Radio faces falling TSL, but how much is due to digital competition?

Thursday, February 14, 2013 - 1:10pm

Radio broadcasters are beginning to grasp the reality that, despite steady (and high) cume, the amount of time Americans spend listening to broadcast radio is falling, most notably in younger demos.

Arbitron RADAR data reveal broadcast radio reaches about 92% of the U.S. population regularly, but 12+ TSL is off 3.2% from April 2010-March 2012.

Inside Radio writes today that while "there's evidence (growing Internet radio listening) is a factor... The issue may not be whether listening to streaming is cannibalizing broadcast radio but rather how much it is increasing listening to broadcast radio brands."

In other words, is broadcast radio listening falling, or merely shifting to a different platform? How much of this Internet stream listening is to broadcast radio brand content?

Triton Digital says, in December, broadcasters accounted for 22% of the web radio traffic the company measures, which means 78% goes to pureplay Internet radio. And that percentage as dramatically shifted in pureplays' favor over the last three years.

So, the likely answer is: Yes. Yes, some loss of AM/FM TSL to streaming is recovered by broadcasters' simulcast (or supplemental) streams. And, yes, Internet-only radio, satellite radio, online music services, and very nearly any other entertainment option, are taking a toll on broadcast radio listening.

Hubbard's WTOP-FM/D.C. drops ad-insertion for "full simulcast"

Tuesday, December 11, 2012 - 12:15pm

Hubbard Radio D.C. news outlet WTOP-FM has stopped inserting online-only ads into its web streaming, thereby duplicating its on-air programming online.

Senior Regional VP/Market Manager of Hubbard Radio's Washington, D.C. properties, Joel Oxley, explained the move as one to help Arbitron ratings: "Since WTOP is now a simulcast, those listeners can now be added to our Arbitron ratings. For WTOP even a slight move up in ratings can mean a significant rise in revenue." (quote from Inside Radio coverage)

If there are programming differences -- including ads -- between a station's on-air and its stream, Arbitron counts those audiences separately. If the programming is identical, Arbitron can combine the listening. Saga Communications announced a similar move in August (coverage here) for its streaming stations.

Abacast granted "patent allowance" for "ad and song insertion"

Friday, November 9, 2012 - 1:35pm

Online audio tech company Abacast has announced the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has awarded it a "patent allowance" for its method of replacing content in online broadcast simulcasts with other content.

While there are several technology companies with "ad-insertion" technology, Abacast says other patents "cover only one-for-one ad replacement," and its system "is unique in that it covers the replacement of ads with ads and additional content types such as songs."

The Abacast press release explains, "The patent for the invention titled 'Content Injection System and Methodology," allows for the broadcast ad to be replaced with ads, songs, and other Internet-specific content and is inclusive of mobile devices and tablets, in addition to PCs."

A notice of patent allowance means that the Patent Office has deemed the invention "genuinely new" and intends to award the patent when necessary fees have been paid.

Saga's streaming move prompts more feedback from Radio Ink's Ed Ryan, Abacast's Rob Green

Monday, August 27, 2012 - 1:10pm

Radio InkLast week Saga announced it would no longer substitute "online only" content for the on-air ads on its station's web streams (RAIN coverage here). The move sparked criticism from Fred Jacobs, Ken Dardis and Bob Maccini among others (more here).

SagaNow Rob Green, CEO of Abacast (which offers ad-replacement technology for broadcasters among other services) has penned a guest editorial for Radio Ink (here). Green argues that "the radio industry today has, at best, a muddy message about its digital future, and the choice to simulcast looks like a step backward."

Meanwhile, Radio Ink editor Ed Ryan tried listening to a few random radio stations' simulcasts online. He posted the results of his experiment here. "Is the [online] product comparable to what goes out over the air?" The answer is easy, writes Ryan: "The products are not even close."

Saga's elimination of ad-insertion will help costs and quality, say observers, but more needed to compete online

Friday, August 24, 2012 - 12:35pm

SagaEarlier this week, Saga Communications announced it would no longer substitute "online only" content for the on-air ads on its station's Internet streams (RAIN coverage here). Saga EVP Warren Lada said he's not worried about losing streaming inventory because it's really not that profitable compared to other areas.

Radio Ink editor Ed Ryan reports other broadcasters may be leaning in the same direction. He writes (here), "While broadcasters know they need to be everywhere consumers want them to be, losing gobs of money to be there is not something they signed up for... When you tack on the cost of the technology paid out to make ad-insertion a part of a radio station stream, it adds to the financial headache."

And besides the costs, there's the subpar experience for the listener to consider. "Nothing sounds worse than 7 minutes of Public Service Announcements in a row."

Nothing, perhaps, except 7 minutes of ads, argues Angel Street Capital's Bob Maccini. Especially when compared with the offerings from pureplay competitors.

"This movement if successful will sound the death knell for terrestrial stations that are streaming," Maccini writes on the Angel Street Capital blog. "Given the other Internet radio listening options consumers will not choose to listen to a stream that is running 10-14 ad units an hour complete with some 60 second spots... Stopping ad insertion may save a few shekels in the short run but long term it will have more significant costs."

Instead, Maccini suggests (here) "rather than inserting PSAs and other filler content that music stations insert songs."

Audio Graphics' Ken Dardis agrees that just "regurgitating" over-the-air signals online won't work. "Radio's place online is to use what the Internet offers to expand limitations of over-the-air content. NPR does this in a remarkably successful way. So why do we not hear it being done by commercial radio industry groups?"

Online radioHe continues (here), "The radio industry belongs online, just not in the way it presents itself over-the-air."

Jacobs Media's Fred Jacobs appreciates Saga's move in that it should help improve the overall quality of its streams. "Radio streams uniformly sound like crap," he writes. "PSAs, bad music, comedy cuts, crickets, and other interstitial material has made the customer experience on radio streams a nightmare."

But he also argues, like Dardis and Maccini, that radio's digital product shouldn't just be a clone of its over-the-air signal. Web efforts required a dedicated team. "Treat digital revenue as a separate business and hire reps with digital sales experience."

Jacobs continues, "it’s time to realistically assess what’s working and what’s not. Radio needs to come to grips with the fact that in many situations, traditional radio salespeople cannot take on this effort, and that digital selling doesn’t cannibalize the traditional spot sales effort."

You can find more of Jacobs' thoughts on Jacobs Media's jacoBLOG here and 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.

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