FM Chips really means interactive radio


SmartphoneCongratulations to Jeff Smulyan, Paul Brenner and their team at Emmis for driving the radio rollout of FM chips in Sprint cell phones.  This is a huge accomplishment and starts a new era for radio.  They should be applauded for their vision and leadership in an industry that really needs it.  Now, we need to quickly turn the page from talking about “FM chips” to promoting “interactive radio.”

Interactive radio is a huge leap in the consumer experience of listening to radio.  Listeners determine how to interact with radio station content via their smart phones.  This is made possible via the TagStation component of Emmis’ NextRadio service.

But believe it or not, interactive radio has been actively operating for close to a year in Portland and San Diego on locally operated radio stations, not the big groups.  Radio thought leaders, including group heads Larry Wilson at Alpha Broadcasting, Ed Atsinger at Salem Communications, and Bob Hughes at Compass Radio, all dove into the deep end of the pool together by recently launching new interactive mobile platforms with Paragon client Clip Interactive.

Thirteen radio stations in those two markets now have fully interactive content via their new station apps that all have a “Clip It” button that allows listeners to clip whatever content they hear…and right off the on air radio broadcast where over 90% of radio listening still occurs (it also clips from the stream).  The new Clip app for radio listens to the radio when it happens, always identifies the station where content was heard and clipped, and provides a digital clip of that content straight into the listeners smart phone.  From a consumer standpoint, think Shazam or SoundHound for local radio, but always with station attribution and with all radio contact being interactive, not just the music.  Now listeners can hear a song on the radio and download it into their phone, hear a commercial on radio and immediately receive a coupon into their phone, or enter a contest by simply clipping an on air promo.  And yes, interactive radio is tailor-made for the auto dashboard via voice activation.

Unlike Shazam or SoundHound where local broadcasters receive no revenue benefits, Clip’s business model positions local broadcasters as key partners and not just content providers.  Clip’s revenue sharing model enlists local radio sales and promotions experts to sell interactive ad deals and to drive effective promotions.  Now local radio is selling highly-effective lead gen campaigns and direct response campaigns with very high response rates.  Early results show that digital interactive broadcasting brings in net new revenue to radio.  This is not “moving peas around a plate.”

From a consumer and business model perspective, if your station app is simply a streaming app, then it’s time to make them interactive.

Interactive radio is already happening, but most in the business have never heard of it.  Thanks to Smulyan, Wilson, Atsinger, Hughes and others, that’s all about to change.  It’s great to see radio leadership forming around interactive radio.  Now is a time to follow their lead into the next chapter of digitally interactive broadcasting with a new revenue model that leverages the broadcast, not just the stream.

–Mike Henry, Paragon Media Strategies