BlogTalkRadio is a social radio network that allows users to connect quickly and directly with their audience. You can use an ordinary telephone and computer to create free, live, call-in talk shows with unlimited participants that are automatically archived and made available as podcasts.
No software download is required. Your listeners can subscribe to the shows via RSS into iTunes and other feed readers. Since August, 2006, the BlogTalkRadio network has produced tens of thousands of episodes.
Today's new media conversation is with Alan Levy, the co-founder and CEO of BlogTalkRadio. He is also the host of the Alan Levy Show.
Radio has always been a truly broadcast media. But the web is inherently interactive. How does this change the game for next generation radio people?
Alan: The game changes when you realize you’re having a dialogue with your listeners, not a monologue at them. When you bring a traditional medium like Radio to the web, it would be foolish not to take advantage of the web’s capabilities. So the nextgen broadcasters must change. BlogTalkRadio takes advantage of the talk radio format and blends it with the capabilities of the web. Like most traditional radio the shows are live and there is a call in number. But that’s where the similarities end.
We have the capacity for dozens of concurrent shows, hosts can broadcast shows for lengths that fit their needs, not stretch 20 minutes of content into 30 minutes or cram a two hour show into an hour. Our segments are recorded and RSS enabled so minutes after the show ends, an archive is available on the site and via podcast subscription. We’ve taken the technology out of it for the users. We also provide text chat rooms for another layer of interaction with hosts.
In conventional radio, it's generally supposed - as a rule of thumb - that only about 1% of your audience will ever make a request, turn up for a remote broadcast, or participate in a contest. These active listeners have traditionally exerted influence on the programming of their stations far in excess of their numerical importance. If we assume a higher percentage of listeners will contact a nextgen broadcaster, how will this effect programming decisions? Is this a good or bad thing?
Alan: The interactive nature of the new web alters the way listeners respond and react – and how they expect online entities to react, as you mention. The good news is that many online entities are responding to this and engaging in conversations. We’ve no way of knowing if that influential 1% speaks for the majority or not. As more people begin to respond, we may find the exact same reactions or requests or a completely different set. It’s too soon to tell for terrestrial radio, but at BlogTalkRadio, the host is his own programming manager and makes his own decisions.
We also see a larger percentage of interaction, especially with the text chat room. We see hosts reacting in real time to that information, and, honestly, in an hour long segment, that text chat can sometimes steer the entire show and hosts allow it. Conversation is powerful.
Sirius and XM satellite radio both know that the overwhelming bulk of their listenership isn't being generated by high-dollar talk and specialty programming, but by generic music formats. Why are you invested in talk?
Alan: We’re more than just a “radio” station, and that’s a huge distinction. The combination of the telephone and the Internet in BlogTalkRadio has created a new medium. Never before has the barrier to entry for broadcast been so low for personal and business use. We’ve empowered people like never before.
As a network, we can have an unlimited number of shows. These shows broaden and deepen the network in a way that no satellite or terrestrial station can compete with. We can parcel our advertising by category (sports), topic (baseball), geographic area (New York), and so on. And we can do that for every advertiser across the network of over 64,000 segments and 2.4 million listeners per month.
I’ve invested in talk because I believe in conversation. Passionate people have never had this global forum before and businesses have never had the simple option of our Business Solutions platform. Our white label business offering brings conversational marketing to business and their publics, seamlessly integrated into a company’s own branded environment. We create a direct path for people to connect, sports fan to sports fan, business to employees, political leaders to constituents, companies to consumers.
Radio has often been described as a local media. Is this distinction possible for online stations?
Alan: BlogTalkRadio is both local and global, it depends on your topic. The benefit of the Internet is that like-minded people can gather regardless of their geographic location. But on the flip side, if your topic is local, local people will gather to hear it. Better yet, we can now bring local topics to people who still feel a local connection, but live outside of the geographic area.
Imagine college alumni tuning into the University’s BlogTalkRadio station. Imagine a die-hard Mets fan who moves to Texas and still keeps up with the local coverage through shows like MetsBlog Radio. BlogTalkRadio provides both local and global coverage. Advertisers can still reach the local clients through the BlogTalkRadio network because we can track, segment and tailor every campaign and touch just the relevant shows.
At what point will broadband mobile internet access make streaming, internet-delivered content competitive with terrestrial radio? How long do you think this will take?
Alan: Soon. I expect that to happen in the next 12 months if it isn’t happening already. As you hint at, in addition to computer streaming, mobile Internet radio devices like the Reciva enabled radios, with whom BlogTalkRadio has just partnered, will soon be a reality.
Follow up to the above: can you last that long?
What are the most likely revenue models for nextgen broadcasters?
Alan: We’ve already seen more and more companies putting ad money on the web and studies (BIGresearch’s Simultaneous Media SIMM 11, Dec. 07 e.g.) show that new media is driving more purchases. BlogTalkRadio tackles it two ways. As I said before, the web is about niche content which draws people from all over the world. We can provide those niche markets to our advertisers across a wide and deep network.
Also the trend is clearly towards more conversational marketing. And what can be more conversational than actually having direct, real-time conversations with your customers, constituents and fans? Our Business Solutions service offers just that for companies and individuals.
Is nextgen broadcasting waiting for a device or technology?
Alan: We’ve already built the nextgen broadcasting service that uses technology people already have. BlogTalkRadio – host your own show with just a phone and a computer. I don’t know what they’re waiting for.
Thank you, Alan. BlogTalkRadio leverages the power of the web to allow you to have a real time conversation with your listeners, manage and produce your own shows, and create a niche market for your content. Catch the Alan Levy Show here. Have you ever thought of hosting your own radio show? Why not? All you need is a phone and a computer. Well, you also need good content.