August 26, 2014
This could be taken from a "Why didn't I think of that?" file. Bryce Clemmer was going to college in Oregon when he got the chance to spend the summer of 2007 in Cupertino, CA to work at Apple during the development of the first iPhone. That experience spurred his own creativity to somehow marry audio/video interactivity online and on the phone. That eventually led to the creation of Vadio, which automatically synchs a radio station's broadcast of the song with its video (courtesy of VEVO). What's more, those stations could also sell video ads during the time it's airing on-air commercials. It's already being used by stations owned by Alpha Broadcasting, Federated Media and Fisher Communications, among others. Here, Clemmer explains how it all came to be.
What were you doing before you started Vadio?
I was in school at Willamette University in Oregon, majoring in Economics. It was the best major for me because it ultimately inspired me to start Vadio.
While in college, you had a chance to work on the iPhone. How did that come about?
In 2007, I was chosen to be on one of the teams involved with the development and release of the first iPhone. Some people questioned why I went back to school after that experience, but I knew I had more to learn.
Did you learn anything at Apple that you applied to your eventual Vadio start-up?
I learned a lot at Apple and I was extremely fortunate to be there at that time. I got to see how building the iPhone from the ground up worked, and I got an early perspective into what the iPhone was and what it could become. It gave me a taste for the vision of where digital media can go, where the consumer experience will go, and ultimately how people interact with these devices in general. It was a very unique learning experience.
Was there any one thing about how Apple developed the iPhone that inspired you to co-create Vadio?
Not one thing ... everything. The vast majority of what I learned while at Apple is what inspired me to later create Vadio. If I had to choose one key takeaway from my time there, it was that it opened my eyes to create a hypothesis (and this was seven years ago) that all content online would eventually evolve into interactive and visual experiences ... and that's what we've seen transpire. Everything online has moved in the direction of becoming more visual and interactive, and this is the foundation we built Vadio on.
So how did you come up with the concept for Vadio?
Matt Polzin, Sam Oluwalana, Elliot Swan, and I talked to a number of advisors, and while we were in school we studied data and trends from the music and media industries. Two key points stood out to us. First is that audio content consumed in the digital realm continues to increase exponentially, and the second is that digital video consumption is also continuing to increase exponentially. This led us to begin to analyze streaming media platforms, especially the ones that stream videos. We focused on the most successful platforms and tried to figure out why they were so good. Based on the hypothesis that everything on the web will become visualized, we combined the best characteristics from both audio and video platforms and created Vadio.
Was synching videos to audio from radio stations the original goal?
Nothing that specific was projected early on, but we studied many audio streams. In college we first built a product that was supposed to be a search engine for all audio streams online, similar to what iHeartRadio and other search platforms became. After seeing those platforms succeed, it confirmed we were onto something, so we theorized about where we believed things would go in the next three to five years. After further studying data and general Internet trends we came to develop Vadio.
Did you have Vadio in Beta and if so, how long did you test it before you were confident that this would fly?
We spent about two-an-a-half years building and optimizing the technology.
Can you pinpoint a specific time or event that convinced you Vadio would work?
I wouldn't say there was a specific point in time when we knew this was going to work, because what we've been doing is complex and ongoing. There have been a number of obstacles we have constantly had to overcome.
When a radio owner flips a station's format, often it's done because there's a demand for that format in the market that's not being met. What was your "hole in a market"... where you saw that a significant number of people - and radio stations -- would use Vadio?
We pointed to something that was pretty obvious: YouTube has become the largest music destination in the world. It's where everybody goes not just to listen to music, but to watch music. Additionally, a lot of people go to the streaming audio platforms that offer music either through algorithms or curation by programmers or DJs. It became obvious that if we could combine those two keys elements and take the best from both, there would be a high probability that the forward thinkers from the media industry would see the opportunity and value in Vadio as well.
Where was Vadio first used?
It started out with as test with Fisher Communications two years ago, then on Federated station websites. Since then, we've added Alpha, South Central, Grupo Radio Central, and South Central Media, amongst many others.
And the response..?
It was accepted instantaneously. Practically overnight, stations saw an increase in Time Spent Listening/Watching and user interaction. We have found that on average, most are seeing a three-fold increase in audience interaction and time spent on-site. Depending on how much integration there is, some groups' video channels have increased TSL from 30 minutes to an hour-and-40 minutes-plus.
In addition, many stations are now working on increasing revenue by delivering more video advertisers online.
It certainly seems to be making a positive impact on those radio groups. Are you offering this to the big corporate radio groups as well?
Vadio was designed to scale and support the largest streaming platforms. With that said, we are in conversations with a majority of the streaming platforms in the world.
Obviously, raising Vadio's profile would increase usage. Who is promoting and marketing Vadio -- you or the participating stations?
I wouldn't say it's about marketing Vadio. The service is designed to serve as an experience the streaming platforms are providing to their audience. Therefore in general, both parties -- the streaming platforms and us -- promote it. The other end of spectrum speaks to why radio can be so powerful. Radio has a huge audience offline, so anytime radio launches something online, they have the unique ability to not only promote it on their websites, but over the air. So, it's ultimately up to our partners to promote and market it because their listeners are already on their brand's destination. What we're doing is providing a new, unique platform for their content; we have to make sure we deliver the right user experience so they can effectively promote it.
How will artists and content providers be compensated through exposure on Vadio?
We're sourcing videos directly from VEVO so artists will continue to get compensated, as they should. It's a win/win all around and everybody makes money. In this case, the artists will make incremental revenue through VEVO from the Vadio exposure, and the stations will make incremental revenue from selling premium video ads during commercial breaks.
So how will stations make extra money from advertising through Vadio?
We determine when the commercial break is on-air stream and video ads will play during that time. Who sells the inventory depends on how big or small the partner is in terms of sales capabilities. If they're selling video inventory, we normally let the partner sell it. If not, we have partnered with the major video ad networks to fill the inventory and ensure we achieve 100% monetization of the experience.
How much extra revenue can stations expect from Vadio advertising?
It is dependent on video CPM rates and the frequency of when commercials air. The video ads show during the spot breaks, so it depends on when the partner airs its spot breaks. Since it's set to every song, whenever the station breaks for commercials, so does the experience.
What if the station airs a song that doesn't have a video of the song on VEVO?
It depends on the genre, but we'll usually show a video that has the album artwork or the song lyrics.
It seems Vadio would be more suited for mass-appeal formats, where all the artists have videos of their songs.
Yes, but not only current mainstream stations. We can link up everything from Classic Rock to JACK FM.
Are you concerned that there will be a Vadio competitor in the future?
I look at the future as I saw in our hypothesis years ago. Everything online is going to become visualized. As a result, not just music, but anything that can be visualized, will be visualized and will be delivered via enchanting experiences to users.
As for Vadio, we have worked very hard to have the right people from the music and media industries who know the media/video/tech space join our team and support our efforts. We also recently announced we integrated with VEVO to provide access to high-quality videos in real time, with all rights managed within a seamless workflow. Lastly, by spending over two-and-a-half years developing technology that is scaling globally and ensuring we can provide the content to partners, we are working to be the platform for delivering monetizable premium programmatic video channels to media partners.