Inside Listener Driven Radio

Chris Byrnes – ByrnesMedia

I was recently in the same city at the same time as Daniel Anstandig, one of the founders of Listener Driven Radio (LDR), and sat down with him and Greg Hunt, LDR VP/Affiliate Relations. I asked them about this software–and how it is helping radio stations to build audiences and engage them.

How did Listener Driven Radio come about: The idea started three years ago, as I was on the road consulting radio stations. We felt that listeners were becoming disenfranchised with radio. I would stand in focus groups and hear listeners saying things like, “I don’t actually believe radio stations play the songs I request anymore,” or, “I don’t believe they used that survey I filled out because after I told them what I liked, nothing changed on that radio station.” Listeners told us very clearly that they felt radio stations were not interested in their opinions about what songs played.

At the same time, we heard from stations that the web was a priority and that most PD’s needed creative ways to drive visitors and page views on their websites. That was difficult to tie in contextually with the on-air programming, since there was no real time bridge between what was happening on the radio station and what was happening on the station’s website.

So Listener Driven Radio was born out of this listener research as well as conservations with Programmers, Managers and Station Owners around the world.  Our goal was to provide a platform, and build something that would allow listeners to participate and give the radio station real time feedback on what should be happening on the air. We are allowing listeners to pull a chair up to the PD’s desk and have a say in what happens. We call this crowdcasting. Instead of the traditional model where we decide and the listener then makes a decision as to if they will listen or not, with LDR they get to have a real time say in the songs that your radio station will play.

What is Listener Driven Radio? Listener Driven Radio gives your audience real time control over your playlist (within programming parameters set by the PD), and gets listeners more engaged in your radio station. They can request songs, vote for songs to play more or less, get notifications by e-mail or IM when their favourite songs play, and vote for which song should play next on the air.

How does LDR integrate with a radio station’s systems: LDR integrates in real time with most of the popular automation systems, including Scott Studios (SS32), AudioVault, Nexgen, and WideOrbit, and Enco. We also integrate directly with all the most popular music software scheduling systems such as MusicMaster, RCS (including v12, v15, and gSelector), and Power Gold.

How does LDR help radio stations reach listeners on Social Network platforms: We believe that the big Social Networks, such as Facebook and Twitter are traffic generators for radio and can also provide significant cume growth for a radio station.  Some time ago we did some research on how media websites, and specifically radio stations’ websites, get traffic. We found that for every one visitor that goes through a radio station website to Facebook or Twitter to talk about something they liked on that local media webpage, four of their friends would specifically check out that radio station website. That shows a high level of return for the radio station.

A huge part of LDR is the social networking integration. We tie directly into Facebook and Twitter and almost 300 other Social networks so we can move traffic from the radio station site into social networks and back from Social Networking into the station website. The goal here is to increase cume for the radio station and get the radio station noticed by people who may not be aware of or have not had any reason to check out that radio station for some time. When a friend recommends a product or service to you, you are more than 30 times more likely to try that product or service. So with LDR you have a tangible way for fans of your radio station to recommend your station to their friends via their social networks. And with LDR it is more than, “I like this radio station and I want my friends to know about it.” It is, “I just voted for this song on radio station XYZ and you should vote too, so we can hear this song.” This not only engages the listener, but it becomes a clear and simple way for them to visit the radio station website and get involved.

What evidence do you have to show that LDR is actually increasing cume and traffic to radio station website:  When LDR was launched on Virgin Radio in France their website traffic increased by 300%. They had over 3 million hits to their websites in the first weekend and over 750,000 votes or song requests in the first 2 days that LDR was live. At Fresh FM in Washington DC they created “You Pick the Music Weekends” and the PPM numbers show the following:

Adults 18-49
Fresh 2.5 – 3.5 – 4.3 – 4.0 – 6.6 4th (260% increase!)
WASH 3.5 – 4.2 – 5.3 – 4.0 – 4.6 8th
WRQX 2.3 – 3.9 – 4.6 – 3.6 – 3.3 11th

Women 18-49
Fresh 3.0 – 2.7 – 4.5 – 4.7 – 8.1 3rd (270% increase!)
WASH 3.7 – 4.2 – 6.6 – 3.6 – 5.7 4th
WRQX 2.0 – 4.7 – 4.0 – 3.9 – 3.2 12th

Adults 25-54
Fresh 2.9 – 3.4 – 4.3 – 3.4 – 6.1 4th (210% increase!)
WASH 3.4 – 4.6 – 4.7 – 4.9 – 5.1 6th
WRQX 2.2 – 4.9 – 5.0 – 3.8 – 3.3 13th

Women 25-54
Fresh 2.9 – 4.5 – 3.8 – 7.3 4th (250%+ increase!)
WASH 4.7 – 6.6 – 4.8 – 6.1 5th
WRQX 6.4 – 5.1 – 4.2 – 3.3 12th

Social Media is a less expensive and obtrusive way to get the message about your radio station out there quickly. External advertising is becoming very expensive and with smaller staff in the typical radio station we just do not have time to be putting up banners, and most stations do not have the budget for billboards or television these days.

Other than on a widget on a radio station website where would I expect to find LDR: The radio station website is the primary tool, but we also provide a mobile WAP site that lives on any of the smart phones such as iPhone, Blackberry, or Android. We can also incorporate it into your existing smart phone app and we have an interface that is optimised for iPad which is proving very popular.  In short, LDR is living where the listeners are and they are flocking to LDR and love the power it gives the listener to influence what happens on their favourite radio station.

Tell me how the ‘you pick the next song’ feature works on LDR: This is one of the most popular ways the audience interacts via LDR. At certain points in every hour, or for a complete hour, say at Noon or 10pm, a command is placed in the clock of your music scheduling system, and the music scheduler will schedule three songs into that position—or the Program Director decides which three songs he would like the audience to see and vote on. The audience votes via your website and the winning song is placed directly into your automation system and plays on the air without the announcer having to be in the room or do anything. We integrate directly with most automation systems plus we have a web based interface for those automation systems that we do not currently interface with.

What else can the listeners do via LDR: Listeners can request songs, rate songs (play a song more or less), receive notification via email or text message when their favourite songs are about to play on your station, they can listen to (stream) music on demand and rate that music. They can also upload their own locally produced songs and once vetted by the Program Director the audience can vote on which of the local songs should be added to the station’s playlist.

How is LDR helping stations in this new PPM world: Big PPM numbers come from a high number of tune-ins. LDR alerts listeners when their favourite songs are playing (creating more tune-in), and it keeps listeners longer by keeping them more engaged. That’s why stations like Fresh-FM in DC is seeing 200% and 300% growth in their key demos and they couldn’t be more pleased with the results.  PPM is the new currency that radio stations in major markets are being measured by, and LDR is helping these stations get their unfair share of tuning. We will have new Canadian PPM data soon from two markets where LDR is quickly establishing itself. For example since early July, X92 in Calgary has been allowing listeners to pick the next song each hour. Over 15,000 used this feature on the first day and the numbers have grown steadily from there.

Is LDR only for the younger targeted radio stations: The client base for LDR in North America and around the world does not suggest that. In Europe, for example, we have more stations that target the 35+ demo than the younger demos. Virgin Radio France, Radio 105 as well as Radio Monte Carlo in Italy are both targeting 35+ audiences, and they have had tremendous experience using LDR to engage their listeners. In Italy the increase in the web traffic on all their websites has been staggering.

What’s the future for LDR: The business of LDR is based on “interactive programming tools.” We have a complete development team working on some additional enhancements to the LDR platform and software, including four en-gineers internally and partnerships with a number of broadcasters.  We are currently working on some really exciting music programming tools which is going to make this product even better. Mike McVay, Lee Zapis, myself, and our development team are constantly coming up with ideas to make this product even better. The feedback we have received from the Byrnes Media team has been invaluable in building the platform to fit Canadian broadcasters and fit with CRTC/Cancon guidelines. Plus, we get lots of suggestions from our client base, which is growing each and every month. We are just about to launch LDR with one of the major radio groups in South Africa for example, plus we will be announcing some other major news in the next two months so watch our website for that news. (listenerdrivenradio.com)

We believe programmers of the future cannot continue to program radio stations the same way they did 20 years ago. We are in a world that demands an immediate real time feedback loop and LDR is providing that for radio stations. Everyone in our company comes from either programming, sales or broadcast management, so we are radio people who want to build particle usable tools to help radio stations generate larger audiences and larger revenues.

How does a radio station make money using LDR: LDR has banner ad opportunities on the bottom of the widget which is proving to be an easy sell. Plus when anyone drags the widget into their Facebook or other social network the banner ads go with them. Also, IM and e-mail notifications can be sponsored. We also have a Programming/Sales support person in our company who works with stations to develop sales tools for the program. Call us to find out more information on this.

Conclusion: Listener Driven Radio is getting a lot of attention around the world. For example, the trend setting website Springwise.com just came out with their list of five businesses that look to the crowds for content, including Listener Driven Radio. Here is what they said about LDR: “Listener Driven Radio makes a set of tools to help broadcasters become crowdcasters. Using LDR, a radio station’s listeners can provide real-time feedback about what they’re hearing—dynamically influencing the station’s playlists. They can use the station’s website, Twitter or mobile phones to rate songs and make requests, and this information is fed into a weighting system for the station’s music library.“

At ByrnesMedia we get lots of opportunities to become involved in products and services and, frankly, we turn most down because we do not feel they are right for our clients. Listener Driven Radio is one product we have taken on and we are proud to represent it in Canada. If you would like to talk to us about how LDR can help your radio station please call our office at 905-332-1331.