Rolling Stone Radio debuts this week, powered by a joint deal between the Rolling Stone Network, JamTV Corp. and RealNetworks.
Hoping to capitalize on well-known brand names and capture additional ad revenue, the new Web music service uses RealNetworks' still-in-beta-test RealSystem G2 software and combines it with Rolling Stone Network content. The G2 player is expected to be available in final form within the next two months; current users can upgrade from the beta version then.
The target audience ranges from office workers to college students.
The biggest promotional push is expected on RealNetworks. Beginning this week, every time users download RealNetworks' audio software, such as RealPlayer, they'll be asked if they'd also like to download the Rolling Stone Radio tuner.
ADS CREATED IN-HOUSE
The Rolling Stone Network, jointly run by JamTV and Rolling Stone Publisher Wenner Media, and RealNetworks are creating in-house-created banner advertising and cross-linked plugs for the Web radio site. Print ads, also created in-house, will appear in Rolling Stone.
The downloaded tuner features 12 music channels including pop hits, modern rock, hip hop, college rock, women in rock, dance hits and country hits. Play lists are created by Rolling Stone Network with songs rotating much like a traditional radio station. The tuner displays the artist and title of each song as it plays and includes special features, such as links to artist biographies, interviews and upcoming tour dates.
So far, advertisers signed on include Mazda North American Operations, consumer electronics site 800.com, Frontier Communications, digital audio software company Q-Sound Labs and local Internet guide Zip2; they have bought sponsorships on one or more of the music channels.
"These sponsorships give advertisers opportunities to go after particular kinds of consumers by the channels they choose," said Jo Sager, exec VP-marketing JamTV.
In addition, six electronic retailers will own buttons on the tuner display: Amazon.com, Audio Book Club, barnesandnoble.com, Crutchfield Corp., Compare.Net and Levi Strauss & Co. Amazon.com is the service's music retail partner.
SYNCHRONIZED RADIO, BANNER ADS
As an added feature for some banner advertising, Rolling Stone Radio will synchronize 15-, 30- or 60-second radio spots with banner ads.
Two more programmed channels are expected to roll out in the coming months--one from David Bowie and another from Jimmy Buffet. The singers will program some of their own songs, but also include their favorites from other artists.
"I think it'll be interesting to watch because it's a strong brand name going into this space," said Peggy O'Neill, industry analyst at Dataquest. She said many of the early Web radio sites, such as OnRadio and Spinner.com, haven't had the backing of offline brands.
At the same time, Rolling Stone is "going from being a commentary on music to being in the music business," she said, and it'll have to work to get this point across to consumers.
Contributing: Patricia Riedman.
Copyright November 1998, Crain Communications Inc.