Are You Content With Your Content?

Written Apr. 22, 2009 by Tom Webster in Content + Internet Radio with 4 Comments

I just got back from speaking at the RAIN Internet Radio Summit in Las Vegas, and have to say that Kurt, Paul and Jennifer really did a great job putting together an exciting, content-rich program on the future of online radio. Highlights for me included David Goodman's update on all of the digital irons CBS has in the fire right now (and the enormous amount of content they are serving) and Pandora CEO Joe Kennedy's inspirational talk on entrepreneurship and seeing opportunities.

I was there to open the day with my usual bucket o' numbers, in this case some very good news for webcasters in the form of significantly increased weekly usage numbers for online radio as well as some eye opening numbers on social networking (you can see for yourself--download the complete Edison/Arbitron Infinite Dial 2009 Report here.) For the most part, the day was a celebration of how far online radio has come, and a compelling glimpse of where it can (and must) go in the future, capped off by Kurt Hanson's rapid fire, Pecha Kucha take on the state of the industry.

As I reflected on the summit during my long flight back to Tarheel country, I was struck most by a question one attendee asked at the end of the day that received some remarkably inadequate responses from the panel that fielded it. The question sounds innocent enough: "What are your companies doing to create new content suitable for digital formats?" The answers, however, generally danced around web site features designed to allow listeners to interact with each other, learn more about artists/songs, and other applications that are really just metadata, not original content.

Radio, and especially music radio, have to take this question a lot more seriously in the near term if the industry is to have a digital future. It is not enough to simply package up metadata and call it online content--a lot of other non-radio websites already beat you to it. This is serious. There are a quadrillion sites that suck data from an API and spit it back out again--but there aren't that many sites creating the unique, original web content that this metadata wraps around. Radio has to be in the content creation business, not the "value-added metadata" business. Repurposing on-air content is a start, but is only step one out of a hundred. As Pandora's Joe Kennedy succinctly put it during the summit, online radio is a unicast, one-to-one format, not a broadcast medium. Repurposing broadcast content is table stakes, but to raise the ante radio needs to get serious about creating new, original web content that they own (and don't have to pay SoundExchange for). This means audio content, yes--but also video content favorite...text content (which is the ONLY way radio can compete in the local search game).

Original content designed from the ground up for a unicast medium will be radio's strategic moat in the future. Metadata content can be mimicked and even radically improved by a guy in a garage. Radio has to think bigger about its online future--we should and must create tools that allow listeners the ability to share, comment on and remix content, but so can the rest of the world. The key is to make the original stuff first, then give those tools away to others. Only then will radio own its future.

Reader Comments

Your 2¢, in chronological order — add your comment below.
1  Gil on April 22, 2009 4:01 PM

Tom - so well put! There are so many talented people out there in radio-land. With just a few extra minutes a day, you can leverage original video, extended content from interviews, text based artist profiles, album reviews, blog posts, etc. There is a real opportunity for air-talent to better extend their brand to the web. The smart ones will figure out that its not just what your PD double tasks you with, but what the host will want to do for themselves to help grow their show and the brand identity of the station deeper into the web. Great summary!

2  Tom Webster on April 22, 2009 4:39 PM

Thanks, Gil! Appreciate the kind words. Thanks for reading.

3  Jon Latzer on April 30, 2009 2:58 PM

Tom- I agree with the premise that original content uniquely produced and formated for the digital environment will lift the digital-audio(radio) producers to greater consumer interaction. I was not at the Vegas Summit but I'm a bit surprised that the concept of UGC was not discussed.

UGC has been the foundation for the enormous growth of the social networking universe. Pandora, Last-FM, Slacker, and others allow for consuemrs to create their own UGC exeperience. Pandora alone has become one of the top 5 most popular downloads on the IPhone as a result AND it's all because of the consumers ability to create content that is uniquely carved around their needs.

Content creation is the battle cry for all media. TV lives and dies by it. While I agree that repurposed content only goes so far I would argue that the real growth will come from inviting the consumer into your space and saying "what do you want?" "how do you want it?" "what do you think of these 5 ideas?" Consumer generated content increases reach, increases interaction and involvement and creates long term brand identity.

4  Diane Shannon on April 30, 2009 4:22 PM

Great article. I am just finding that my clients are in real need of content and have been working to provide female based information for them. I am actually writing and researching content and it is starting to really work. Traffic is going up. If you'd like information on content for your site or blog, email me at

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