Internet Radio Goes Local
But Clevelandhits.com is completely different. The one-year-old Internet station serves Cleveland and only Cleveland and offers local advertising opportunities, similar to terrestrial radio stations.
A company called Hits Network, which also plans on starting similar stations in 82 other cities, started it. "They'll all be separate stations built the same way, there's no syndication," says Mike Hilber, president/COO. For now, only the Cleveland site is operational with holder sites being used for the other cities.
Clevelandhits.com plays a mix of music, half determined by listener requests, the other half mostly new music programmed by the station. The highlight is a visual window on the home page that shows a live jock in the studio. There are four different cameras that catch him at different angles, close up or pacing around the studio.
But the window is primarily an advertising vehicle, Hilber says. It enables the station to show advertiser products or better yet, conduct exciting on air promos. A local microbrewery held a taste test that showed five listeners drinking beer in the studio. Red Lobster showed local chefs preparing their favorite meals. The Guitar Center, a national retail chain, shows its latest models each week, with local reps discussing them.
This kind of advertising is unlike typical Internet radio and more like traditional terrestrial radio, which conducts frequent on air promos. Some of the advertisers on Clevelandhits.com, including concert and movie promoters, don't even run audio ads, they just conduct giveaway promotions, which are announced by the jock, Hilber says. But instead of calling the station to win the prizes, listeners send email. The site has an Intranet email blank listeners can use to send email directly from the site, without having to open their own email accounts.
Clevelandhits.com runs seven and a half minutes of commercials per hour, a little more than half what most terrestrial radio stations run. "I'll expand it when the demand is there," Hilber says. He says most clients run 60s, another unusual occurrence, since most Internet radio spots are 30s and even 15s. He says most advertisers make three month buys and run 12 to 50 spots per week.
He claims Clevelandhits.com is a better platform for advertising because listeners stay online for an average of 48 minutes. This compares to 17 1/2 minutes for terrestrial radio and three minutes for a silent Web site.
He also says his advertising reaches two different demographics. During weekdays, the audience is 25 to 40 year old workers. Nights and weekends it's a younger at home audience, 18 to 34.
He claims the local approach to Internet radio advertising is the way to go because "all people who advertise have a local interest." He also thinks more local advertising opportunities on the Web are needed. "How does a local Web strategy market the site? There's regional AOL and Yahoo but it doesn't give them the pizzazz they need to build excitement around a local site."
Finally, he says there's a lot of money available from local advertisers. "It's where the money is."
Being a local station means he can also promote it locally, with local cable, transit and direct mail used.
The site gets 2 million page views per month, which Hilber says is "pretty good for a local station." He claims Clevelandhits.com is the second most visited local site after the Cleveland Plain Dealer site.