RAIN 4/6: Webcasters need real strategies to stand out in practically unlimited field

Paul Maloney
April 6, 2012 - 1:05pm

Internet radio is a "low-barrier-to-entry" industry. No FCC license is necessary, no huge tower in a cornfield. Get your content together, make a few phone calls, and you can be up and streaming.

The abundance of choice on this "infinite dial" is, more cynically, the result of that low barrier. How does your compelling and enjoyable Internet radio service find welcoming ears that have already been repeatedly disappointed by about a thousand of your well-intentioned by under-achieving competitors?

Billboard.biz offers some ideas for services "to separate themselves from the crowd." We love reading (and writing) about Internet radio, and we especially appreciate what it says about our industry that it's not at all unusual to see content like this in a music industry publication.

The article is concerned mostly with Pandora and its progeny: algorithm-driven recommendation/personalized playlist services. Billboard writes, "Already there is very little noticeable difference between the music most services play. Of course, these companies would certainly argue that differences exist between the ways services create personalized listening experiences. But from a listener's perspective they're all pretty similar. Over time, recommendation algorithm that generate playlists will advance to the point where one service's radio feature will be, more or less, indistinguishable from another."

The first recommendation is "create the best product." Duh. Actually, Billboard here is referring simply to the ease-of-use of services like Pandora and iHeartRadio, and it makes sense. People enjoy using a product the can easily manipulate, and that responds to them as they think it should. 

"Additional or exclusive content" can also set you apart (e.g. SiriusXM and Howard Stern; iHeartRadio and its AM/FM streams). Again, "gee, thanks!" Certainly the cost to enter the field starts to sharply rise with big-ticket contracts with personalities, artists, and pro sports leagues.

Likely more valuable is Billboard's advice to "find a hook... try being something great to a smaller number of people... some Internet radio services will need to cede the mainstream users to the larger players and find other ways to get a firm toehold in the market." This is the magic right here, where the genius shows through. The most interesting developments in Internet radio will probably happen right here: brilliant thinking leading to unique ways for listeners to enjoy the content they love.

Finally, if you "add features," you can increase the depth of your offering to listeners who might get bored with "default" settings, and be willing to put in the time and effort to take advantage of more powerful customization (Billboard mentions Slacker and Raditaz).

The "infinite dial" truly offers a space for everyone. Only a few will have the means to offer hundreds of genres of music, or the most cutting-edge technology, or top-name exclusive content -- but any webcaster can have a great idea, a unique angle, and superb execution and focus. And that draws a crowd.

Read "Business Matters: Internet Radio Services Need To Separate Themselves from the Crowd" in Billboard.biz here.

Michael Schmitt
April 6, 2012 - 1:05pm

WEEI's on-demand content browserRadio listeners increasingly want to consume media on their own schedule. Inside Radio reports today on several radio stations that are offering on-demand, "time-shifted" content -- and finding success.

Entercom Boston sports station WEEI, for example, has seen a 20% growth in on-demand audio consumption compared to last year. The station generates an average of 450,000 on-demand audio plays per month and around 550,000 podcast downloads.

Meanwhile, podcasts of the "Preston & Steve" morning show on Greater Media's WMMR in Philadelphia are downloaded more than 500,000 times per month. PD Bill Weston tells Inside Radio that over half of the downloads aren't by regular subscribers. "There are a lot of people that are getting it piecemeal, they go on and find it and pull it in because they missed a day," he said.

And just yesterday ESPN Radio announced its website had seen its "best month" yet in March, with on-demand listening to through the ESPN Audio NOW Player up 511% over March 2011 (RAIN coverage here).

All this time-shifted listening will increase radio consumption overall, argues enterpeneur Michael Roberston. His DAR.fm service acts like a TiVo for radio programs (RAIN coverage here). And he tells Inside Radio the service now has 50,000 active users. But to see the increase in consumption, "radio measurement has to change, just like TV measurement has," Robertson said. 

Roberston will be a panelist at the upcoming RAIN Summit West 2012 conference in Las Vegas. He'll speak on the topic of "The Streaming Music Landscape," alongside Brendan Benzing of Rhapsody, Paul Campbell of Amazing Radio, Jamie Purpora of TuneCore and moderator Ted Cohen of TAG Strategic. Find out more here

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Michael Schmitt
April 6, 2012 - 1:05pm

PandoraPandora says it streamed more than one billion listener hours in March 2012. That's according to the company's newly-released audience metrics for the month.

In early March, Pandora CEO Joe Kennedy announced the company would release "key audience metrics" each month, starting with data from February (RAIN coverage here).

Pandora's more than one billion listener hours in March is up 88% from the same period last year. Additionally, Pandora says its share of total U.S. radio listener was 5.79% in March, up from 5.74% in February. The webcaster's active listener count reached 51 million, up 59% from 32 million in March 2011.

Find Pandora's press release here

Pandora also recently announced that it's confirmed more than 400 local advertising campaigns to run this year so far. The company says this demonstrates "increased sales momentum in the top local radio markets." You can find Pandora's press release here.

Pandora SVP of Advertising Sales Steven Kritzman and VP of Audio Sales Doug Sterne will be panelists at the upcoming RAIN Summit West 2012. If you want to hear more about Pandora's advertising plans, we encourage you to attend! Find out more here.

Michael Schmitt
April 6, 2012 - 1:05pm

Chris PriceCBS Interactive's Last.fm has appointed Chris Price as Head of Music.

Price most recently served as Director/Music Programming for MTV in the UK. He's also spent time with BBC Radio 1, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group.

All Access has more coverage here.