BRISBANE, Australia � Digital broadcasting through DAB and HD Radio offer some advantages for broadcasters: particularly a benefit of offering additional audio streams in available bandwidth. For many operators, however, it�s been difficult to monetize those extra stations. There�s a chicken-and-egg problem: it�s problematic to invest in content until audiences are bigger, yet audiences are reluctant to listen to under-invested output.
Australia radio operator NOVA Entertainment has discovered a way to monetize their DAB spectrum � by using it to produce a in-store radio station for Coles, Australia�s most popular supermarket.
Coles Radio is produced by Nova at their Brisbane facility, and heard on speakers in the supermarket�s 800 stores across Australia. Carried on DAB+ digital radio, it is also the most popular commercial digital radio station in the country, according to the industry GfK ratings.
�Coles Radio� is actually six different radio stations for different states and territories in Australia, each of whom run an identical music log but different advertising to cope with different product offers. There�s an additional station for smaller city-centre stores, which are limited in stock. Some versions of the station are time-shifted. Playout is through Nova�s RCS Zetta installation. Music is the main output of the station, but Jay Walkerden, Nova�s Brisbane GM, told me over a coffee in his office that they have just introduced a new show. �We started T he Studio with Miriam Young, a program 3pm-6pm Monday to Friday, and 11 a.m.� 2 p.m. on weekends, for the peak times at the stores. You�ll hear everything from music news to a �sense of day� � specifically around things going on in the market. We can split this by market, so if Perth is having a holiday coming up, we�ll broadcast something different there.�
Programming is similar to a normal radio station, and staffing levels are the equivalent of 1.5 dedicated people to look after the station, Walkerden told me, since it benefits from the radio station�s existing infrastructure. Music is tested alongside the station�s other brands, the top 40 Nova and the soft AC Smooth brands.
The station uses IP delivery to stores via existing Coles infrastructure, as well as DAB+. Shoppers in-store hear the output of the station on supermarket speakers while they shop, occasionally augmented by staff announcements. It�s a variety format, with song lyrics carefully checked to ensure suitability for Coles�s wide range of customers. �We�re able to be quite reactive,� Walkerden told me: music can be changed instantly if there�s a big new release.
About 5.5 million�people go to a Coles store every week, making Coles Radio the largest radio station in Australia in terms of total audience cume. Both Nova and Coles sell advertising on the station, with a varying revenue share model; most advertisers will buy into all Nova network stations, including Coles. The new presenter-led program on the station has opened new opportunities, said Walkerden. �What The Studio has now allowed us to do is enhance the monetization � we�re now able to sell live reads and show sponsorship.� Additionally, Walkerden told me that record companies are beginning to take notice of the station�s reach.
Average dwell time in a Coles store could be as little as five minutes, or as much as 45 minutes, Walkerden told me. Advertising breaks are therefore a little more frequent than on traditional radio. �It has a really good effect on sales,� he told me, with evidence that advertisements on the instore radio can prompt listeners to switch brand or add a product to their shopping list. �It�s like a reminder to buy something,� he said.
For store workers, programming subtly changes for overnights, being a little higher energy when traditionally shelf-stackers are at work. �I once worked in a retail store,� Walkerden said, �and by the time I�d been there only a few days, I knew every song on their store system and what order it was coming. This is a much better experience for store staff.�
The station�s availability on DAB+ Digital Radio means that listeners take the station home with them; and feedback to the station is increasing after the addition of The Studio . Broadcasting on DAB+ also offers other benefits in terms of redundancy and research.
In-store radio offers a profitable way of using existing bandwidth, infrastructure and skillset at a radio station to offer a new service. In the case of Coles Radio, it�s produced a #1-rated station, as well as enhanced advertising opportunities for all of the company�s brands.
DAB or HD subchannels can make more revenue ��and perhaps NOVA Entertainment�s work with Coles Radio can show the way.