The event comes on the heels of CBS Radio's news in March that it would power the AOL Radio player, which would allow online radio listeners to toggle seamlessly between CBS and AOL radio stations. The group is also working more closely with CBS sister company Last.FM.
Play it your way
One of the first projects to emerge from those new partnerships is an application called Play.It, which will allow listeners to create their own personalized internet radio station with iTunes-like functionality. Play.It essentially allows users to act as their own digital DJs. David Goodman, CBS Radio's president-digital media and integrated marketing, gave the example of creating his own playlist around Bruce Springsteen. If he wanted to skip ahead to a new song, he could, a feature streaming radio can't offer. He could then share it with his friends on Facebook and MySpace and invite them to suggest other artists and songs to add to the station's playlist. If he wanted to keep any of his least-favorite bands off his online airwaves, say The Eagles, he could add them to a list of forbidden artists.
"It's a way to create a cool and dynamic page for radio in a way that never existed before," Mr. Goodman said.
CBS Radio is likely the first major radio group to introduce a customized online radio feature of this scale, although Clear Channel is expected to announce a similar application with a best-of-breed partner later this summer.
The CBS-AOL partnership will blend parts of CBS Radio's local radio assets with AOL's national radio platform, with CBS' existing partnership with micro-targeting radio ad company TargetSpot pitching in to help advertisers target their creative at the ZIP-code level. Mr. Goodman said the new CBS/AOL player will also allow advertisers to effectively create page takeovers using pre-roll video ads and banner ads before the beginning of streams.
Fred McIntyre, who heads AOL Radio, AOL Video and Winamp, told Ad Age that partnering with a major terrestrial radio partner like CBS was essential to AOL Radio's long-term growth. "We don't have a local market, so business is really tough for us. ... This makes the overall business much more integrated, and gives clients a clear idea of what the sales strategy is for us." Mr. Goodman added that clients have the option to buy across all of CBS' online stations or just one market like New York.
Moonves applauds changes
CBS President-CEO Les Moonves also appeared at the event, kicking off with his assertion that CBS Radio is the "most underestimated part of CBS Corp. I'm proud to tell you what is an amazing transformation into a new era. It's been exhilarating to watch [CBS Radio CEO] Dan Mason retransfer CBS Radio into the digital age."
Mr. Mason, who returned to CBS last spring as president-CEO just before the controversial ousting of talk host Don Imus, said his mission for revitalizing the company was twofold.
One goal is to "destroy the myth that no one listens to radio," and the other, to prove the effectiveness of electronic measurement. CBS was the first major radio group to subscribe to Arbitron's PPM data, which uses electronic devices to track radio listening on a real-time basis over the previous measurement standard, paper diaries. The company pointed to recent listener statistics from its top five stations in New York in December 2007. Arbitron's diaries, which report only which stations listeners remember listening to as opposed to actual tune-ins, recorded listenership at 6 million. PPM data recorded the listenership for the five stations during the same time period at 13 million.
These new measures coincide with CBS Radio's commitment to "posting" on its ad buys, or guaranteeing ratings impressions, and the company is currently working with the Radio Advertising Bureau on a more universal posting system.