Friday, May 11, 2012

John Tesh Erases The Line Between Streaming Service And Radio Station

I'm a huge believer that the future of music is mobile, whether it be listening in the car, on a smartphone, or on some kind of device that we haven't even thought of yet.

That being said, I'm very intrigued by a project John Tesh is working on in Los Angeles.  His radio show was carried on an FM station there, but it got taken off.  Rather than try to find another station, John decided to build his own "radio station" on the Internet, complete with streaming audio and mobile applications.  

The highly regarded Internet industry newsletter RAIN: Radio And Internet Newsletter asked me to write about the K-TeshLA project, and here in one handy place are all three parts of the story.  

What do you think?  Would you listen to something that sounds like a radio station even though its only online?  Your comments are welcome below!

RAIN Guest essay: John Tesh (of all people) erasing the line between streaming service and radio station

Mark Edwards is an award-winning radio programmer with experience at WLIT/Chicago, KOSI/Denver, KYKY, KEZK, and WVRV in St. Louis, and more. He's currently managing general partner of Mark Edwards Worldwide, his multi-disciplinary consulting practice.
There’s very little doubt that mobile and personalized content are the future of what is now radio, and in some cases that big tower in the corn field won’t even be part of a “radio station” in the not too distant future.
Multimedia content creator John Tesh may be among the first to see and act upon that future. He's put a radio station online that, in fact, isn’t a radio station or a streaming service; it’s both and neither at the same time. Last week, the entertainer launched K-TeshLA (see RAIN coverage here) a site that looks like a"best in class" local radio station site complete with a 24-hour streaming audio service as part of the package. The only difference between this site and most other Contemporary Christian radio stations is that there’s no traditional radio station connected to the site, just the stream.
(The site was launched the site after Tesh's syndicated radio show was dropped by Salem’s KFSH in Los Angeles. Heard daily on over 300 stations in the U.S. and Canada, Tesh wanted to make sure he was still reaching the important Los Angeles market, and so built what's ostensibly a complete online radio station.) 
The K-TeshLA site is completely localized for the Los Angeles market, right down to showing the local time and weather, working with local charities and churches, and doing actual contests, giving away $100 a day and a grand prize of an iPad. The station is building its own database of listeners, and has wasted no expense in designing an engaging website and high quality streaming player. Both the site and player have deep integration with Facebook, something not found at many FM or AM radio stations.
While the station doesn’t have a mobile site or streaming app yet, K-TeshLA is available on the TuneIn Radio application, and it looks and feels just like any broadcast property on the roster of TuneIn’s stations. Having that parity with traditional broadcast outlets is certainly one of the first steps to leveling out the playing field between stations that have a transmitter and those who are going directly for online and mobile listeners.
Listening to K-TeshLA, one wouldn’t know that it wasn’t a regular FM station. The stream features lots of music, IDs, and Tesh’s “Intelligence For Your Life” content repurposed from his terrestrial radio show, not to mention both national and local advertising.
The big question is, will a localized Internet-only radio station succeed in the world of AM and FM broadcasters and their continuing consolidation into apps like iHeartRadio? We’ll look at that in the next part of this essay.

RAIN Guest essay pt. 2: Can KTeshLA (and other "local" Internet radio) succeed?

Mark Edwards is an award-winning radio programmer with experience at WLIT/Chicago, KOSI/Denver, KYKY, KEZK, and WVRV in St. Louis, and more. He's currently managing general partner of Mark Edwards Worldwide, his multi-disciplinary consulting practice. This is Part 2 of his guest essay; read Part 1 here.
In yesterday’s RAIN, we looked at John Tesh’s hyper-localKTeshLA website and streaming service. Today, let’s tackle the question of how stations like KTeshLA and other locally targeted online only sites can be successful going forward.
John Tesh already has a radio show on more than 300 stations (he launched KTeshLA after losing his Los Angeles affiliate). His show was one of the higher-rated dayparts on KFSH in Los Angeles, so there was already a dedicated local audience for his content, and he was already producing material for his national show. Given Tesh’s recording, touring, writing, and other activities, generating cash from the online venture may not have been as much of a concern as it might be for a standalone business. Staying in touch with a community -- especially without the benefit of a bone-crushing terrestrial signal -- can be costly.
One of the most significant differences between Tesh’s site and the sites of other people trying to “make it” as web radio stars is that Tesh’s site looks great. It's as good as any AM or FM radio station site on the Internet. If anything, the site takes too much from radio stations in an effort to looklike a radio station as opposed to what it is: something between a radio station and a streaming service. While the site carries banner ads, it isn’t plastered with them hodgepodge like some other “web radio” sites.
Taking the time and spending the money to design a world-class website should be the first part of the plan for any webcaster. Clearly, the TeshMedia team considered the visual appeal of their product along with the sound, something rare in the world of webcasting. (Some of the ugliest websites I’ve seen over the last 15 years have been for air personalities putting a show or podcast on the web. They’re littered with banner ads, bad photos, and unusable navigation links.)
A significant expense for the local webcaster is for the stream itself. Beyond royalties and bandwidth costs, some kind of automation system needs to push out the content if it is a full-time format, even if it’s a podcast or constantly repeating three or four hour show. There are ways to do the automation inexpensively, but streaming should not be a bargain basement decision. Great quality, constant uptime, and full-time support are needed for a successful stream, and that costs money. The good news is there are new technologies on the horizon that will significantly lower the cost of streaming, and add personalization and ad-targeting to the stream, helping to generate more revenue.
The world is racing to a mobile, personalized, on-demand model for entertainment, and the opportunity for locally-targeted Internet-based stations is here. If the stations are done right, they’ll generate traffic and response for local advertisers. It can be done, and now is the time to get started on hyper-targeted projects like KTeshLA.
We'll wrap this up with some comments from the people behind KTeshLA and see how their station is performing.

RAIN Guest essay pt. 3: KTeshLA starts "writing the playbook" for radio stations without transmitters

Mark Edwards is an award-winning radio programmer with experience at WLIT/Chicago, KOSI/Denver, KYKY, KEZK, and WVRV in St. Louis, and more. He's currently managing general partner of Mark Edwards Worldwide, his multi-disciplinary consulting practice. This is Part 3 of his guest essay; read Part 1 here; Part 2 here.
Previously in this series, I looked at the differences and similarities between the online-only “radio station” and its terrestrial counterparts. Make no mistake about it: everyone working on this project sees it as a radio station without a transmitternot a streaming channel, a supplemental service of some kind, or anything else.
“John told me he wanted KTeshLA to be like a regular radio station,” said Chris Shannon, Program Director. “We’re adding more to it every day and treating it like a radio station.” That’s evident by listening, online or through mobile aggregator TuneIn. (The station recently launched its own mobile apps for iOS and Android, but I found the listening experience on TuneIn to be far superior to the Triton Digital-provided Android app.)
Clearly, KTeshLA is a work in progress; the streaming player lacks artist and title information, for example. But the concept of running a real “radio station” and doing it "direct-to-consumer" -- as in without a transmitter, corporate ownership, or the expense of all of that -- is incredibly attractive to content providers like John Tesh and his TeshMedia Group.
A direct-to-consumer, online- and mobile-optimized radio station could be used for a myriad of purposes: to target a single locale (like KTeshLA), to use technology to serve ads to mobile listenersbased on their location (whether they’re listening to a locally targeted station or a national service), or to serve specific niche audiences (once the dream of HD Radio).
KTeshLA has a direct format competitor in Southern California: Tesh’s former home, Salem’s KFSH-FM. This raises the question of if, and when, KTeshLA will begin a marketing effort to lure listeners away from their FM competition. Once that happens (and assuming Arbitron is encoding the streams of the online station), the real power of a local radio station without a transmitter might be seen for the first time.
Los Angeles, after all, has a significant number of Pandora listeners, and a huge amount of mobile listening. KTeshLA is poised to take advantage of Angelenos' comfort with listening to mobile "radio." Whether it takes months or years, the station could be among the first to be on par with traditional radio. Developments like the "connected dashboard," streaming aggregation applications, and the growing trend among consumers to perceive anything that makes noise on a computer or mobile device is "radio" may make acceptance and adoption of services like KTeshLA easy... perhaps even easier than launching a new format on FM. 
While it may seem odd to call John Tesh a “trailblazer,” his project in Los Angeles may serve as one of the early instances of direct-to-listener "broadcasting."

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