broadcast

System would use Pandora-like ratings to gauge user's interests, but still just a patent for now

Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - 12:50pm

iPhone musicApple has been granted a patent for a system that would let users replace ads (or other content) in audio or video broadcasts with their own content.

Apple Insider thinks the patent hints "at technology headed to the battle for the living room... the system could be tweaked for cable which would lend itself nicely to the set-top box Apple is rumored to be shopping around to U.S. providers." Just try a Google search for "Apple TV rumors" to see the level buzz in this area.

But the patent also singles out radio, whether it be AM, FM or streaming. It's actually titled, "Seamless switching between radio and local media."

Basically, it would work like this: A device using Apple's system could "determine when an upcoming broadcast segment or media item is not of interest to the user," whether it be an annoying song, a talk radio segment the user doesn't like or an ad. "When such an event is detected," writes Apple Insider, "the device will seamlessly switch to stored media until the unwanted content is completed." Stored media in this case could mean an mp3 song or podcast stored locally on the device.

The system would determine what users like and don't like using a rating system, "much like the system in place with apps like Pandora."

In other words, picture a TiVo where you can watch a short clip of a favorite show instead of an ad break.

Apple Insider goes into much more detail on Apple's new patent here.

Apple's radio app from 2010 patentThe patent is interesting as it could potentially make non-customizable radio (or TV) broadcasts much more relevant to individual listeners. Apple notes, "because the user has no control over the media broadcast, the user can typically only tune to a different media broadcast, or listen to or consume the broadcast content that is not of interest." With its system in place, a user wouldn't have to listen to such content anymore.

It could also potentially mean Apple could "strip out all the ads on your radio station," notes James Cridland in Media UK (here).

Of course, it could also mean absolutely nothing. It's just a patent for now.

In 2010, Apple submitted a patent for a native radio mobile app for AM, FM and satellite stations (RAIN coverage here; pictured left). We're all still waiting for that one. Same goes for Apple's "lifestyle companion app." Or that iPad optical stylus. For every smart cover or pinch-to-zoom patent, there's a smart bike or hybrid touchscreen desktop computer.

Point being: Apple patents hardly indicate when or even if such products or features will reach consumers’ hands. But we can't wait to find out! -- MS

iHeartRadio adds ratings "thumbs" for music on Clear Channel AM/FM streams

Friday, August 17, 2012 - 12:30pm

Clear Channel's iHeartRadio has made "thumbs-up" and "thumbs-down" song rating buttons active for Clear Channel broadcast radio streams, Inside Radio reports today.

The positive/negative feedback buttons are pretty commonplace for database-driven Internet-only radio streams from many services, and that information can immediately affect the programming. Obviously, the functionality will be a little different on broadcast streams. The effect on the content won't be immediate, but it should be a good way for the company to gauge listener response to its programming. It could also drive iHeartRadio registrations (giving Clear Channel important listener demo information for ad-targeting purposes), Inside Radio reasons, as the functions only work when a registered listener is logged in (non-registered listeners are prompted to sign up when they try to rate songs).

"Research shows radio stations that give their listeners effective ways to express their opinions may have an advantage. An online survey of female radio listeners aged 15-54 conducted in May by Alan Burns & Associates found a top difference between heavy and light radio listeners is that heavy listeners are 86% more likely to appreciate feeling that their opinions matter," reports Inside Radio.

One last advantage of the system for Clear Channel: the thumbs up/thumbs down isn't (yet) available on other broadcasters' simulcast streams, only Clear Channel's. This functionality (and the data garnered from it) is a nice incentive for other broadcasters to join the iHeartRadio aggregation (and/or a commoditizable value-added for Clear Channel's iHeartRadio deals).

Webcast allies wary of b'dcast royalty issue in efforts for reform of rate-determining standards

Thursday, August 16, 2012 - 1:15pm

Leading webcaster Pandora, Utah Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz, and now the Brookings Institution (see yesterday's RAIN here) are all calling for the use of a consistent standard for determining sound recording performance royalties across Internet, satellite, and cable radio. (Currently, webcasters pay a rate significantly higher than other forms of digital radio, since the legal reference determining judges are instructed to use is dramatically different.) Even the NAB's Dennis Wharton says he "appreciate(s) (Chaffetz's) interest in reforming the current Interet radio rate structure."

But, no one among this group is arguing that broadcasters should be paying this fee too.

The reason: it's simply been proven to be far too difficult a task to accomplish such a major change in an established and powerful U.S. industry.

For webcasters and their allies, their immediate goal is relief from the controversial "willing buyer/willing seller" standard -- which might reasonably be considered an achievable end. The broadcast radio royalty issue would be like an anchor tied to the foot of a drowing man.

Congressman Chaffetz's proposed "Internet Radio Fairness Act" (in RAIN here) would compel judges deciding royalty rates for Internet radio to base their decisions on the same legal standard they use for satellite and cable radio rates. It would not address the matter of broadcast royalties.

The National Journal writes that Pandora argues that the radio royalty debate has dragged down efforts to get the webcast royalty standard changed from "willing buyer/willing seller" to the more widely-accepted "801(b)(1)." "We’ve been held hostage to that for years," Tim Westergren, Pandora’s founder and chief strategy officer, told the news source. "The reason nothing has been fixed is we’ve been stuck behind [radio-station] royalties. We're victims of a fight that’s not ours."

John Villasenor, author of the Brookings paper covered yesterday, in it wrote, "Any new legislation should not include a provision to end the AM and FM over-the-air 'terrestrial' broadcasters’ longstanding sound recording performance royalty exemption... every one of the dozens of legislative attempts to end it since 1926 has run up against extremely strong opposition from terrestrial broadcasters and has failed. New legislation including a provision ending the terrestrial broadcasters’ exemption would be likely to fail as well." Without the provision, he continues, legislation "may even garner the support of the National Association of Broadcasters," whose current streaming royalty deal with SoundExchange expires at the end of 2015, "meaning that terrestrial broadcasters, like pureplay webcasters, would benefit from a more reasonable digital broadcast statutory royalty framework."

It may not be so simple, however. Ray Hair, international president of the American Federation of Musicians, writing in The Hill, says it's not that Internet radio's royalties are too high, it's that other platforms (especially broadcasters') rates are far too low! He says Chaffetz's bill "would allow the digital platforms to pay musicians less... at rates far below market value. The bill would effectively unleash a race to the bottom, with radio platforms competing to see which can pay musicians the least." It's the Internet radio platform which he seems to think is giving "artists their fair share," and writes, "People I know are already calling the bill by a more appropriate name: the 'Internet Radio Rip-off Act.'"

Vigrinia Congressman Bob Goodlatte, vying for the top Republican spot on the House Judiciary Committee (he currently heads its Intellectual Property, Competition, and the Internet Subcommittee), told the National Journal he expects his panel will take up the matter of music-royalties, and is open to calls for requiring traditional radio stations to pay performance fees.

Read more in the National Journal here and The Hill here.

NYT: Broadcasters face "thorny" problem of which service to join

Monday, August 6, 2012 - 12:45pm

TuneIn and iHeartRadioWeb radio aggregators TuneIn and Clear Channel's iHeartRadio have become "symbols for the challenges of adapting to the digital age" for the radio industry, writes the New York Times. The two services -- now "going head-to-head in the marketplace" -- actually have much in common.

Both offer an enormous range of radio station streams (70,000 from TuneIn, nearly 2,000 live stations from iHeartRadio). Both are increasingly popular: TuneIn just today announced it now has 40 million monthly users, while Clear Channel says iHeartRadio has more than 12 million registered users.

"But as businesses they represent two poles of media," writes NYT. Where TuneIn only serves as an aggregator or directory, iHeartRadio has launched its own customizable radio service "modeled after Pandora" (not mention a series of "iHeartRadio Originals" stations, here). And iHeartRadio is only a piece of Clear Channel. That's a trait CC executives say is an advantage.

"The great thing about iHeartRadio,” said Clear Channel Media and Entertainment CEO John Hogan, “is that it is just one of a number of opportunities that we have to monetize the audience." 

Federated Media has just announced they will add their 17 radio stations to iHeartRadio (more coverage here). And iHeartRadio has added a new station dedicated to financial talk radio host Dave Ramsey (more coverage here).

But some broadcasters feel uneasy "about joining a platform run by the biggest player in the market," especially when "Clear Channel has been aggressive in pushing for exclusivity." That includes Entercom, which has joined TuneIn but not yet iHeartRadio. "Sharing our content is a good thing, if the business arrangement makes sense," said Entercom CEO David Field (more here).

TuneIn, on the other hand, is independent. That means it doesn't have the same sort of major media company backing as iHeartRadio, though TuneIn has just announced $16 million in new funding (bringing its total financing up to $22 million).

New York TimesBut that also means TuneIn has a level of "neutrality in the radio business," which the company says makes it a "safer choice for broadcasters." TuneIn CEO John Donham told NYT, "We are not a broadcaster, so we do not have any inherent interest for any broadcaster to succeed or fail."

More and more broadcasters, however, have opted to join both platforms. They aim "to be everywhere they could be possibly be."

"Everybody is looking at this and saying, look, you don’t know where the world is going, and you need to be in a lot of places,” said Emmis CEO Jeff Smulyan. KCRW director of interactive media Anil Dewan said, "Our mission is about getting our content to as wide an audience as possible." Both KCRW and Emmis have joined TuneIn and iHeartRadio.

"It would be better for services and listeners if there were more than two aggregators offering access to every service out there, making it as easy as possible to listen," argues Audio4Cast's Jennifer Lane (here). "And stations, broadcasters and pureplays, should work with all of them."

Though "thorny" problems remain -- including "the possibility of being lost within the aggregators, like needles in enormous digital haystacks" -- the NYT writes (here) that both iHeartRadio and TuneIn can "help [radio broadcasters] reach audiences in the growing but increasingly fragmented world of online radio."

RTDNA survey: Majority of stations unsure if website profitable or not

Thursday, August 2, 2012 - 11:35am

Profitability over time chartThough nearly all news radio stations now offer a website, just over half do not offer streaming audio, fewer than one in four stations have a mobile app and a majority of NDs/GMs don't know if the website is profitable or not. Those are just some of the findings from the Radio Television Digital News Association's 2012 TV and Radio News Staffing and Profitability Survey.

The survey found that overall, more than 96% of news radio stations have a website. About 80% of the websites offer local news, down 3% from last year (and compared to 100% of TV station websites that offer local news). Just under 50% feature streaming audio, 61% audio, 15.3% "live newscasts," 32.1% "recorded newscasts" and 26.7% podcasts (the survey does not go into detail about what the differences are between some of these categories). The most popular website offerings are text (86%) and pictures (64%). Interestingly, 28.2% offer news video.

Stations said that about 25% of their web content is "web-only." 6.5% of content is user-generated.

As for mobile, the fastest-growing segment for Internet radio in general, only 24.1% of stations offer a mobile app. And 10.7% of stations say they offer mobile-releated content on their websites.

RTDNA's survey also found that the average number of radio employees working on the website was 1.8 (that's 0.8 full-time and 1.0 part-time). Both figures are down from last year. But 67.8% of stations said other staffers help out on the website. About one in five news directors said they were in charge overall of the website, 55% said they were in charge of news content only and just under 17% said they had no management role.

RTDNAAbout 60% of station GMs/NDs weren't sure if the website was profitable or not. Aproximately 13% said the site was profitable, another 13% said it was breaking even and around 15% said it was operating at a loss. "Radio profitability numbers are all about 3% worse than a year ago," writes the RTDNA.

As for how many people are visiting radio station websites, "radio web traffic numbers are still reported by too few news directors to be viewed as reliable." The RTDNA was able to put together overall radio website traffic figures though: 917,500 pageviews and 151,900 unique visitors over the past 30 days. Page views have doubled, but unique visitors are down 25% from last year.

You can find the RTDNA's results here (PDF). This is the fourth part of the RTDNA's 2012 TV and Radio News Staffing and Profitability Survey and was conducted by Bob Papper.

Mobile and web radio listening growing strongly among women, Alan Burns & Associates study finds

Friday, July 13, 2012 - 12:00pm

Stats from Alan Burns & Associates new study of women radio listenersOverall radio listening isn't decreasing, according to new research, it's just migrating to the Internet and especially to mobile devices. A study by Alan Burns and Associates of more than 2,000 female radio listeners, aged 15-54, found that daily listening to AM/FM radio -- no matter the device -- is up around 2% year-over-year.

Looking deeper into the numbers though, daily listening to AM/FM on a radio is down 24% year-over-year, while listening to AM/FM online is up 282% and listening on a mobile device grew a whopping 750%.

In other words, increases in digital radio listening are apparently more than making up for traditional radio listening's lost ground. Those gains might be larger if one were to include web-only music streams, which nearly half of those surveyed said they listen to at least weekly.

However, AM/FM listening on radios remains a juggernaut: 86.6% of the women surveyed said they listen to AM/FM on a radio on a weekly basis. And listening to AM/FM on a radio is still more than twice that of listening to AM/FM via the web and on mobile devices combined.

Alan Burns & AssociatesBut online, "custom music streams" are slightly more popular than AM/FM simulcasts among the women surveyed: around 49% of those surveyed said they listened to cusom music streams on a weekly basis (up from 39% in 2011), compared to around 43% who said they listened to AM/FM web simulcasts on a weekly basis (up from 34% in 2011).

The fastest growing area, unsurprisingly, appears to be mobile. Nearly 50% of the women surveyed said they had downloaded a radio app and 26.2% listen to mobile radio at least weekly (up from 15.4% in 2011). And time spent listening to AM/FM on a mobile device reportedly grew around 400% year-over-year.

Just under half of those surveyed agreed with the statement, "I can foresee a day when I won’t need or want to listen to music on radio because I can get it online and/or on my phone," (compared to around 37% who agreed with the statement in 2011).

You can find the results from Alan Burns and Associates' study ("Here She Comes 2012 - Insights Into Women, Radio, and New Media") right here (PDF).

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