RadioFlag Marries Radio, Social Media
     

RadioFlag is a marketing concept that combines traditional radio broadcasting with the customization of social media. The service does this by allowing member to “flag” (select via instant messaging) the kinds of music, news topics and lifestyle choices to which they are listening.

RadioFlag’s “live radio content search engine” uses these flags to create lists of suggested stations for these and other listeners, which can be accessed via RadioFlag’s website.

Roman plans a branding campaign, which he calls ‘a rallying call to action for our industry with all that has happened to it.’

Says Tony Roman, founder and CEO: “On RadioFlag you can search live content; connect with DJs, talk hosts and other listeners in real time; and listen from anywhere from the company’s website or mobile apps if you have a smartphone. These flags are searchable by other users, which enables them to find the radio content they most want to hear, and also link up with like-minded listeners.”

Roman is an entrepreneur whose background includes a tech startup backed by Silicon Valley venture capital.

“I launched RadioFlag simply because I love radio and could no longer stand to see it be ignored by social media markets, considering it is the original electronic form of social media,” he said. “I guess you would consider me an expert professional radio listener.”

Re-energizing radio

Unlike Pandora and other customizable online music services, RadioFlag is focused on live content from both broadcast and Internet-only radio stations.

In particular, the site gives prominence to “free-form format” (college, local, indie and community) stations, “where some of the most unique and original on-air talent and content can be heard,” Roman says.

To underline this point, RadioFlag recently took part in College Radio Day, the October event that brought U.S., Canadian and Jamaican college/school stations together into an ad hoc network. RadioFlag was selected by College Radio Day as its official listening social app.

“No other format is better positioned to re-energize this medium like college radio, by remaining uncompromised and leveraging today’s new social channels,” says Roman. At the same time, “Being able to choose which radio coverage to tune into based on the flags you read, then communicating with other listeners who hear what you’re hearing, makes it a very interactive experience.”

RadioFlag also has joined with several student stations to create the College Radio Advisory Board.

KUCI(FM) at the University California, Irvine, participated in RadioFlag launch day in 2011. Broadcaster Rich Marotta, far right, and RadioFlag’s Ravind Kumar are shown interviewing a student athlete. Tony Roman is standing. Photo credit Sofia Panuelos

“Together we will work towards better planning, organization and promotion of college radio,” Roman says. “These stations, with the influence of their young listening audience, will also help us better develop the products DJs and listeners want for a better broadcasting and listening experience.

Facebook, Twitter and other social media are central to RadioFlag’s goal of treating radio as a two-way medium. Roman hopes that listeners will establish their own online communities based on shared tastes, be they musical, political or whatever brings people together. These communities will tie into their favorite stations via RadioFlag and the Web, thus bringing young listeners to radio.

Viable?

A big question is money. Can RadioFlag find a way to pay for itself as it fosters the concept? Currently this website is free to users (both listeners and radio stations), with no income to speak of.

“We are not yet generating revenue, as our primary focus is to promote traditional radio by growing our user base,” Roman said. “When we do monetize RadioFlag through advertising as one revenue-generating stream, it will be non-invasive and laser-targeted so our users only received offers for products and services they would welcome.”

Fred Jacobs is president of Jacobs Media, a radio consultancy and provider of radio-oriented apps. He looked over RadioFlag for Radio World to offer a third-party perspective.

“Conceptually, it is fascinating; combining a search element to find the kind of content a consumer desires, while marrying a social piece so they can connect with like-minded consumers,” he said.

“The reality is that there are problems with the service as it’s being rolled out. The site and sign-up process are confusing; there appears to be few users; and even bands you’d think would show up well, like an Arcade Fire, really don’t.”

However, this is not Jacobs’ largest concern about RadioFlag.

“The biggest issue is that the system isn’t automated — it’s not parsing metadata or other encoded info in streams — so it’s up to someone at the station to tag and flag their content,” he continued. “I can tell you that most stations don’t have the personnel bandwidth to be able to do this.”

RadioFlag engineers and tech managers review a new product demo.

These problems notwithstanding, Fred Jacobs likes the thinking behind this service.

“RadioFlag’s trending of individual users/contributors is cool, along with trending interest,” he said. “The concept is very interesting, combining community building and content referral in one. It needs to be simplified, and the participation from the radio station staff piece is a puzzler.”

Asked about the future, Roman said RadioFlag has plans to boost the brand and improve its offerings.

“Through our initial non-structured flagging approach, we have acquired a vast amount of information and metrics on how users invest their time listening, discovering and interacting with DJs and fellow listeners alike,” he said.

This information will be used for fine-tuning the service this year. A planned redesign “includes a new metadata approach, making DJs and their shows the center of the RadioFlag experience, along with a much simpler registration process, integrating further with Facebook and other social sites.”

There are mobile versions of the service for the Android and iPhone, while BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7 versions are planned. Also in the works is a DJ app to help DJs interact with listeners.

Efforts also include creating an Internet radio network for the American Basketball Association and possibly partnering with indie record labels. As well, “We have recently filed to trademark ‘Save the Radio Star,’” says Roman. The phrase plays off the iconic song title “Video Killed the Radio Star.”

“We have many plans in which to use this new extended RadioFlag brand in our attempt to further promote traditional radio.”


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