March 1, 2011
After cutting his teeth in radio programming and management, very early on Daniel Anstandig moved into consulting for McVay Media with a special emphasis on the digital realm. After running his own digital stations, Anstandig had helped launch Listener Driven Radio, a programming system that lets listeners vote on and choose the music being aired on a radio station. Already on dozens of stations around the world, Anstandig describes how LDR works and how to use it effectively.
How did you get involved with LDR?
The idea for Listener Driven Radio (LDR) came about several years ago, born out of conversations with radio GMs, PDs and Sales Managers. In 10 years of consulting radio stations, we have always looked for innovative ways to grow ratings, revenue and web traffic for a station. The goal of LDR was to create a platform that accomplishes all three of those objectives. Everything we do must grow ratings and revenue for a station and help to increase their web traffic.
LDR is now on over 65 radio stations around the world, from New York City to Philadelphia and Milan to Paris.
LDR started when I got together with Lee Zapis, a serial entrepreneur in the media industry and former radio group owner, and Mike McVay, a long-time mentor and consultant. Lee, Mike and I partnered together to build Listener Driven Radio. The question that we asked at the very beginning -- and still ask every day -- is, "How would we program and manage radio stations differently if the Internet was created before radio ... rather than the other way around?"
If the Internet were created before radio, we would have a very different industry. We would find more ways to leverage social media for ratings and revenue ... the whole purpose of LDR. There would be a lot less of the "we've always done it this way" mentality behind sales and programming. Programmers would likely think differently about the talent they recruit, music research and day-to-day integration of the web and broadcast content. Managers would think about sales differently. We would look at "spot radio" as only one of many different ways we can market products. In particular, we would rethink the way we program music radio. Our markets and audiences change much too quickly for one or two music tests a year to drive the music strategy on a station. We would look for more real-time tracking of music trends.
Describe how LDR works.
LDR is software that allows listeners to affect a radio station's programming minute-by-minute in real time, whether the station is automated or in "live-assist" mode. It deeply integrates into Facebook, Twitter, and 380+ other social networks and bookmarking sites. Our goal is to leverage social media to grow ratings and revenue for a station.
We have two versions of LDR software available to stations: LDR.1 and LDR.Takeover. Both versions integrate directly with your station's automation system and music scheduler, so it never breaks the rules of the PD.
LDR.1 is software that allows your audience to vote and affect your station's playlist in real time, all within the rules set by the PD. Listeners can vote on which song plays next on the air as many times during the hour or day as the PD wants. In addition, listeners can upload their own music and listen to music on demand. Listeners can vote and participate from their web browser, mobile (any smartphone/iPhone/Blackberry), or iPad/tablet device. (LDR has optimized interfaces for mobile and web alike). We have an audio demo of how stations are using LDR.1 and how it sounds on the air at http://ldrradio.com/ldr1.
While Listener Driven Radio's LDR.1 is built for stations who want to use listener input as a feature -- perhaps several times an hour through the day -- LDR.Takeover is built for entire hours or dayparts of listener control. The platform allows listeners to move songs in the playlist queue; recommend songs for airplay; receive SMS text messages, IMs or e-mails when their favorite songs play; and dedicate songs to friends via Facebook. LDR.Takeover also has a built-in music recommendation engine to introduce listeners to new music.
See an example of LDR.Takeover here: http://ldrradio.com/ldrtakeover. You can hear it used on WTMX/Chicago every weeknight at 8p-midnight CT. You can also hear it every weekday on WAKS/Cleveland. They let the audience take control of the station every weekday at 3p and 7p ET.
This basically sounds like a Net version of all-request programming. True?
I've heard it compared to all-request radio or the old "yes/no" radio concept. However, there is a huge and important distinction to make between "request radio" and LDR or "crowdcasting" in general.
In short, I'd say that "all-request" programming is a gimmick that few listeners believe actually exists. It's radio bull. Live real-time voting on your website or mobile app is transparent influence of the programming by the crowd.
All-request radio traditionally means that a song got played because one person called a radio station and did a "phoner" that was persuasive enough for the DJ to play the song in one of a couple "request slots" that hour. Or it means that you had several calls (which could be from a competitor, promoter or other party with an agenda, who are driving your programming). You have no way of knowing who is participating ... and it's far from scientific programming. But in 1985, it sounded cool.
With LDR.1 and LDR.Takeover, a song plays because it was passionately desired and driven onto the air by many people in your audience -- and it met the PD's scheduling rules at that moment. You know the identity of everyone who voted. The station is never driven or "taken over" by one, two, or even 10 people. We have algorithms and counter-spamming measures that make it virtually impossible for a small handful of people to drive your programming.
Does LDR work for all stations regardless of format?
We have 65 affiliates using LDR now around the world in all different kinds of formats, from Country to Top 40 and AC to Classic Rock. I believe that the concept of real-time audience interaction and influence has something to offer every format in 2011. It may look different for a Top 40 than it looks to a Soft AC, but both will benefit from giving their listeners a voice in the minute-by-minute sound of the station.
All-request programming invariably attracts a younger, more active user. How can LDR work for an AC station?
When we launched LDR, we assumed incorrectly that we would only attract Top 40 and Rock radio stations and listeners. However, we have had success in web traffic and PPM with stations of all different formats. We have just as many adult-targeted stations on the platform as we do youth-oriented stations.
At LDR, every station uses the software differently. At WAXQ/New York City, they use LDR for Twofer Tuesdays, where Q104.3 picks the first song in the twofer and the audience picks the second song. At X92.9 in Calgary or Mix 106.1 in Philadelphia, the audience is picking various songs through the hour in-and-out of commercial breaks. And at 96.5 KissFM in Cleveland, the audience takes over the entire hour, song by song. So, different formats succeed in using LDR software because we aren't forcing them into a one-size-fits-all approach.
Doesn't having the most-popular songs played over and over accelerate the potential burn for those hits?
In all the stations or networks I've worked at or consulted, no listener has ever called to complain that we are playing their favorite songs too much. The magic of crowdcasting and giving the audience a real-time voice is that you are more likely to have a feel for the burn of a song FASTER than you would through traditional callout.
Does LDR work better in particular dayparts?
We've had outstanding success with stations who incorporate LDR into their workday programming -- probably largely due to the number of target listeners in front of the computer at that time of day. Youth-oriented stations tend to perform better in afternoons and evenings. The amount of participation on our platform does not vary dramatically from the daypart PPM results of a station.
Does LDR require a certain marketing strategy, such as terrestrial advertising, website promotion ... or even TV spots?
No more than any other element of the station. It's up to the station as to how foreground LDR is as part of the brand. Some stations have incorporated LDR into their external marketing because it is a key differentiator for their station and brand in the market. Our agreements with stations do not require any specific level of marketing.
How do air personalities fit into LDR programming?
I believe in personality radio ... and I think incorporating a personality into listener-driven programming can only make it better. Part of what makes LDR unique and easy-to-use for our clients is that we have Programming Support. Our team works with each radio station to write liners and imaging that position how they're using LDR on the air. Every one of our clients gets individual attention, service and assistance in making LDR a success for their station. We see every station' success as our own, so we do whatever we can to help them grow their ratings, revenue and web traffic.
What is the team like at LDR?
We have 10 people on the team, managing everything from software development to programming support and affiliate relations. When a station uses LDR, they get support for their webmaster, Program Director and Sales Manager. I believe we have the best team in the business. Brian Seeders, our CTO, oversees the development of LDR software. Our support team includes Blake Weber and Joe Tranchita, who both work day-to-day with clients to help them achieve success. Gale Parmelee works with Program Directors, writing liners and imaging for them when they use the LDR software and assisting with on-air implementation. Craig Bowman, a veteran engineer in the broadcast industry, works with stations on their engineering implementation of the LDR platform. We also have one of the best affiliate relations pros in the business, Greg Hunt, creating new partnerships with broadcasters. The day-to-day operation of LDR also includes CFO Rich Bongorno and Laura Griffith. It's a well-rounded and focused team.
Can stations get LDR on barter?
Yes, in the U.S., stations can get LDR with commercial barter. We have a partnership with Citadel Media (formerly ABC Radio Networks).
So what of the future? How prevalent do you see systems like LDR becoming?
Only more prevalent. Listeners want instant gratification and a voice. That has always been true. Listeners have always wanted their favorites ... now! However, only recently has technology allowed the whole audience to participate simultaneously and actually take control of a station minute by minute. We are constantly innovating and exploring new ways to involve the audience, growing ratings, web traffic and revenue in the process.