It’s no secret that a wild, wondrous array of smart devices, voice-activated speakers and mobile apps are unlocking newfound potential to connect with radio audiences, while potentially plumping stations’ bottom lines. The challenge now for broadcasters is trying to keep up with these rapidly evolving platforms, even when that sometimes means starting from scratch—again.
At the Wednesday NAB Show session, “Maximizing Smart Devices and Mobile Apps for Radio,” executives from Beasley Media Group and Hubbard Radio shared their efforts to stay ahead of the curve.
Steve Meyers, Executive VP of Digital for Beasley, explained that his company has made the leap to a new mobile app platform for each of the company’s 63 stations in 15 markets, with a focus on next-generation features—which he admits continue to evolve. The media company began the design phase six years ago, working with jācappps.
Recognizing that more than 70% of its audience interacts with Beasley stations via mobile devices—and then finding that 25% of its audience sessions were focused on live streaming, with the other 75% on other digital content—the company refocused on creating relevant content targeted and more personalized to its listeners.
“To think that 75% were coming to see all the things we create other than streams… that’s a significant number for something that started life as a ‘Play’ button,” Meyers said. “We had no choice but to (explore) the next generation of mobile applications. Our brands need to be accessible where, when, how and even if our audience wants to consume and engage with them.”
That includes an astonishing 93 new pieces of digital content each day. “With FM, we were pushing one stream of content. Digital opens this whole new ability for us to provide different opportunities and different methods of engagement for our brands.”
Today, Beasley’s station apps are “consumer-centric instead of brand-centric,” he said. That includes published content on a mobile screen that can be scanned up and down as well as left to right (think Netflix’s menu). And among the company’s most audacious innovations: Users who register are also now able to customize/personalize the content they see on the screen—certainly a game-changer for the traditionally static mobile apps that most stations have.
“The home screen of the station app is like the home screen of your smartphone,” in which content can be moved, added and even erased. “You can get rid of contests if you want, add in all of the streams from our country stations, see news about rock artists from all of those stations… we’re really excited about the methodology here,” Meyers said.
And for the Beasley stations, there are significant advantages, as well: “What if our brands knew each audience member by name? What if we provided concierge level service to each of those audience members, making them feel special and unique? What if we provided content and advertising to our audience where, when, if and how they want it?”
The biggest lesson learned, according to Meyers: “We can’t just push stuff at people anymore. They’re going to consume it when and how they want to consume it. They are creating their own personal media ecosystems, and we have to be as flexible as possible.”
Hubbard’s Streaming Strategy
Hubbard Radio’s walk on the wild side surrounds innovations with its proprietary station streaming. Its rollout—for 44 radio stations in seven markets—comprises 25 responsive web players that scale to any screen, desktop, tablet and/or mobile device, 28 Alexa skills, three Flash Briefings skills and 24 IOS/24 Android mobile apps.
“I would say to other broadcasters, have a vision or find somebody that does. Be a digital company. Make it part of your DNA,” said Jeremy Sinon, VP Digital Strategy for Hubbard. “You cannot behave like a radio company anymore. You have to act like a digital company.”
A game changer for Hubbard as it advanced its streaming strategy was to require simple registration for its listeners/audience. “Without registration, what did we know about stream listeners? Nothing,” he mused. The company was first able to cull name, age, gender, email, zip code, “all the pretty basic stuff right out of the gate,” he said.
And now, thanks to the sophisticated data tools it has developed in-house (with assistance from jācappps), Hubbard stations can track the habits of that particular listener/consumer, and “tie into everything she does with us, and we can learn a heck of a lot more. When did she first connect, how much does she listen? Ah, she’s listening right now. She frequently enters our Listening Rewards, primarily listens from the web at work, now she just linked Alexa and is listening more from home… And she recently visited a client location and entered with a prize via the station app.”
The big picture, Sinon said: “This listener data allows us to have a closer relationship with our listeners.” Pause. “It ain’t bad for marketing, either.”
As technology continues to evolve, so does Hubbard’s investment—which he admits has required a significant financial investment. “Six years we’ve been going at this and we’re still going. This is a long road,” he said. “Leaders from the very top need to buy in. If you can pull that off, the possibilities are endless. For Hubbard, we now have something that we own, and we can continue to build on top of it.”