Radio station websites are some of the most underutilized tools an owner of AM or FM properties has at their disposal. With the right content and outreach, an audio media company can increase consumer engagement, using the right marketing and advertising partnerships.
That’s the mindset employed by a Bay Area technology outfit that’s presently rolling out a platform designed to transform the staid radio station website into a digital retailer focused on music and events.
The company behind the tool is MyMelo, led by President, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Chris Cox and Chief Revenue Officer Reza Hariri.
MyMelo is currently live with four radio groups: Federated Media, McKenzie River Broadcast, Michigan-based McDonald Garber, and Montana-based NMBI. It is also in-use at online radio station ISOUL Radio, and aims to be live in the next few weeks with a company with stations in Northern California and Southern Oregon, and three national players. Another major Hispanic-targeted radio station operator is in negotiations with MyMelo.
Cox launched MyMelo in September 2015 under the premise that radio’s “power of the tower” could flourish in a digital environment, with one solution resting in a website replete with relevant content that a radio station may monetize.
MyMelo’s foundation is based on Cox’s prior experience as the architect of global technical operations at TiVo. Before that, he was a top tech architect for health care provider Humana and, earlier in his career, in the financial services sector, working with UBS, Bank One and JPMorgan Chase.
Cox sees radio as forgetful of its opportunities to make a few extra dollars.
Take, for instance, its “enter to win” promotional activities. “Typically this is seen around concert tickets, and this consistently drives listeners to their websites,” Cox says.
Instead, he suggests, a radio station could sell the concert tickets through its own website, and then give away an “enter to win” featuring a VIP experience at the event the listener has purchased entry to.
Hariri and Cox also believe that independent recording artists, who are “constantly sending things to radio stations,” are largely ignored, with their EPKs and digital copies of their songs sitting in an unopened email folder.
Rather than have this happen, they believe monetization for both the recording artist and the radio station is possible. Instead of promoting the artist through an on-air spin or two, a website sale via promotion of the artist online could be had.
Is this a realistic option for a radio station? Could it send a false message of an artist endorsement by a radio station that has yet to add the record, and perhaps never will?
All of this is rather inconsequential to MyMelo’s leadership duo, for they see many station websites that are littered with content fed from services that a radio station’s listeners don’t care about.
“It’s a pile of things that they don’t pay attention to today,” Hariri says.
BACK TO THE MUSIC BUSINESS
Hariri also believes MyMelo gives radio an opportunity to return to a business some industry observers say Radio was never in.
“What we thought is that radio got out of the music business and into the revenue business,” he says. “We wanted to say, ‘Why not monetize a consumer and get some advertising via programmatic?'”
But, is radio in the audio entertainment business and not in the “music business?”
Cox responds, “A lot of people at the ad agencies don’t really appreciate radio for being an ROI tool, or a reach tool. Radio is far down the road, and constantly you hear from [iHeartRadio CEO] Bob Pittman or [Entercom President/CEO] David Field about radio not getting their fair share. Spotify, Pandora — none of these companies would have existed if radio hadn’t been so focused on advertising.”
Therefore, why can’t Radio be a purveyor of content?
For Cox, it helps the radio station catch up in the music discovery game.
To be clear, it’s not “payola” or “promo-ola.” Cox and Hariri note that the efforts fueling MyMelo’s growth are designed to be promotional; no airplay guarantees are made. “If the audience does not resonate with this, it is not going to get the PDs attention,” Cox says.
For music industry A&R reps, the platform provides an ancillary benefit. If anything, Cox and Hariri say, MyMelo offers “an e-commerce solution that makes connections between listeners, artists, labels, local businesses, advertisers, and radio stations.”
A beta test was conducted in 2013 across multiple markets with Urban One’s Radio One. They are not presently working with MyMelo.
At the time, Cox discovered that for every $2,000 taken in via a new sales contract, a total of $17,000 worth of business was left out on the street. The reason: a station will not take $150 here and there from local businesses. “With that said, all of those businesses are going to Google SEO to put up an ad,” Hariri notes.
This has helped fuel local digital growth — at the expense of radio’s ability to get these dollars and place them in an online environment worthy of attention.
“This gives radio an opportunity to make up the gap through local market and its consumer, instead of relying on big brands like McDonald’s, who could decide to reduce their activity at radio,” Hariri says.
But, can radio drive traffic to its websites, even if it were to offer better content than today? What about station apps?
MyMelo is API-based, and if a radio broadcasting company wanted to integrate MyMelo into its dedicated mobile app, opportunity awaits.
It’s a value proposition with small- to medium-sized broadcasters in mind.
“Let’s stop with the TMZ-generated content and build a storefront,” Cox says. “There are a lot more small broadcasters out there than big ones, and if we can prove the benefit that it can help a town of 9,000, the anchor model has more long-term benefit.”
For Hariri, larger-scale efforts from iHeartRadio are “just beneficial for us.” He points to its bankruptcy court-approved purchase of Jelli, talks with Apple and the build-out of iHeart’s podcasts as how a forward-thinking radio operator is working to move forward with the audio communication consumer.
“There is a choice: get left behind, or come up with a solution,” Hariri says. “That’s where we come in.”
Cox adds, “We hope to get people to reengage with the sites once again. Then, the programmatic advertising kicks in.”
One station already using MyMelo is McDonald Garber-owned WKHQ-FM 105.9 in Charlevoix, Mich., a 100kw Top 40 station in the Petoskey-Traverse City-Cheboygan region of Northwest Michigan.
Another is KMGE-FM 94.5 in Eugene, Ore., a McKenzie River Class C1 facility branded as “Mix 94.5.”
For both stations, the “Music Explorer” is the first MyMelo-powered website enhancement; the look and feel of the stations website remain unique.
Hariri believes it’s just the beginning.
“Every year when you are doing your budgeting, starting in July, everyone’s solution was to grab digital dollars,” he says. “One, we didn’t have true digital sellers. Two, no one wanted to see TMZ reports and jock bios to bring in an advertiser. Then, you couldn’t get the traffic to justify an investment in the website. It was really frustrating to me.”
Even worse, Hariri says, was the push of radio stations to Instagram and Facebook. “This was taking eyeballs off the station website, and allowing them to make money,” he laments. “Our thing is to keep eyeballs on your site and give them something that is worthy enough to keep them there.”
This feature story appears in the RBR+TVBR WEEKLY TECH ROUNDUP for December 11. To subscribe to this free newsletter, please click here.