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ACR Will Transform Radio Engagement

by Roger Lanctot | 10月 31, 2013

Industry experts are quick to declaim their belief that the days of free over-the-air radio are numbered. This increasingly conventional wisdom declares that the combination of streaming audio services (Pandora, Spotify, etc.) and Internet radio services (TuneIn, Aupeo!, etc.) will steadily crowd out the AM/FM competition and render it irrelevant.  Some have gone so far as to predict the demise of the car radio.

These forecasters ignore the vital role that radio plays in delivering urgent location-relevant information ranging from traffic and weather to news and sports and, yes, even emergency broadcasts and amber alerts. They also ignore the fact that this local content is delivered with locally relevant advertising.

There is some cause for concern.  Radio advertising revenue has fallen about 10% between 2008 and 2012 from $18.3B to $16.48B, according to the Radio Advertising Bureau. But radio remains dominant in reach and frequency of use, according to respected sources such as Nielsen Audio and Edison Research.

The decline in ad spend is a warning sign, though, and it is important to interpret that sign accurately. Unlike television and the Internet, radio remains largely unsearchable and is almost impervious to discovery (without an app). And radio advertising is a one-way proposition.

But technology is emerging to overcome these barriers in the form of audio content recognition (ACR). First introduced by Shazam (for identifying songs playing over the air or anywhere else) and SoundHound, ACR is just beginning to be used to enable an interactive advertising experience – something entirely taken for granted on the Internet and rapidly emerging in television.

In fact the television opportunity has become so compelling that Shazam and SoundHound have completely shifted their focus (and their hundreds of millions of users) to TV, leaving the challenge of enabling interactive advertising on radio and in cars to the likes of Clip Interactive and NextRadio.

Emmis Communications’ NextRadio initiative is based on the introduction of FM chips in mobile phones. Working with Sprint, which has added FM chips to some of its handsets, the service provides local over-the-air reception and adds interactive features, if stations opt to support them, such as buying and rating songs, social media coupons and geo-location services, using the phone’s data channel. Emmis has attracted the participation of 19 radio groups supporting full TagStation content to deliver album art and interactivity, and Ford Motor Company has shown interest in the technology as a solution that can be enabled via a connected smartphone in a car.

Clip Interactive, meanwhile, is using ACR to enable comprehensive interactivity with radio station broadcasts including music and spoken word content as well as advertising. Currently testing in Portland and San Diego with local partners, Clip Interactive is scanning the local broadcast content in order to create an interactive opportunity for broadcasters and their listeners.

Clip executives believe that the Internet and IP-delivered services such as Pandora have raised customer expectations for a personalized and interactive experience. At the same time advertisers want targeting, tracking and direct connectivity to the listener on a one to one basis.

There is no better venue for this kind of personalized and targeted engagement than a car, where the listener is belted in and, very often, on the way to making a purchase or conducting some other kind of transaction. Clip execs believe that broadcast radio needs to step up to interactivity to realize the potential of vehicle-based advertising.

In Portland and San Diego Clip has set up listening posts cataloguing all of the content from the top 30 stations in the market. ACR technology is used as a form of fingerprinting to make all of the broadcast content accessible for interactivity.  Local broadcasters participating in Clip's program create the interactive offers and content to go with the over-the-air offering.

With ACR-interpreted content scanned and stored by Clip, all that is required is for listeners is to run the Clip app in the background on their mobile phone as they drive and, with the click of a button or with a verbal cue they can tag music, advertisements or other over-the-air content with which they can engage when they reach their destination.

“Music is a commodity that others like Pandora will slice, dice and recommend,” says Bill Freund, executive vice president of Clip. “but localized broadcasts will never be commoditized or programmatic. Local broadcasters need to leverage this advantage in the vehicle.”

Clip’s offering is still in a trial phase, but the early results are promising (see example below).  Both Clip and NextRadio enable broadcasters to reach out and engage with their listeners in real time.  In the future, ACR might enable enhanced searching of broadcast content – including spoken word sources. But for now, both services leverage existing technology to transform a medium in need of transformation.

Cast Study halloween.pptx (4.27 mb)

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