Sunday, September 23, 2012

Open Stream, Insert Foot?

While China was simply an amazing adventure and an eye-opener, it's great to be back (in Korea now) to a country where I can post to Blogger and Word Press again.

One of the best things about July and August is that radio's streaming fees paid to Sound Exchange go down a bit as listeners vacation and listen a bit less online as a result.

However, the trend line is obvious, as listeners migrate online (from A&O Roadmap 2012):

Pandora, we feel your pain, as more and more folks stream our programming we make less and less money since the numbers generally are too small to increase rates enough to our online advertising efforts to grow revenues sufficiently to cover the costs.

Many A&O clients report now spending the equivalent of two full time salaries on the costs of streaming.  If we're willing to spend that kind of money to do it as a service to listeners who increasingly demand and expect it, we owe it to ourselves to make the quality the best we can make it.

Morris Radio Group Topeka Market Manager Larry Riggins said this week, as he pulled the plug temporarily on ad insertion in the wake of Saga's decision to simply simulcast FM on their streams:  "I just get so frustrated that, as an industry, when something doesn’t work quite the way we need it to, we give up on it instead of investing the time and money in technology to make it work.  Streaming can be a huge boost to radio everywhere if we are willing to use the technology it takes to do it right."

He plans in the long run to hopefully return to ad insertion on his stations' streams.  "We are only going to simulcast until we are comfortable with the performance of the new updates on our current system, or have a new system in place.  We feel our streams are important for listenership and revenue and can enhance what we are doing moving forward."

Meanwhile, of course, there are numerous proven ways other than Ad insertion and/or Ad replacement to enrich the online experience for your listener while still making good online money right now:
  1. Podcasts (audio and video)
  2. Personality blogs
  3. Player takeovers
  4. Synchronized banner ads with audio spots
  5. Social media
  6. Local info and entertainment portals
  7. Mobile apps
  8. Jobs/Help wanted
  9. Portable media
  10. Video pre-rolls 
  11. Discount daily deals
  12. Etc, etc, etc!

Take the time to do some homework yourself by reading and joining in on the many powerful arguments now going on, pro and con
And, if you're lucky, attend the secret meetings.  (smile)

Yes, it would be ideal if radio could offer something much, much better online than what we do on AM and FM.  Yet, as Sean Ross has been pointedly reporting for many years, we simplyhave not been able to accomplish that except in very rare instances.

Country listeners in A&O's 8th annual "Roadmap 2012" perceptual study had some suggestions for you which they said would make them listen longer.

Highlights = far and away the stop 3 answers:
  • Better Quality of sound
  • Faster Connection
  • Eliminate Lag time so I can win contests           

Honorable Mentions for:
  • Fewer commercials, better quality commercials
  • News and traffic updates
  • More Prizes
  • Eliminate the “auto turn off”

So, at present (having been out of the country during the "it was not a secret meeting"), I am also encouraging A&O clients to join Saga in simply simulcasting on air 100% online so the listening experience is at least the same as listeners have come to expect unless you and your ad sales/insertion provider can offer a superior product). 

A second benefit is that the listening recorded by ARB is no longer lost, since it can be claimed as a genuine simulcast. 

Third, with no lengthy delay, listeners can enter and win call in contests in real time and not be faced with the disappointment of learning that they constantly seem to miss the opportunity to win as long as they listen online.

Long term, it seems to me that if you hope to do well in mobile streaming, you're going to have to produce something specifically targeted for the needs of smart phone users, with a much lower commercial load that most of us are carrying on our steams now.

If you're going to dip your toe into streaming audio, make sure it's after putting only your best foot forward!

1 comment:

John Windus said...

Listener concerns regarding delays are legit for sure, especially during contesting, but broadcasters can't control buffering issues. Maybe the best route there is transparency with your customers. Many of them would be savvy to buffering issues.

Having said all that, fun and funny pre-roll has become very simple and is sellable. As easy as point-and-shoot from your iPhone then uploading.