What's Playing on Internet Radio?

  • by February 19, 2001
By Ken Liebeskind

Over 5,000 radio stations stream their broadcasts online, but few stream Internet-based commercials with it. But that situation is changing thanks to Hiwire, a Los Angeles firm that sells and streams ads on Internet radio broadcasts.

The company, founded in late 1997, is rising to the forefront now, with two major deals recently announced. The first is with Worldclassrock.com, a rock oriented station based in Los Angeles and owned by Clear Channel Communications. The second is with KPIG, an alternative rock station in Santa Clara, CA owned by New Wave Broadcasting.

In both cases, Hiwire will stream the advertising it sells, which plays as radio commercials with Internet applications. "Synchronized banners appear on the tuner," says Nicole Sandler, Worldclassrock's general manager and program director. "And there are ad info buttons that flash while the spots play and take you to the advertiser's Website. It's a definite enhancement of audio only."

Hiwire says the spots it plays can be specifically targeted to the age, sex and location of each listener. This is possible because listeners register the first time they go to a Hiwire affiliate site, providing their zip codes, gender and year of birth.

"A woman born in 1972 and a man born in 1956 might be listening to the same tune, but they'll get different ads," says Warren Schlichting, Hiwire's CEO.

The ads "replace local ads with ads that will mean something to the Net listener," says Bill Goldsmith, Web director at KPIG. The IRS, Dodge, Honda, Breathsavers and Dentine are among the advertisers who have appeared on Worldclassrock, according to Sandler.

It makes sense to replace local ads with nationals because listeners to Internet broadcasts may not be local. But there could be "a mix of Hiwire and local sales if the locals have access to clients who want to reach a Net audience," Goldsmith says. "Ultimately, radio stations will sell local ads and we'll serve them," Schlichting says.

KPIG is a 12-year-old station that has been streaming its broadcasts since August, 1995. "We're the first station to do it worldwide," Goldsmith says.

Worldclassrock's situation is a little more complicated. It began broadcasting online last August after two of the company's radio stations went off the air. After Clear Channel Communications merged with AM/FM the company owned too many stations in the Los Angeles market, according to FCC regulations. So two of the stations were sold and Worldclassrock was formed. It is now simulcast on KACD-AM, a low level station.

Worldclassrock sold local advertising out of KISS-FM before teaming with Hiwire. Now it plans to stream 10 minutes of Hiwire's commercials per hour for advertisers who will pay $30 to $60 per 1,000 listeners.

Because client banners accompany streaming radio ads, they will be measured the same way as standard banner campaigns - by click-throughs. A Hiwire case study tested a Honda ad streamed with a

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