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Fred Jacobs is President of Jacobs Media, a media research and consulting firm. Jacobs Media clients have included CBS Radio, Premiere Radio Networks, Citadel, Greater Media, MTV Networks, Playboy, Amazon, Electronic Arts, NPR, Sylvan Learning Centers, and Taubman Malls. Learn more about the company here.

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August 2011

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Comments

Dan Kelley

Fred:

As one who listens to a lot of streaming radio, you're right on with many of your comments.

I find some frustration in simply wanting to "click to listen". With some station websites, it can be a 2, 3, or 4 click process simply to get the player up on my screen.

And some radio sites want me to register with varying degrees of personal information in order to listen. Yipes! We'd never do that with our on-air audience - though you wonder what some stations would do if it were possible!

Why not simply offer listeners a widget-type icon they can load on their desktop for one-click access to the station stream? A widget could optionally offer other content choices.

Quality: 32 kbps doesn't cut it anymore; even on tiny notebook PC speakers the poor quality is noticed. It seems the majority of streamers I listen to are still at this rate; and some even in mono (some mono streams are not even L+R summed..just left or right audio...I heard a Beatles tune the other day with no vocals...).

64 kbps minimum; 96 kbps even better. AAC+ would be ideal and saves on bandwidth.

With PPM showing 7% listening online, its apparent its time to take this seriously. And please - pay attention to the stopset fill and how your station sounds of the net leaving and joining the terrestrial audio!

Fred

Great comments, Dan. Your point about quality and stopset fill are dead on the money. It's time to stop throwing away the stream and get serious about this distribution source.

Jay Philpott

I'd like to amplify Dan Kelley's reference to stopset fill -

While it's true the industry needs to upgrade the internet stream listening experience in terms of technical quality and we need to educate the audience on usage/benefits of stream listening, generally speaking, very few streams are ready for the attention. Some of the best sounding stations in America (when heard over the air) sound inferior to themselves nearly 25% of the time when heard from the stream!

It's the material covering the stopsets.

Listening to many streams reveals that a lot of stations have dual personalities. What you hear during music sweeps can often be an excellently programmed and well produced station, only to devolve into an altogether different and in most cases, deeply inferior audio product during the stopsets. Some stations are running a different slate of commercials during these periods and some are running promos, production music beds, PSA's, various mixtures of them all or even dead air.

Many station streams are rendered unlistenable for the up to 8 minute period that the stopsets must be covered. I wonder how much TSL could be recovered by simply making the stopset covers more compatible with the rest of the station's sound? Let's put some effort and resources into the creation and maintenance of customized stopset audio before we call too much attention to our streams. And then in the future, armed with that experience and existing infrastructure, we can create interesting and customized podcast programming that is net-only and distinct from the signal.

Tony Brueski

Very true. Streaming has been very under valued, especialy with more and more ways for people to access a stream now.

Aside from the stream, some companies are taking atvantage of the medium and re-branding their formats with a truely on-demad style of stream, where the listener chooses the artists, and styles of music they want. If this were to be co-branded with existing local brands (ie, intermingle local sweepers, imaging, jocks talking about relavant information between the listener created format). It could give the whole "stream" concept some new legs for interest with the listener.

Tony
http://www.bestradiocommercials.com

Bob Bellin

The AFTRA rules regarding streamed content need immediate revisiting. The rates are unreasonable and onerous, so radio reacted appropriately by pre-empting them with mostly lousy sounding content.

This could all be fixed if AFTRA would bundle streaming in with the over the air fee structure. Their membership isn't benefiting from the current arrangement because none of their clients ads are being streamed.

Dan Kelley

There's opportunities with stopset fill that go beyond "McGruff the Crime Dog" or per-inquiry spots for colon cleansers or any consumer-beware spots offering to fix your credit.

If there's unsold online inventory, programmers should take advantage of that opportunity. It could be as simple as a properly-timed fill song or as wonderful as artist or even local artist profile.

A little brainstorming at the station could generate lots of ideas.

But solve the technical glitches first; and make getting in and out of that internet fill material as seamless as your on-air execution.

Tony

When I look into my crystal ball of the future... I see many many many many many 100x many's, more listeners to stations streams than I do to the "HD2" channels.

First off. I work in the industry, and have for almost 15 years. I have yet to actualy see or listen to an HD radio. What does that tell you about how far away from the consumer this product is. Further more, as cars start to get the net in them and more options than ever before for listening. What will the go to? The highly interactive ON DEMAND net webstream or... another teresteral option with no "on demand" options and hope for the best? My money, and the money of the people who advertise with my agency is on streaming for the future.

Tony
http://www.bestradiocommercials.com

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