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CNN Radio, Digital departments launch Soundwaves, an audio-focused web news service

Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - 11:45am

CNN SoundwavesCNN Radio and CNN Digital have launched Soundwaves, a new service offering audio news reports (combined with text, photos and videos) in an easily sharable digital format.

Soundwaves (much like NPR.org) offers news audio in combination with a text article and occasionally other media, like photos or videos. The audio clips themselves -- presented via SoundCloud -- are available to share on the web or download. SoundCloud users can also subscribe to CNN to get radio audio stories directly in their SoundCloud dashboard.

"Soundwaves is a new frontier for CNN Radio," said Tyler Moody, vice president of CNN Radio.

You can find Soundwaves here and read more about it from CNN here.

Current state of radio royalties hurts artists and impedes innovation, Forbes says

Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 12:40pm

Editor's note: RAIN will return Thursday, July 5. Happy 4th of July!

Actually, it's Forbes contributor John Villasenor who this week makes the case that not only should radio pay artists (and labels) for the music they play -- but that by maintaining an unlevel royalty playing field between broadcast, satellite, and Net radio, Congress is impeding innovation.

Broadcasters are exempt from paying royalties for sound recordings, it's argued, because their play drives record sales. And new forms of radio pay royalties because the content attracts audience and drives those businesses. But, of course, as Villasenor writes, "if airtime on traditional AM and FM stations drives sales, so, too, can exposure through cable, satellite, and Internet radio. And... playing artists who people want to hear, broadcasters of all stripes attract more listeners, and can therefore charge higher fees to their advertisers or subscribers."

Villasenor calls on Congress to end terrestrial radio's performance exemption, but, "and in some respects more importantly in the long run given the inevitable transition to digital," he wants rates to be "harmonized" across platforms. He concludes, "The government should not be stacking the deck against the newest, most compelling technologies. Saddling Internet radio with high royalty rates while giving terrestrial AM and FM stations a free pass impedes the growth of a promising new way to distribute content. And, it sends a message to would-be-entrepreneurs with ideas about how to revolutionize an industry that the playing field is far from level."

Read Forbes here (and more here).

Anstandig: Streaming "an afterthought for so many broadcasters," and it's not hard to tell

Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - 12:10pm

Daniel AnstandingRadio-Info columnist and Listener Driven Radio co-founder/CEO Daniel Anstandig spends "a lot of time listening to streaming stations online." Though streaming audiences continue to grow, the "streaming experience is an afterthought for so many broadcasters."

And it's not hard to tell. Anstandig lists several problems common to broadcasters' online streams. These include fill content that's "outdated, poorly produced, or inconsistent with the station brand." Or it's "'throw away' content and doesn't serve any specific strategic purpose."

He also hears "music trampled" by "poor audio injection during commercial breaks." Even the music itself occasionally contains static, or sounds "watery or muddy."

As for mobile apps, many "crash or cause devices to freeze... That discount app makes your brand look cheap. Upgrade. Your competitors are Pandora, Spotify and other stable, solid apps."

Anstandig also argues to ditch those "Are you still listening?" prompts, as they could "cause listeners to abandon your stream" our of frustration.

Great program directors should "look at all of the ways that their programming will be consumed by listeners," argues Anstandig. "They make it the best possible experience regardless of which speakers the listener uses." You can find Anstanding's column in Radio-Info here.

SCBA to lead education initiative "arming" radio sales teams to compete with web radio pureplays

Monday, June 25, 2012 - 11:45am

SCBAThe Southern California Broadcasters Association (SCBA) is leading a new effort to give radio ad sales teams tools to compete with Internet radio pureplays. The education initiative will reportedly provide information to sellers whose clients are asking about webcasters like Pandora.

Such Internet radio services "are competitors," Bonneville-L.A. VP/GM Peter Burton told Inside Radio, "and we have to know our competitors... Pandora’s voice is louder than our voice and they have an entire sales team out there with a consistent story. The radio industry in general has not put together a consistent story with any kind of frequency."

The SCBA -- working within what Inside Radio calls "radio's richest revenue market" -- will collaborate with former president and current EVP of Katz Radio Group Mary Beth Garber. She says it's important to work towards "arming people with the info they need about the differences between Pandora and radio and the real facts."

Inside Radio reports Katz has been working with Bridge Ratings to study Pandora. Bridge Ratings has recently released studies investigating ad performance on various music platforms and listener perceptions of online music services. Katz has also recently commissioned the Unviersity of Southern California "to study the relationship between air personalities and listeners."

Other broadcasters are taking another path. Hubbard Radio director of sales in the Chicago cluster, Craig Volpe, told Inside Radio, "We're doing no training of our sales people on Pandora... We're not going to give it that kind of attention."

Meanwhile, Pandora "shows no signs of slowing down efforts to improve sales," writes Inside Radio. Pandora CFO Steve Cakebread recently said, "What you’re going to hear from us over the next year or two is constant discussions and expansion of our sales force to participate in those markets that we don’t participate in today."

You can subscribe to Inside Radio's daily newsletters here.

Saga to limit streaming to top 100 markets, points to high costs

Friday, June 15, 2012 - 12:40pm

Saga CommunicationsSaga Communications has reportedly decided to stop streaming to markets outside the top 100. And for webcasts within the top 100, it will place geographic limits so only local listeners can tune in. However, the company has also reportedly added online streams for some news/talk stations.

"If you’re putting on an AC station or a country station, the Internet is littered with choices. In the communities where we are news providers that is something that listeners might go to the website and stream," CEO Ed Christian told Inside Radio.

Saga says it thinks the costs of a music streaming radio station are too high. Streaming expenses run to about $800,000 per month, said Saga, most of which goes to SoundExchange for music royalties. News/talk formats don't incur such high royalty costs. Additionally, streaming represents a "very small" percentage of Saga's overall listening.

The company is looking for other ways to reduce streaming costs, like placing a 90-minute listening timeout on streams. At that point, the listener is asked if they are still listening. Apparently 8% of listeners don't respond. "While that’s a small number, when you look at what SoundExchange charges it can add up," said EVP of operations Warren Lada.

But Saga is still open to expanding its streaming offerings in the future. "We’re still a radio company and we can always re-establish streaming at any point in time and have everything back up in a week or two," said Christian. But for now, "we want to allocate the resources where it’s best for our company."

You can subscribe to Inside Radio's daily newsletters here.

Clear Channel to pay percentage of music advertising revenue to Big Machine Label Group

Tuesday, June 5, 2012 - 8:00am

Clear ChannelClear Channel, the largest owner of radio stations in the U.S., has agreed to pay Big Machine Label Group performance royalties for the use of sound recordings on AM/FM in exchange for more advantageous digital royalty rates. Essentially, Clear Channel will pay the label an undisclosed percentage of music advertising revenue for all broadcasts -- digital and terrestrial. That enables Clear Channel to avoid SoundExchange and the per-song, per-listener royalty rate.

Clear Channel CEO Bob Pittman says that's the advantage of the deal. "I can't build a business space based on paying money for every time I play a song," he said, "but I can build a business by saying I will give a percentage of revenue that I bring in... What we are really trying to do is come up with a predictable model." Clear Channels hopes to make more direct deals with labels this year, but Pittman says they'll need to wait and see if the deal with Big Machine works out economically first. "Starting small is the way to do it because it will have less of an impact."

Said John Hogan, Chairman and CEO of Clear Channel Media and Entertainment: "Today, 98% of our listening is terrestrial broadcast and 2% digital -- with record labels and artists only paid for the 2%. This new agreement expands label and artist participation from just digital to terrestrial broadcast radio revenues in one comprehensive framework that will give all of us a great incentive to drive the growth of the digital radio industry and allow everyone to participate financially in its growth. This market-based solution helps bring the best in music to radio listeners wherever they want to hear it."

Radio-Info calls the deal "a potential game-changing revenue deal to fuel digital radio's growth." Billboard dubs the partnership "unprecedented."

Big Machine Label Group includes artists like Taylor Swift, Tim McGraw, Rascal Flatts, Edens Edge, Ella Mae Bowen, Reba McEntire and others. "Now, we can align our interest with radio in a predictable model based on ad revenue so that we can drive digital growth," commented the label's president and CEO Scott Borchetta. "When stations tell me that they can't afford to broadcast digitally, what good does that do me?"

iHeartRadioClear Channel has also launched a new channel on iHeartRadio: Big Machine Radio. It will feature music from the label's artists, plus interviews, rare recordings and a weekly "From the Vaults" feature (including archived radio specials from artists' early days). Find more info about the new channel from Clear Channel here.

What kind of impact will this deal have on the industry at large? "If Clear Channel turns to other indie labels and offers the same deal, it could be setting a market rate precedent for the day, should it ever come, when such a sound-performance rate is legislatively enacted," comments Billboard. "Also, if Clear Channel sticks to dealing with indies, the company could set a rate precedent without dealing with the major labels, which tend to ask for big advances and aggressive rates."

"Because of its sheer size, everything Clear Channel does affects other groups," writes Radio-Info's Tom Taylor. "There could be howls."

You can find the companies' press release here and further coverage from Billboard here and Radio-Info here.

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