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Brian Baltosiewich

Making Niche Internet Radio Work

5-2-2012

I know I'm supposed to be writing about podcasting, but this caught my attention as something you should be aware of. There's an operation in Mississippi that has caught on with what may be the niche-iest of niche markets…and is making it work.

Sports talk radio is niche. But what about specific sports talk based on individual teams? Seems feasible if it's a super-big pro-sports franchise or college. But get this: Vsporto.com has launched a team-specific streaming radio sports talk website around Mississippi State and Ole Miss. Fifteen thousand registered users later, and Vsporto.com believes the sky is the limit.


Keith Jasper launched the site almost two years ago, fulfilling a childhood dream.
"I've always been interested in sports," Jasper said. "But I grew up a Buffalo Bills fan in Mississippi. So I started a Buffalo Bills website because I couldn't get Bills information consistently. That actually grew into a full-fledged business." That site took off, partnered with Yahoo and Fox Sports, and that's where the idea for team-specific Internet radio began.


Jasper spent about six years researching how sports media companies get started and what they would need, as well as how Internet companies were started, and about radio in general. He learned early on – and this should come as a surprise to no one who has ever tried to work with a large university on this level – that he would have to do this without the help of the schools themselves.


"I made the mistake of contacting the schools way before I had anything out. I immediately found out that a lot of these media costs can be pretty high. What we were looking to do initially was broadcast live games, and they'll sell you the rights if you pay them tens of thousands of dollars, and that was out of the question." 
They confirmed that as long as they were talk radio, they could really do whatever they wanted.


Shows are hosted by media members who cover each school regularly – print and radio – and listeners can interact with the hosts through software and apps that the Vsporto staff code themselves. In fact, that may be the key to their initial success.
"We build all of our technology internally," Jasper said. "All our coding, all our apps are built internally, and we even designed our own mobile ad platform."


How has this innovative idea, launched in an area of the country where (this is staggering) many residents don't have Internet access, performed financially?
"We brought in a little bit of money initially, and have steadily been growing. We just hired a full-time sales director who has experience in radio sales and sports media sales."


In terms of ad sales, Jasper believes that the real estate inside the programming is the most valuable, followed closely by listener-specific display ads based on zip code for registered users. Coded by the Vsporto staff, these have been popular with local businesses. Title sponsorships have also had some success.


From here, Jasper's goal is a streaming radio channel for every team.
Check out Vsporto.com here, and contact Keith Jasper at keith@vsporto.com.

Brian Baltosiewich has been a broadcast professional for more than 20 years. His podcast website, www.radioexiles.com features professionally-produced podcasts from radio pro’s who have lost their gigs. Reach out to him at brian@radioexiles.com or through their twitter account @radioexiles.

 




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