Paul Brenner – CTO of Emmis Communications
Can you provide an overview of NextRadio? What is your involvement with it?
I lead the team developing and growing NextRadio and TagStation. NextRadio is the receiver application, and TagStation is the cloud service that feeds the content. I run those on a daily basis. At a high level, NextRadio is a receiver app for devices that have both terrestrial radio and a connected service in the same device, such as a smart phone. The beauty of it is that NextRadio uses only about 3 percent of the bandwidth that equivalent streaming radio apps use, so the data usage or fees are going to be much less. It’s also a good deal for the station – for every in-market listener that chooses to listen via NextRadio instead of an internet stream, the station is also using about 3% of the bandwidth. So, it saves data for the consumer, it saves costs for the broadcaster, and it gives consumers a new way to interact with radio in the way they expect it to be on their smartphone. Our tagline is “FM Radio on Your Smartphone”, and it resonates well. Consumers really didn’t understand that FM radio was even available outside of their car. So the primary goal is to increase the accessibility of FM radio.
Who makes the NextRadio app? Is it available now? How does one get it?
It is available, but its proprietary to devices that have their FM tuner activated. At the moment, that means it has to be a Sprint, Boost Mobile, or Virgin Mobile Andriod smart phone.
How can NextRadio benefit public radio stations?
It benefits the stations by making radio available to your listeners outside the car. During long-form programming, listeners could make the easy transition from in-car listening to listening on their smart phone. NextRadio makes your station available to people in a new way that would otherwise cost both the station and the listener money to stream. Also, a station can measure listening down to the second. I can see what people are listening to and for how long.
Isn’t there a marketing element too?
That’s what we’re talking about with NPR. Right now, our initial offer is that any station in America can go and get an account on our TagStation platform for free and upload their logo, create a tagline for their station, and pick a genre. It’s simple brand recognition inside of NextRadio. This way, when someone tunes to a station’s broadcast on their smart phone, it won’ t only show the call sign and frequency. We offer these basic features to anyone for free.
Beyond that, we can take the audio content that you’re airing and sync it with visualizations and interactive elements for the consumer that make the experience more engaging. For example, in NextRadio, eight of the top ten most listened to stations in the country provide that interactivity. The stations with interactivity have twice as much listening as those that don’t. Retention of those listeners goes from under 25% to 55%, so stations with enhanced content are keeping more than twice as many listeners. What we’re seeing is that the consumer does want radio, but they prefer it to have the look and feel that they've come to expect from music apps on their phones. By offering interactivity, stations can entice the listener away from a pure streaming platform.
Is there an emergency communications element?
This is the public service aspect. Now that we’ve launched, we believe we’ve allowed anyone whose smart phone’s FM tuner is enabled a way to receive emergency info that is second to none. This is clearly a benefit to people who count on a radio station for emergency information.
Stations are encouraged to “sign up” for TagStation. What does that involve exactly?
TagStation is the cloud based platform that the station uses to enter data they want sent to the phone. Stations just need to go to tagstation.com to sign up. It only takes 10 minutes to load the information, so you’re able to set it and forget it. We also provide a shout-out a few times a year to say, "Hey, check in and verify your settings."
What should we expect to see in the next 12 months?
Right now, Sprint is the only carrier that has enabled this FM chip in its phones. As a result, you should see 10 million Sprint handsets with FM radio enabled, which is significant. And you should see some announcements about NextRadio moving into the dashboard. The dashboard is becoming important as more connected cars are coming off teh line. The visualization and the internet-like radio experience that NextRadio provides will move into the screen of the car- and that will be a very big step.
For more information about NextRadio and TagStation, please visit: http://tagstation.com/.
Posted: March 27, 2014