Flying in the face of globalization, LiSTNR is an Australian-made free online/app entertainment platform that showcases that country’s top analog/digital radio stations and commercial podcast network. In a Radiodays Asia talk entitled, “Building LiSTNR for now and the future,” Southern Cross Austereo Head of Digital Product Chris Johnson explained why Australian radio broadcasters/podcasters decided to go it alone, and what they hope to gain from LiSTNR going forward. Radiodays Asia was held at Malaysia’s Shangri-La Kuala Lumpur hotel September 6-7, 2022.
Launched in February 2021, “LiSTNR is a platform that provides Australians with an all day audio companion with content to suit any need,” Johnson told the conference’s in-person audience and online viewers. “It carries our 99 broadcast radio stations, 25 exclusive specially curated music stations and 108 original podcasts all created by us in Australia, as well as many more from our partners.”
Asking the logical question, “Why go to all the trouble?” when Australian content producers could simply post on Spotify or some other global audio platform, Johnson explained that, “for us, it’s really about looking at how we plan to compete, not just now, but in the future … We really believe in controlling our catalog. We need to control our distribution and decide when and where we make something available.”
“We not only create content, but we also license content, which often comes with constraints and protections that we need to manage,” he added. “For monetization, we need to provide our clients with a compelling environment, quality inventory, with a high level of data that makes it available to target the right people. We also need to provide insights around the context of what a user is doing and how they are consuming our content.”
Achieving all of these goals for Australian broadcasters and podcasters “demands a first party relationship with our users,” said Johnson as he concluded his pro-LiSTNR advocacy. “I think the case for owning our own platform is pretty undeniable. We want to control our destiny in all of these areas.”
Progress to Date
Within four months of being launched, LiSTNR’s members finished migrating their listeners from various Australian streaming platforms onto this single site. “Now we’re transitioning into our second horizon,” Johnson said. “This will see us continue to grow the offering and the capabilities of the platform driving increased, consumption, and listenership from our audience and continue to accelerate and diversify our digital audio revenue streams”
To make this happen, LiSTNR is basing its efforts upon the three pillars of personalization, content discovery, and successful commercialization of the platform to keep it free for listeners.
“We really need to personalize and ensure that we’re delivering a meaningful and relevant experience for everybody,” Johnson told his audience. “The way we tackle this is by starting to collect some really basic personal information such as people’s age, their gender, and their postcode … then (we) enable them to select topics and shows from a refined list based on those pieces of information. This is something that they can add to over time by favoring new shows in the app, or adding new topics at any point.”
“Content discovery is probably one of the toughest challenges in audio,” he continued. “The recommendation has to be good, but the timing of the recommendation has to be right. So the way we’re approaching this challenge is by partnering and investing in some AI and machine learning companies to better understand our users and better understand our content, and really try and predict what they’re gonna listen to next.”
As for selling advertising on LiSTNR and playing it out in ways that don’t send listeners elsewhere? “As a baseline, we need to provide clients with addressable audiences fuelled by first party data: This means that digital audio inventory on LiSTNR can be targeted by age, gender, location, and device,” said Johnson. “But that’s really just the start. We’ve partnered with a company called NumberEighty that uses mobile telematics data and other information such as what Wi-Fi you’re connected to, to deduce where the user is when they’re listening.”
Since being launched, LiSTNR is now looking into ‘visualization’, namely adding photos, graphics and video to its audio feeds to attract a larger audience. “We’re increasingly noticing that the boundaries between audio and video are beginning to merge, particularly in the podcast space, where platforms like Spotify and YouTube expand their support for visual podcasts,” he said. “It’s nothing new, but we’re now accelerating our capabilities in this area like never before.”
In wrapping up his talk, Chris Johnson concluded by describing LiSTNR as “an engaging ecosystem that we access seamlessly across all devices. It can offer a free personalized service to all Australians and can enable them to discover the absolute best of audio for every time of day.”