In order to compete with streaming services, it is key to offer a similar user-experience but to differentiate on content.
I hate to use the catchphrase �content is king� but let�s be fair � it is. I enjoy listening to music but would also like to hear the latest news and weather reports and get updates on the traffic situation, and that�s why I don�t like to listen to streaming music services like Spotify. I prefer my local radio station with the morning crew on my commute to work.
For listeners, one of the big, perhaps unconscious, benefits of traditional radio is that someone else did the thinking for me. I don�t need to put together my own playlist. If you run a good radio station, you know what your listeners want and how and when they want it. If you can keep this consistent, you probably have a well running station with a consistent set of listeners. Sure, you can listen to pre-defined playlists on streaming services, but somehow they are never as good as a thought-out radio format. Use insider knowledge of your listeners to your advantage.
I have told companies in our industry that someone needs to offer a turnkey solution (with all the features I�m about to bring up) to facilitate online streaming for radio stations.
It is extremely difficult to keep up with the pace of online content distribution, especially if you are a local radio station. It�s a whole different world, and to develop your own platform would be a huge undertaking, one that is probably not cost-effective.
There are companies that do offer encoder software to get you started with streaming, and let me make one thing clear: I�m not talking about the Shoutcast/Icecast offerings. I�m referring to adaptive streaming. But this doesn�t get you far, because you need to ingest your stream somewhere. And there are, as far as I know, no truly ready-to-use platforms out there.
WHAT YOU NEED � AND WANT
To get started, you�ll need to get your own so-called ingest origin server. This origin server will repackage your stream in different adaptive streaming formats for reach across different platforms.
To serve huge numbers of listeners, you will also need a content delivery network, which will be associated with your origin server in a transparent manner. (For a deep dive on this technology, please read my product review on the Z/IPstream in the May 2015 issue.)
As a radio station, you probably want a one-stop-shop. You want to sign up online with a company offering an end-to-end streaming solution. They will give you the encoding software to get your audio signal in a multi-bitrate stream to this origin server. They will host and maintain the origin server and package your stream, and if necessary, add content protection (DRM).
You�ll also need a player on your website and perhaps apps for iOS, Android and/or Windows devices, and I know that this is a huge undertaking. It would be great if the same company had already developed something that would just require you to customize a generic app with your logos and to submit it to the app stores for you.
�Forecast data from BIA/Kelsey projects that by 2018 nearly 25 percent of terrestrial radio station�s annual advertising revenue will be generated from online listening,� according tohttp://tinyurl.com/pbaru9h. �And that is a conservative projection.�
It is key to have ad integration.� Specifically what I mean by that is ad insertion on a unicast basis � not just �pop-up� ads in the player. The theoretical company offering this all-encompassing streaming service would need to have deals with ad networks and the ability to dynamically integrate these ads with the app and player.
This approach would ultimately enable several things:
1. Stations will have the ability to stream their content online while offering a better listener experience.
2. Stations will be able to monetize their online content.
3. Stations will not need to develop or maintain technology that is outside their realm of expertise.
4. The technology offers the ability to grow with your success without investment upfront.
5. The technology used is standardized and open.
6. Future integration with mobile and in-car entertainment is covered.
7. Streams or specific parts of content with DRM can be protected.
Now, if I were an entrepreneur, I would be taking notes because, at this moment, there is no turnkey one-stop shop offering the whole set of features mentioned here. The technology is available, but you would need to glue it all together yourself. I�m sure it won�t take long for someone to come up with a service like this. They might team up with different partners; I know of a few companies already collaborating, which is good for the industry.
I realize that to some this might all be overwhelming. I have a hard time keeping up with the latest and greatest this market has to offer.
But don�t forget: Radio is still the same. In the end, the content you produce with your radio station is the big pull for listeners. That�s what sets your station apart from the generic streaming services.
Seize the opportunity to expand your reach into new technology.