How to Monetize Online Radio

One of my great pleasures in life is being proved right – because it’s so much better than the alternative.

I have argued long and hard for online radio as an important piece of radio’s digital portfolio, yet I have been faced with all the usual push-back.  From stations that unplug their streams – and get lots of attention from the radio industry for doing so – to stations that turn their stream into a subscriber-only affair and settle for whatever short term gains will arise from that effort.

I have even had a major group head tell me outright: “There’s no money to be made in online radio.”

“He’s wrong,” says Andy Ruback, and Andy is one to know.

Andy is the GM of NRG Media’s Lincoln NE cluster.  And Andy is making money with online radio out of the box.  Lots of it.  And no, he’s not trading digital dollars for over-the-air ones.

What’s his secret?  It’s not that complicated – it’s just that strategic.

Watch this video for an overview of the smart moves underway in Lincoln NE that allow NRG in this modestly sized market to outbill the streaming revenue of much larger groups in much larger markets.

For more info on what Andy’s doing, you can reach out to him personally via email.

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  • Hi Mark,
    Interesting interview. Great to hear a cluster finally taking online radio so seriously (and profiting from it!).
    Andy's team made a lot of the right moves here. It sounds like treating each station's stream like a “real” radio station, both in terms of programming and ad package sales, is the way to go. NRG's strategy of replacing PSA time with actual content would probably serve many traditional stations very well, too.
    Scott Fox

  • Jgordon5

    This is an amazing interview. Congratulations to Andy Ruback who has found the money in streaming radio hiding in plain sight that no one else noticed.

    Josh Gordon

  • john

    you are easily impressed. A three week experiment does not a business make. Other groups have used the same system of bundling/fixed group of advertisers and most of them would tell you that holding the advertisers to their annuals (or six months) is what breaks in this idea. The low reach delivered by stream-only advertising ends up generating low rev lift and the repetition of the small number of advertisements burns listeners. Even if you take the projected revenue of the optimistic early projections, you net out a high cost of sales, license costs, and the all-in cost of hosting, operating systems, man hours, etc, and you have a tiny little profit center. No one will complain about any new profit, but touting this as a breakthrough is simply simplistic thinking.

  • Perhaps Andy can speak to that.

    The fact remains, of course, that he has cold, hard cash that much larger broadcasters in much larger markets do not have as a result of this effort. Rather than dismiss his success, I think we should celebrate it.

    If time requires him to modify, so be it. Stepping forward and being nimble is more admirable than staying put.

    Then again, if you have a more effective strategy to deliver revenue via online radio, I invite you to use this space to share it.

  • MH@SFBay

    Mark! Eat a burger, please! Man, you lost too much weight!

  • Pretty much unchanged since high school. TV should add ten pounds.

  • Dhouleradio

    @John – very simply to overcome the low reach, you add a 'premium' to the package that includes on-air recognition of their sponsoring the digital stream. This builds brand of the client and station for the fresh, creative content offered on the digital stream. Builds audience and satisfaction. When the creativity splashes over the air, you're on your way! Never despise humble beginnings.

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  • georgedaigle/joy97.com

    so can I see a template of this process?

  • You’re welcome to reach out to Andy and he will either give it to you or sell it to you.
    I’d do the latter if I were him 🙂

  • want to do the same with http://www.number1country.com was told by a major group who solicited me on “innovation” that it did not fit their “local” model and they were not interested in a national digital brand. hmmmm? how it that innovating? lol.

  • Oh I don’t know. Why not ask Townsquare or Salem about that. Both with record digital growth. Both who leverage their brands across platforms with no specific bias for local per se.

  • would love to do that. not sure the contact, but lookin in to it. growth without promotion has been surprising. but, as you said last year at CRS. not about being “better, just different”. be well.

  • You bet, Keith. Thanks for the note!

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