NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- As the TV industry gears up to create its own metrics for measuring TV viewing online, the movement to do the same for radio listening is also picking up steam.
This week Triton Digital Media, a provider of online-radio products and services such as text messaging, loyalty programs and applications, took a majority stake in Ando Media, the leading online-radio measurement firm. The deal represents the biggest acquisition to date for a sector that represents the only growth in an otherwise troubled radio marketplace.
"People are still applying a terrestrial mindset to online radio, and we're thinking about it fundamentally differently, as its own channel and not as a version of radio," said Patrick Reynolds, Ando Media's senior VP-chief marketing officer. "The customer engagement online provides a whole range of opportunities to our space."
Despite the recession, online radio is posting significant ad-revenue growth, increasing by 10% in the first half of 2009 to $221 million, according to the Radio Advertising Bureau, and estimated to become a half-billion dollar business by the end of the year. Online radio also has gotten more dedicated sales staffs at Clear Channel's Katz Media Group, which recently took on ad sales for popular streaming-audio site Pandora, and TargetSpot, an online radio rep firm that handles online sales for CBS Radio, AOL, Yahoo and dozens of other sites.
Several key radio executives told Ad Age they believe Triton and Ando will continue to serve mutually exclusive purposes to their clients, as Triton's biggest products are content-based tools and Ando is used by agencies and radio companies to quantify online radio audiences and as a currency for ad deals.
"We use Ando to negotiate and implement the buys, and also as a platform to talk to the stations about traffic so we can buy everything all in one place," said Karen Agresti, senior VP-director local broadcast at Boston-based media agency Hill Holiday. "We're hoping Triton's backing will help them become more of a player in the marketplace."
Industry growing rapidly
More major brands are beginning to spend dedicated dollars on online radio, including Hill Holiday clients such as Chili's, as well as General Motors, NBC's "Jay Leno Show" and Visa, which just signed up for an exclusive sponsorship of Clear Channel's "Stripped" station for the company's iheartradio site.
"The internet radio industry is growing rapidly, and deals like this are signs of an industry that is on the move," TargetSpot CEO Eyal Goldwerger said in a statement about the Trition/Ando merger. "As companies seek to round out their service offerings we will see more acquisitions and partnerships like this one. Ando has been an independent provider of audience measurement and it will be important to broadcasters and advertisers to understand whether Ando will maintain its neutrality or choose to become an industry participant."
TargetSpot is the largest online-radio rep firm and has been a long-time advocate of using its own geo-targeting technology in online radio campaigns. Within hours of the Ando/Triton announcement, the company also introduced TargetSpot Analytics, an online-radio planning tool that measures online response to an ad after it airs.
Mr. Goldwerger argued that TargetSpot's technologies are "instrumental in creating situations where both advertisers and radio stations win. When this happens, advertisers can get their audience to get the greatest return on their investment while radio stations maximize the use of their inventory."