RAIN Guest essay pt. 2: Can KTeshLA (and other "local" Internet radio) succeed?

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Issue Date: 
May 10 2012 - 12:00pm

From Issue:

Mark Edwards is an award-winning radio programmer with experience at WLIT/Chicago, KOSI/Denver, KYKY, KEZK, and WVRV in St. Louis, and more. He's currently managing general partner of Mark Edwards Worldwide, his multi-disciplinary consulting practice. This is Part 2 of his guest essay; read Part 1 here.

In yesterday’s RAIN, we looked at John Tesh’s hyper-local KTeshLA website and streaming service. Today, let’s tackle the question of how stations like KTeshLA and other locally targeted online only sites can be successful going forward.

John Tesh already has a radio show on more than 300 stations (he launched KTeshLA after losing his Los Angeles affiliate). His show was one of the higher-rated dayparts on KFSH in Los Angeles, so there was already a dedicated local audience for his content, and he was already producing material for his national show. Given Tesh’s recording, touring, writing, and other activities, generating cash from the online venture may not have been as much of a concern as it might be for a standalone business. Staying in touch with a community -- especially without the benefit of a bone-crushing terrestrial signal -- can be costly.

One of the most significant differences between Tesh’s site and the sites of other people trying to “make it” as web radio stars is that Tesh’s site looks great. It's as good as any AM or FM radio station site on the Internet. If anything, the site takes too much from radio stations in an effort to look like a radio station as opposed to what it is: something between a radio station and a streaming service. While the site carries banner ads, it isn’t plastered with them hodgepodge like some other “web radio” sites.

Taking the time and spending the money to design a world-class website should be the first part of the plan for any webcaster. Clearly, the TeshMedia team considered the visual appeal of their product along with the sound, something rare in the world of webcasting. (Some of the ugliest websites I’ve seen over the last 15 years have been for air personalities putting a show or podcast on the web. They’re littered with banner ads, bad photos, and unusable navigation links.)

A significant expense for the local webcaster is for the stream itself. Beyond royalties and bandwidth costs, some kind of automation system needs to push out the content if it is a full-time format, even if it’s a podcast or constantly repeating three or four hour show. There are ways to do the automation inexpensively, but streaming should not be a bargain basement decision. Great quality, constant uptime, and full-time support are needed for a successful stream, and that costs money. The good news is there are new technologies on the horizon that will significantly lower the cost of streaming, and add personalization and ad-targeting to the stream, helping to generate more revenue.

The world is racing to a mobile, personalized, on-demand model for entertainment, and the opportunity for locally-targeted Internet-based stations is here. If the stations are done right, they’ll generate traffic and response for local advertisers. It can be done, and now is the time to get started on hyper-targeted projects like KTeshLA.

We'll wrap this up with some comments from the people behind KTeshLA and see how their station is performing.

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