Ron Davenport, Jr.
July 1, 2014
Despite news that digital ad revenues are rising dramatically, more than a few radio executives still complain about a lack of digital ROI. Enter Ron Davenport, Jr. He created the technology -- recently patented -- that adds an interactive video element to radio broadcasts. On Sunday, July 6th at 8p ET, you can use it to get your own perspective of a performance of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Now any radio station can use the technology to make their own unique events not only more compelling for their audience, but provide a lucrative new advertising platform for their clients.
So how did you come up with this technology?
I work at Sheridan Broadcasting Corporation in Pittsburgh. We have three radio stations -- one in Atlanta, Buffalo and Birmingham, and two radio networks as well. One of our production folks here has a friend who has a camera company called C360 Technologies. He put me in touch with them; that's how we got to this point.
What exactly did you patent with C360?
I actually haven't patented anything with C360. They are their own company and we are working with them to showcase one aspect of my patent. My patent is just on the synchronization of a radio broadcast with video on the Internet. It provides radio stations with the ability to compete with TV in creating a visual product for existing audio. It attracts radio's existing audience - one that is already measured -- to their websites for a unique visual product.
Please describe the journey it took to go from concept to patent.
The patent process is laborious, and it has been a long time coming. I started working on the concept for this in 2003, and I didn't even start the patent process until March 2009. The patent was finally issued in October 2013.
Of course, along the way there were quite a few hurdles to overcome. We did have to tweak it a bit, but we were able to go to the patent trademark office website to follow the progress of the application.
Was the process easy to navigate?
I think the best way to characterize it would be to say they have own way of doing things. There's a formal process for it, starting with the application and ending up with a special document they print up - it's a handsome document with a gold embossed seal - which they mailed to my patent attorney, who then forwarded it to me.
So basically, you never knew if you would get approved until your patent attorney called you?
No, I had a good idea it was going to happen as I followed the progress of the patent application on the website. In the end, it worked out superbly. I couldn't ask for a better result.
Many radio stations already have cameras in their studios - and they take them to remotes and events. What makes your technology different and better?
In terms of watching what happens in the studio between songs, that's interesting because it's nice to pull back the curtain. But it's also nice to give the listener or end user the ability to choose what he or she wants to look at instead of wherever the chosen webcam is pointed at. It really makes a difference when you're broadcasting a concert, as we'll be doing with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra on July 6th at 8p ET. Anyone from around the world can go to c360live.com or wqed.org and see how it works. All you need is Flash on your computer or mobile device to watch performance.
Has your original vision of this technology -- when you first decided to pursue it in 2003 -- changed now that it's a legitimate product?
A bit, but that's always the case. You start with a vision, an idea of what it is. And all along the way, most people don't really understand it or get it until you really put it out there. Once you have it in place, they'll usually go, "Oh, that's what you're talking about!" The ability to broadcast a symphony really came from the idea that if I could get a patent for this, I could, in effect, allow radio stations to license content and monetize it by working with content providers (such as a symphony or performing arts organization or high school sports team). A lot of stations have access to plenty of content that could be monetized.
Such as station concerts, in-studio appearances or shows, special remotes or event coverage...
Exactly. The first step for those who use this is to get advertisers to appreciate that radio has a huge, already-measured audience. Unlike a lot of dotcom industries, 240 million people in the U.S. tune in a radio station every week for entertainment, news and sports. Our challenge is in enhancing the listeners' experience by giving them something to see as well as hear - and now they can choose what they want to see and how they want to see it.
How big a market is there for this product?
The market is already there. By using ad replacement technology, broadcasters can sell audio/visual ads on their streams while they sell audio ads over-the-air. This technology, from a Net perspective, gives you a product that is advertiser-friendly because advertisers now can buy mobile audio/video ads using ratings.
It's broadcaster-friendly because broadcasters can now sell audio/video ads using ratings. It's also consumer-friendly because consumers get an enhanced version of a product that they are already consuming.
We've also got lots of ideas for how this can be further monetized by radio stations.
Will you be broadcasting more events in the future?
Absolutely. That's what we're trying to do with this demonstration with the symphony. Each event likes this lets more people know that this product is out here ... it exists and it's ready to be utilized and monetized. There will be more events in the near future; we can't get into exactly what they are just yet, but stay tuned.