James Careless from Radio World agrees the radio industry needs a consumer guide, they need RadioTime.
RADIO WORLD, September 2005
TV viewers can find the shows they want using TV Guide, and record them for later viewing using TiVo; so why can’t radio listeners do the same? Well, now they can using RadioTime (www.radiotime.com); a website that allows you to search for favorite streamed shows for free, and record them using RadioTime’s player/recorder for $39 a year.
For $59, RadioTime will throw in a USB AM/FM Tuner that allows your PC/Mac to tune and then record local AM/FM broadcasts too. Recordings of local or streamed programs can be replayed on your PC, broadcast to your home stereo using a short-range wireless FM transmitter (such as the $69.95 model at www.ccrane.com) or transferred via USB cable to an iPod or MP3 player for portable listening.
“People want to find and hear the radio shows they love, when and where they want to hear them,” says RadioTime founder and CEO Bill Moore. “With RadioTime, it is easy.”
How RadioTime Works
Conceptually, RadioTime is simple. Users just surf to radiotime.com, enroll for free, then use the web site’s customization features to select the types of music and talk shows they like — including preferred programs — plus broadcasts on local AM/FM stations. The site even provides detailed information on specific programs, hosts, guests, and show topics. When used to search local broadcasters, RadioTime can help listeners decide which station to tune to while driving to work, or commuting on the bus.
To make the selection process easier, RadioTime’s search engine can browse by keywords such as “cars”, “NFL”, or “Washington DC news”.
Results can be viewed using a TV Guide-style grid, while favorite programs and stations can be filed into folders for easy access later.
Such searching and subsequent online tuning makes up “90% of RadioTime’s current activity,” says Moore. “People use our service at work to find the programs they want; whether through streaming media or tuning to local stations.”
For the remaining 10% who want to timeshift programs for later listening, RadioTime offers its own downloadable player/recorder software. Available for a free seven-day trial — to keep it running, users must then pay $39 a year — the software lets listeners select the shows they want using RadioTime’s program guide. The player/recorder then logs onto the desired streaming audio website at the right time, recording the audio stream to the user’s hard drive. In those cases where the PC has a USB tuner, such as RadioTime’s own FM unit or the AM/FM radioSHARK receiver, off-air broadcasts can be captured as well. All shows are recorded as MP3 files, making them compatible with virtually all portable digital music players.
RadioTime’s Business Case
At first glance, the RadioTime concept seems a bit, well, dot.comish: Surely people won’t be willing to pay for recording radio shows, when they can tune in for free!
However, drill down into Bill Moore’s thinking, and one discovers some interesting marketing ideas that could potentially turn a profit.
One of these ideas involves the number 3,500: This is the number of people who have already paid RadioTime for its recorder. Given that the site “has done no promotion and only launch in June,” as Moore says, this is an impressive number. Clearly, there is a market for this service.
The second idea and more important idea is licensing: Moore sees RadioTime’s biggest opportunity in licensing its software to radio manufacturers, who can then offer it as a value-added feature on new receivers. “When you buy a new TV and turn on its program guide, it doesn’t say channel 27; it says HBO and tells you what’s on,” Moore says. “RadioTime can do the same for local and Internet radio.”
Moore’s third idea is to sell data to Web portals, who can then use it to attract surfers. “We are akin to Gemstar or TVData,” he explains.
“By compiling all of the unorganized data on local radio and webcasting stations and programs into a coherent, easy-to-surf package, we have created something that other people want to offer. This is why we have been working with major portals to deliver RadioTime the way surfers currently access TV listings online.”
Impact on Conventional Radio
Every time something new like RadioTime hits the web, AM/FM station owners are confronted with the same question: Is the newcomer an ally, or a threat?
From Moore’s perspective, his web service is definitely an ally.
“A guide is valuable to any industry. RadioTime shows listeners the depth and quality of radio programming available. The guide connects ‘old radio’ content, quality, and distribution models with ‘new radio’ features.” One particular winner, as far as Moore is concerned, is talk radio.
“The demographic we are targeting — 30 to 55 — is tired of listening to the same music, and hungry for good spoken word programming,” he says. “RadioTime helps them find it.”
In truth, RadioTime is not only a positive development for conventional radio, but a possible asset for those stations who use it to promote their programs. After all, anything that convinces people to tune to your station is good for business; especially when it comes to tapping the global audience available over the Web. Better yet, by steering listeners to tune in through www.radiotime.com, stations can help Moore compile hard data on who’s tuning into their streamed audio, and what else they enjoy. In turn, these numbers can be used to sell advertising and make money; which is what conventional commercial radio is all about. This is why RadioTime could be the industry’s next best friend.