dion takes angles for the same artist-support cred as Napster sponsoring Limp Bizkit’s summer tour in 2000.

The Pandora Presents concert series also folds into a “360-degree programming” strategy spearheaded by Spotify (Spotify Landmark) and Clear Channel (iHeartRadio Festival and Theaters). There is a service engagement lift as well, in the Celine concert -- one of the criteria for earning a free ticket is creating a Celine Dion station.

Brad Hill
October 15, 2013 - 9:55am

Some Boomers will tell you that in the 1960s and early 1970s, everyone identified either with The Beatles or The Rolling Stones -- but not both. The two preeminent recording bands of the era anchored opposite poles of a sprawling rock-pop continuum.

The Beatles: crafted, elite, highly produced, well-fed, boyish, experimental, their drug use in the service of musico-spiritual enlightenment.

The Stones: grounded, jamming, low production values, starving, old before their years, traditional, their drug use in the service of getting stoned.

If these two juggernaut bands divided the audience, iHeartRadio has been trying to capture the whole for over a year with All Beatles & Stones Radio. Presented on the iHeart platform, this unique stream is non-interactive -- no skipping. Start it up and lean back. (All Beatles & Stones was first covered in RAIN here, with legal considerations.)

The station is a link to youth for anyone old enough. For others … well in last season’s American Idol episode devoted to The Beatles, it was obvious (and confessed) that several contestants had never heard a Beatles song. So the iHeart station could be a musical education for some. Either way, it is great, vintage listening.

Brad Hill
October 15, 2013 - 9:55am

Merlin CEO criticizes label deals: In a conversation with Janko Roettgers of GigaOm, Charles Caldas, head of prominent indie-label consortium Merlin, points to a basic aspect of business modeling behind Spotify, iTunes Radio, and other major players. The advance payments to major labels, Caldas warns, sets up an unsustainable situation for small labels that are excluded from broad dealmaking. Caldas expands his thinking beyond Merlin’s constituency; he thinks music services are being set up by for failure by the labels.

Pandora CFO holds forth: In a CNET interview, Pandora CFO Mike Herring delivers crisp C-level talking points about Pandora’s business and ongoing royalty controversies. No breakthrough knowledge to be gleaned, but the interview provides a concise summary of Pandora stance. On royalties: “It’s not about lowering rates -- that’s about creating fair rates across lots of distribution channels.” On Apple’s launch of iTunes Radio related to the cost of doing business in the streaming space: “It took someone, frankly, with a lot of cash in the bank and a big income statement like Apple to finally launch a competing service.”