National radio rep firm Katz Radio Group plans to launch KRG Internet Marketing Services this summer to help market its clients' sites.
Separately, the Radio Advertising Bureau is in conversations with AudioNet (www.audionet.com), an Internet carrier of 175 live radio stations, to offer new joint services as radio stations become more savvy about using their Web sites.
"I think 1997 will be a huge year for Internet radio," said Amy Wills, director of Internet services at the RAB.
Katz is teaming up with World Wide Radio to make media buying on radio Web sites easier and more common.
The new service is expected to sell space, distribute information about radio's online possibilities and provide direct links to station Web pages.
EXTENDING BUSINESS MODEL
"We wanted to use the Internet to extend our current business model," said Gerry Boehme, Katz Radio senior VP-director of radio information services. "The second part is radio can't do visuals and coupons well, so this partnership with the Web is good. One of our goals is to get stations without sites up and running, too."
Katz competitor Interep Radio Store tried to build Web sites for stations several years ago, hoping to represent them, but the idea was scrapped.
While estimates of radio stations with Web sites vary from 2,200 to 8,000, most agree that fewer than 25 stations actually make money from the effort. Most provide ads on their sites to existing on-air advertisers for free.
"We're trying to move it out of value-added," said Brent Alberts, who serves more than double duty as assistant program director, midday disc jockey and Webmaster for Dallas classic rock station KZPS (www.kzps.com), and as Webmaster for alternative rock station KDGE (www.kdge.com). "Unfortunately, I don't think our content is as good as it could be."
"If you're going to approach the Web as 'value-added,' don't bother," said Jeff Pollack, a program consultant. "From a content standpoint, people will say, 'Thank you very much, I won't be back.' It's like eating at a bad restaurant."
Many stations are hooking up with content pro-viders such as Electric Village (www.electricvillage.com) and MJI Broadcasting's Rock News (www.rocknews.com) and older-skewing Rock Daily (www.rockdaily.com), which create format-specific sites for stations that listeners can link to seamlessly.
Alternative rock listeners jump to Electric Village-owned Earwig (www.earwig.com), classic rock fans are hooked up with Rock Village (www.rockvillage.com), and there are others for country, oldies and Top 40. "Stations don't have time to do this extra stuff," said Dean Sakai, station resources manager for Electric Village. "Now, when it starts pulling in revenue, they'll start paying more attention to it."
There are currently 51 stations that subscribe to Rock Village; 23 to Earwig; and 20 to the Country Spotlight. Stations pay by giving the content providers a combination of five advertiser spots a week, along with $125 in monthly fees.
Though Rock Village carries an ad from United Airlines, selling space is not a priority just yet. Like Katz, Electric Village will also rep station Web sites, helping stations sell local space.
Some stations such as Arrow 93 in Los Angeles-KCBS-FM-do provide significant content offerings of their own. The station produces its own restaurant reviews complete with a city map, a gossip page, a career corner, trivia and games and sports news.
"The biggest problem with stations is that they've not been putting resources into it and they get disappointed when there's no investment," said Howard Freedman, publisher of i-Radio, a monthly newsletter about online radio. "Stations are starting to recognize this as new-business development beyond a