ESPN keys success on building what fans want, and not waiting for advertisers to demand it

Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - 11:40am

There's a great article in Bloomberg Businessweek on the mammoth, multi-platform success of the ESPN empire.

(Big hat-tip to Fred Jacobs, who covers the piece in his blog here where he wrote, "ESPN’s approach, decision-making, and risk-taking are what separates it from other traditional brands – and provides great lessons for radio companies and their very best stations.")

Since its inception in the late 70s, and especially over the past ten years, ESPN "has moved aggressively into new media and platforms, without regard for how they may negatively impact the old. This strategy allows ESPN to squeeze more revenue out of any event it carries by selling that same contest in multiple formats, instead of merely broadcasting it on television." ESPN president John Skipper credits the success to a philosophy of "build, build, build. There comes a time when a lot of businesses become calcified, but we never stop building."

Just how successful has their embrace of new media, especially mobile, been? "The number of users per minute, which is ESPN’s internal metric, reached 102,000 in June, an increase of 48% so far this year," and an astounding 70% of sports content consumed on mobile devices comes across an ESPN mobile app.

Skipper credits NOT cordoning off "digital" or "mobile," but making it everyone's priority. He said, "We have one revenue group, we have one ad sales group, so you don’t have factions fighting against this new digital group. … We don’t have a lot of infighting. We have everybody incentivized so that it’s about the total amount of business we do."

And, they don't wait for an ROI before they actually begin building the business. "ESPN has invested in creating content for a platform before business exists to support it. John Kosner, executive vice president for digital and print media, says, 'We’re not afraid to be ahead of the market. You win by delivering what fans want, and then that becomes a fantastic advertising proposition and a great business.'"

Read the Bloomberg Businessweek article on ESPN here.

ESPN Audio is a finalist in both the "Best Overall Online Radio Service" and "Best Overal Digital Strategy" categories for this year's RAIN Internet Radio Awards (see all the finalists here). is a finalist in the "Best Streaming Broadcaster" category. We'll announce the winners at RAIN Summit Dallas this Tuesday. ESPN SVP/Production & Business Divisions Traug Keller revealed details of the then soon-to-launch revamped ESPN mobile app during his keynote address to RAIN Summit West this past April in Las Vegas.

Heidi & Frank, vets of L.A. airwaves and the Internet, to replace Mark & Brian on KLOS

Monday, August 20, 2012 - 1:10pm

News is just breaking at press time the KLOS/Los Angeles will replace the long-running Mark & Brian show with L.A. veterans Heidi & Frank, beginning September 4th.

Heidi Hamilton and Frank Kramer have worked in the market on Clear Channel KYSR and CBS Radio KLSX. After losing their show at Cumulus KABC in September 2010, the two launched “The Heidi and Frank Show” online the following month, reported Paid Content by January 2011. By that time they built a subscriber base of “well over 6,000” customers paying $5/month or $50/year for on-demand audio and video content, plus a 2-hour live show weekday mornings (see our coverage here), mostly through tenacious productivity and social media efforts.

In April of last year the two spoke of their experience at RAIN Summit West (more here).

Here's more on the arrival of Heidi & Frank on KLOS from AllAccess

Text-to-audio app SoundGecko looking to "reinvent the radio with personalized information"

Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - 1:20pm

SoundGeckoA new service from an Australian start-up transforms articles from the web into a radio-like experience. SoundGecko, from Melbourne's 121cast, automatically transcribes print articles from the web and outputs an audio mp3. Their free iPhone app even plays these transcribed articles back-to-back, essentially creating a personalized news audio stream.

"Our vision is to reinvent the radio with personalized information and entertainment," said 121cast's Long Zheng.

Give SoundGecko a URL -- by sending it to a special email address, pasting it directly into SoundGecko's website, or via Chrome extension -- and the service delivers an mp3 recording within 30 seconds to your email address, or to the service's iPhone app, or pushes the file to a linked Dropbox or Googe Drive account.

"Since our soft launch we've had hundreds of users requesting nearly a thousand articles," Zheng told The Verge.

"I have been testing the service over the past few days and although it isn't perfect," writes The Verge's Tom Warren, "I found that the text-to-speech voice is great for when you want to simply sit back and listen to an article during a commute."

Our own experience with the app is similar. Here's how I've used the service over the past day: while browing the web, I used the SoundGecko Chrome extension to send a variety of interesting articles -- which I didn't have time to read just then -- to the service. Then this morning on the train, I fired up SoundGecko's iPhone app and listened to my articles in one continuous radio-like stream.

It was overall a very smooth and exciting experience, though as Warren writes, it isn't perfect (yet). But 121cast has a few ideas on how to improve the experience, including possibly hiring professionals to "read out the most popular URLs" (on-air talent?).

Apps for Android, Windows Phone and Windows 8 are on the way. SoundGecko is currently free to use, though the company is mulling putting caps or perhaps premium features.

You can find SoundGecko here and The Verge's coverage here.

For 17% of cellphone owners, mobile devices primary way to get online, study finds

Friday, June 29, 2012 - 11:45am

SmartphonesThe Pew Internet and American Life Project recently found that a whopping 88% of U.S. adults own a cellphone. That's up 24% from 2009.

Of that group, 55% use their mobile devices to browse the web. And of that 55%, nearly a third say they use their cellphone to access the Internet more than any other device. That comes out to around 17% of U.S. adult cellphone owners.

"The study details the fact that mobile web design is not a backwater at all, but is instead a mainstream avenue that millions use to access the content that is most important to them," writes TheNextWeb (here).

"The Internet is mobile, and only becoming more so. Be ready."

IAB: Web ad revenue up 15% in Q1 to reach $8.4 billion, twice that of radio

Tuesday, June 12, 2012 - 11:35am

Web revenue growthInternet ad revenue in the first quarter this year grew 15% year-over-year, reaching $8.4 billion, according to the most recent IAB Internet Advertising Revenue Report. "Growth in the double-digits is a positive sign for digital-media companies, as they look to bring more offline ad dollars online," writes AdAge

Radio-Info compares that figure to the Radio Advertising Bureau's reported $3.8 billion revenue for radio (up 1%). "That means the Internet haul is more than twice the size of radio" (find more here).

That said, AdAge notes (here) "this year's first-quarter total marks slower growth than the industry experienced in the same quarter last year when revenue increased 24% from the $5.9 billion booked in the first quarter of 2010."

Non-comm AAA KCSN/L.A. joins Clear Channel's iHeartRadio platform

Thursday, June 7, 2012 - 11:40am

Public radio station KCSN/Los Angeles, which is owned by California State University, is now available on Clear Channel's iHeartRadio Internet and mobile radio service.

KCSN (88.5 FM "The Music You Want") is an Adult Alternative format and plays a mix of indie rock, "legacy artists," soul, electronic dance music, Americana, and blues. It's also home for legendary air talent like Nic Harcourt, Jed the Fish, Mark Sovel, Terri Nunn, and more. The station is programmed by veteran Sky Daniels.

Listeners can find KCSN in iHeartRadio's Public Radio section. There are now more than 1,000 broadcast and online-only stations on iHeartRadio, which also offers a Custom Radio personalization feature. Clear Channel says the iHeartRadio platform racks up 100 million listening hours a month.

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