Radio Station Tests Web Relationship

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A Tampa, FL, radio station is marrying radio and the Internet to bolster its relationship with listeners and fatten its database of e-mail addresses.


Soft-rock station WARM 94.9 FM, owned by media giant Cox Enterprises, is testing a product dubbed Totally Interactive Radio that allows listeners to log onto the station's Web site (www.949online.com) and respond to the music being played on the radio.


"The product adds a new level of functionality to the site and broadens the content offering," said Gary Mills, group vice president of site management at Cox Interactive Media, Atlanta. "We are also looking for ways to build the e-mail databases in all our local radio markets since most of our database development has not included e-mail. We are searching for ways to get listeners to register so we can get those e-mail addresses and can market to the local community."


When listeners log onto the Web site, they see the name of the song being aired, the artist, the CD that includes the song and a picture of the CD cover. Totally Interactive Radio, called WARM Interactive for the test, gives listeners the chance to vote and comment on the music in real time.


Listeners are required to register on the site by providing their name, gender, year of birth and e-mail address. They receive a confirmation code by e-mail that they must type in every time they enter the interactive portion of the site. Agent Audio, Boston, which created Totally Interactive Radio, tracks listeners as they participate on the site and records their input, including the songs they rate the highest and the times they listen to the station.


"If the radio station wanted to send a promotion to people who like Pearl Jam, then you could go into the database and select the people who like that group," said Randy Thomae, Agent Audio's founder and CEO. "If certain people only listen in the morning, then you could send them an e-mail about something really exciting happening during the afternoon drive."


Those who tap into the site can link to more information about the artist and CD, buy the CD online, check out the WARM Interactive top 10 songs, see the last 10 songs played and participate in online contests.


"The benefits to radio stations are threefold," Thomae said. "The first is increased interaction with listeners, which offers a differentiation from other radio stations and means listeners will spend more time with you. The second is more music feedback, which gathers more information about the music that radio stations play. The third is nontraditional revenue streams for the radio stations."


At an additional cost, the radio station's advertisers can feature banner ads on the Web sites at the same time their commercials run on the air, Thomae said.


"You can imagine the value of that to radio stations," he said. "You can go to someone who is already spending $1,000 a week with you and ask them for an additional $50 a week to display a banner ad, which gives them an ad medium more powerful than a television ad."


CIM, which was created by Cox Enterprises to build audiences on the Internet, is monitoring response to the new feature and may roll it out to other Cox-owned stations, according to Mills. It chose to test the product in Tampa because that audience tends to listen to the station at the office.


"We know that many of the Internet site users are at work, where they primarily have high-speed access to the Internet," he said.
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