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Are You Proud of Your Digital Product?

8-26-2012

(by Ed Ryan) Saga's Warren Lada has stirred up a hornet's nest with his recent comments about ad-insertion and Saga's decision to completely abandon the technology. Those who operate in the digital space believe Lada is leading radio back to the dark ages, the radio industry just doesn't see where audio is headed and the industry is too cheap to seriously invest (money or people) in their streaming product. Some in radio return fire by saying the cost to stream and insert ads isn't worth a lot of their time and certainly not worth dumping tons of money for what it returns. They are just being smart. One thing became clear this weekend, after listening to music stations across the country, if Program Director's actually listened to what went out over their streams, you would think they would be horrified.

We randomly picked music stations that were streaming online and focused on their stopsets. We listened for all the issues that Lada told us concerned him. How were the audio levels compared to the music? What was being played during the breaks? How was the segue back to the over-the-air signal? Is the product comparable to what goes out over the air? The easy answer is the products are not even close. Nearly 100% of the time, whenever a stopset concluded, and a station came back to its on-air signal, it clipped the end of the over-the-air promo or commercial. Very few stopsets were loaded with local commercials. And, national PSA's are making a big comeback online.

We listened via iHeartRadio, TuneIn, individual station apps and through pop-up players on station websites.
Here are just a few examples;
- At NextMedia's Country station WRNS-FM in New Bern, North Carolina (via TuneIn) a stopset started with two PSA's, played an Auto Zone spot, three more PSA's and came back to its on-air signal by cutting over a spot.
- At Entercom's KBLX in San Francisco (using the radio station app) the station played a stopset with two PSA's, a spot for www.birthdayexpress.com, a spot for redenvelope.com and two spots for 800 number products which sounded like PI's. None of the commercials sounded local and while the re-entry clipped a spot it was short.
- At Clear Channel's WSIX-FM in Nashville (via iHeartRadio) we heard an ad for NashvilleHelpWanted.com, an iHeartRadio Promo for the app, an iHeartRadio Festival Promotion, a promo for the Roots of Country Channel on iHeartradio, a Wine Festival (local commercial?) www.wineontheriver.com, an iHeartradio artist spotlight for Kenny Chesney, an iHeartradio artist spotlight for Jake Owen, a promo and a clean re-entry back to music.
- At Greater Media's Magic 106.7 in Boston (soft rock format), a stopset included a homeless cats PSA, a promo for workday music, a 9-11 Memorial PSA and a jazz song to fill the rest of the stopset which was cut off hard to get back to the on-air signal.
- At Cumulus' I93 in Dallas (via the station player on a PC) the stream sounded as if someone was sitting in the radio station studio flipping a switch turning the broadcast on and off, on and off through every song being played.
- One station stream was in the middle of a stopset which cut right into a song that cut right into a second song which then cut into an artist clip before cutting that off and going back to the on-air signal. It was so bad, we decided not to identify the station here.

Of course, this is not a scientific study, we didn't listen to hundreds of stations, so take our limited research for what its worth. It was random and we tried to spread the listening out by company, format and technology. It did leave us wondering if managers would allow these mistakes to consistently occur via their transmitter. The answer is obvious. Not a chance. Is it OK for this to happen online because listening numbers are so low? Is it because the online stream isn't really a priority? Is it because it doesn't sell? Is it because there isn't enough staff to take care of these issues?

If you know of examples of radio stations executing a perfect stream, with local or nationally sold ads commercials filling the stopsets, please list them here in our comments section or send to edryantheeditor@gmail.com

 




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