Thursday, November 15, 2007

Internet Stream Dries Up in Tidewater

A reader asked me to comment on the decision by sister stations WTYD and WBACH to cease Internet streaming. A simple posting on the sites of these Williamsburg, Virginia stations announced the end of the service.

Had the station chose to stick to facts (rates have risen, income hasn't, something has to give), I wouldn't be writing about it. But its whining tone begs some kind of response. The announcement originally was posted on both The Tide and WBACH's website -- it now only appears on WBACH's.
Congress, the record companies, artists and their various lobby groups, in their collective wisdom, have determined that we should pay royalty fees for music played online...
It's true. Rates have risen, as I (and many others) have talked about before. What the announcement doesn't talk about was commercial radio's indifference to it. As others have noted, only NPR really took a stance when the rate hikes were proposed -- the NAB remained curiously silent. And now they have to live with the results.

Yes, the mean old record companies screwed everyone with the help of Congress. But now that the results of commercial radio's inaction have come home to roost, I can only say "boo hoo hoo."
Our website doesn't generate any revenue - $0. Knowing that most radio stations' websites don't generate any revenue, these titans of brilliance have still decided that we should pay based on the possible future revenues of online broadcasting.
Both the Tide and WBACH's websites are remarkably free of advertising, so I have no doubt they generate zero income. But whose fault is that?

Mark Ramsey of Hear 2.0 has been advising commercial radio for some time to understand the importance (and value) of their websites. And Ken Dardis of Audiographics has been doing the same. Online advertising is projected to grow 22% this year alone -- and yet this radio station can't generate any income at all on their website?

What about on-air/banner ad packages? What about using the site as a repository for more info with at least a line listing and a link to advertiser's websites?

Or how about Google AdSense, or an affiliate program like the Commission Junction? That's what we use for this blog and the Gamut playlist. They generate a modest amount of income, but our sites only have a fraction of what WTYD's should be.

It requires some creative thinking, sure. But if a radio station can't figure out how to drive traffic to its site (hint: integrate the URL into your broadcasts) to make it attractive to local advertisers, you can't blame that on the mean old record labels.

Reading this announcement, though, I got the impression that writer doesn't know much about the Internet. After all, this is just a notice. But what if it were rewritten slightly with links? Instead of just whining about Congress, how about providing a link to where folks can go and do something about it? No wonder they don't generate any web revenue.

And finally, although the notice initially ran on both WBACH and the Tide's websites, it now only shows on the classical station's. Why?

Because the Tide does have an Internet radio stream. There's a box leading to the Tide's New Music Channel (NMC). No, it's not a stream of their on-air broadcast. It's actually a separate Internet radio stream.

NMC is a service of Businesses can sign up for the service, have their logo inserted into the page (thanks to dynamic links) and the customer believes it's originating from the client.

In their info page, they assure everyone that they're paying all of the SoundExchange fees (and apparently can make money doing so -- although that may change once the ax falls).

And ironically, when you first go the Tide's NMC, directly below the station's logo is a banner to save Internet radio (like the one on the top of this blog). Too bad commercial radio chose to ignore it.

- Ralph

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