Online radio shows face uphill battle to build brand, audience

NPR plans to cancel its weekday morning program "The Bryant Park Project," an online-based radio show with a focus on a younger-aged audience.

In the news
NPR plans to cancel its weekday morning program "The Bryant Park Project," an online-based radio show with a focus on a younger-aged audience. The program was different from traditional radio, because listeners primarily tuned in through the Web, although a few NPR-affiliates carried it on the dial, too. NPR sources told The New York Times that the show was successful in drawing a strong web audience; however, it had to be cancelled due to financial reasons. Its last airdate is scheduled for July 25.

Why does it matter?
Richard Strauss, president of Strauss Radio Strategies, says an established brand that moves online will grow leaps and bounds compared to a startup with no previous listener base. But equally important in avoiding failure, he notes, is creating a strong buzz for the program across multiple platforms.

"They have to do proper publicity, proper PR, proper blogging," he says. "The industry has much more of a success rate and a chance for continued success if there's a cross-promotional element."

Lynn Harris Medcalf, EVP and founder of News Generation, explains that it is hard to develop listeners in the online space without first establishing the brand through an actual radio station.

"It's hard to make your mark online only, even when you've got somebody with a branded product like NPR," she says. "That space is just so massive, and it's so hard to hang your banner out there and say, 'Here we are.'"

Medcalf says stations can be successful if they use their branded identity to further themselves in the online space, such as if an established radio station makes podcasts available online.

Five facts:

1 Fans of the program created a Save BPP Facebook group after NPR announced the cancellation July 14. The group had more than 300 members at press time.

2 According to a digital radio study from Arbitron and Edison Media Research, about 33 million people in the US listen to online radio each week.

3 Arbitron/Edison research shows that although awareness of podcasting didn't change this past year, the number of people who have listened to one is up to 18%.

4 In addition, 77% of Americans over the age of 12 do not plan to decrease listening time for AM/FM radio, despite increasing technological advancements.

5 According to Arbitron statistics, the majority of people who tune into public radio each week are over the age of 35, with slightly more male listeners than female.

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