Written Sep. 12, 2006 by in Blogging + Internet Radio + Marketing with 5 Comments
In just 3 days, Internet-only alternative station WOXY is going dark. I can absolutely feel their pain, having been a partner in another Internet radio play back in 2001 that also ran into the crippling paradox of 'Net radio--the more listeners you have, the faster you go out of business. As it was with Puremix, so it is with WOXY--while Internet radio usage is significantly more widespread than Satellite radio or even the iPod, making money from a pure Internet radio play is still a tough nut to crack.
WOXY had a significant presence in the Alternative community, and its site was the home of one of the most active message boards in all of radio. My wife's graduate students all listened to WOXY nonstop in lab, and I also listened to it a fair amount. So who killed it? The short answer is--I did. So did my wife's graduate students. And, statistically speaking, pretty much anyone else reading this who ever listened to WOXY. Because chances are, you didn't pay to subscribe, and neither did we.
America has seen a lot of alternative rock stations go by the wayside over the past 18 months, and prevailing wisdom has it that the 18-34 year old male has pretty much checked out of the system--ditching land lines, not filling in diaries, etc.--making them essentially invisible as far as ratings (and, thus, advertisers) are concerned. Perhaps passive measurement will bring with it a resurgence in formats that cater to this demographic. We see this when we conduct surveys in markets with underperforming alternative rockers--we know more people are listening to them than the diaries show, but if they don't play the game, they don't count.
So I am sure that there are lots of voices out there who are quick to excoriate Arbitron for their apparent failure to accurately measure the 18-34 year old male. What WOXY teaches me, however, is that the 18-34 year old male has to take some responsibility for this, as well. After all, WOXY has one of the most active user communities of any station on the web--just troll through their message boards and see--and yet hardly any of them ponied up a few bucks a month to subscribe. So for those of us who left WOXY on all day while we worked (and in the case of my wife's graduate students, even left it on overnight after they had gone home for the day) without paying for it, all we did was kill it quicker.
So we can hope that the coming dawn of passive measurement restores some balance to the force. But the "free lunch" mentality of the Internet means that even passive measurement of Internet radio doesn't mean that Internet radio has sussed out a revenue model yet. WOXY had a tremendous, loyal and passionate community--but despite all that love on their message boards, WOXY couldn't convert love into gold.
So, how do you create, sustain and monetize a rabid community of fans on the web? I hope you'll join me at the NAB Radio Show next week, when one of my panelists will be WOXY's GM, Bryan Jay Miller. Ask the man himself--and learn from his valuable perspective.