Social Radio is an new audio platform that allows media sites to create interactive digital radio channels with targeted advertising.
How well does this new platform compare - and compete - with streaming on one hand, and interactive stations like Clear Channel's iHeart network and Pandora on the other hand?
Unlike streaming, the basic Social Radio platform allows media site visitors to select either existing terrestrial programs or extra channels to play or share on demand (hear demo here).
For example, a rock station site visitor could choose to listen to the morning show later that day, or a new "song cast" (fixed list of songs) in an additional music category, such as Jazz, heavy metal or even Christmas music, created by the station's programmer.
The platform is simple enough that even print companies could get into the radio business; starting with a list of "Best of Your City's" bands, top picks, or other audio-programs.
There are also a variety of extra interactive features: Rather than start in the middle of a song, users can hit play, skip songs or ads. The "Coming up next" function allows users to delete songs via a red x, to find "related" songs and drag them into the songcast, and to skip ads.
Unlike Pandora, however, the selections are picked by the station rather than an algorythm, and the songcast and related audio are a fixed list, rather than being dynamically generated. Users can also change the lists around, delete songs, and skip ads.
But one advantage Pandora still has, is the elminant of continual surprise as new, similar songs are identified and played.
Also unllike Pandora, the localized content, such as DJ's lead-ins, remain in place, something that a partnership with iHeart radio also does not do.
Steve Allaway, CEO, says the localized content gives Social Radio an advantage over Pandora and iHeart (Clear Channel's version of same).
"Pandora is only songs and ads. What brings personality to the radio station is local content and dj's. We've found a way to preserve it, and still have the interactivity."
Each songcast also has a comment stream, in which listeners can interact with DJ's in real time.
To get around the Sound Exchange performance licensing rules that ban archiving songs, the software was crafted so that song lists to change dynamically, the platform automatically remixing the song list for each user.
"The songcast is dynamically reconstructed every time a listener hears it. This was key thing for us, to rebuild (the cast) for every consumption."
Also unlike Pandora, "Songcasts" allow listeners to share the exact songs they like, because, "if you share a song or songcast of ten songs, the other person is going to hear this exact ten songs, like a set from a band."
"We think its important that the thing you share is consistent."
And the "skip a song" feature encourages listeners to stay on the station longer, rather than switching channels to avoid a song they don't like.
Advertising opportunities also have some interesting features. Like Pandora, the ads can be highly targetted; the mobile sites detect geo-location; and name, age and gender are provided on the sign-up form providing an extra layer of targeting. And, as ads are skipped, the software then "learns" listener preferences and provides more of ad types that were not skipped. .
One more interesting use of the platform is the ability to sell an entire channel or podcast to an advertiser for its own programming.
The first U.S. station group to sign up is Indiana-based Federated Media,(see case study on Federated's digital initiatives here) which has one station live, though still unpromoted, since it is still building channels. It's popular WRBR "The Bear" rock station, plans to create an alternative station to take advantage of a gap in at the market left with a competitor shut down, plus classic rock and metal.
"They are assuming they can get a wider audience if they offer more formats," Alloway said.
The business model works off a revenue share of the advertising, plus 4 cents and hour to cover the cost of the Sound Exchange licences (U.S. only, other countries have their own regulations).
"Targeting and radio have never been in the same sentence. We can show that we deliver targeted, hyper local, passionate listeners."
For stations that are not part of Clear Channel, Social Radio provides an opportunity to build platform all kinds of audio programing. Pandora, is in the process of building a local sales force, so the mobile and internet radio concept is, as they say, already out of the box. Watch for an email on results from Federated's launch in the spring of 2013.
Thanks to RadioInk Convergence for inviting LocalMediaInsider both to speak and to identify more digital opportunties for local radio. Reach Steven Alloway, CEO of Social Radio at Steve@socialradio.org.
The author, Alisa Cromer is publisher of a variety of online media, including LocalMediaInsider and MediaExecsTech, developed while on a fellowship with the Reynolds Journalism Institute and which has evolved into a leading marketing company for media technology start-ups. In 2017 she founded Worldstir.com, an online magazine, to showcases perspectives from around the world on new topic each month, translated from and to the top five languages in the world.