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While his name may not be super familiar to a chunk of our readers, Daniel Anstandig and his company Futuri Media are at the forefront of developing social and mobile engagement technology for broadcasters and publishers. Futuri Media works with over 2000 broadcasters in both the US and in 20 other countries, offering them a wide range of services, from its Listener Driven Radio, which enables listeners to impact a station’s playlist in real time, to its TopicPulse, which provides live insights on trends from Twitter, Facebook, and thousands of news sources.

Futuri has patented broadcast and digital engagement technology in 151 countries around the world.

Futuri has also become one of the key players in building customized mobile apps for TV and radio stations. In addition to helping radio stations develop branded Apps, they are poised to debut a new audience engagement platform called #engage and a podcasting system (POST), which can automatically slice audio on a local station and instantly convert it into a podcast for iTunes, Facebook, Twitter, iHeart, and the station’s website. If you couldn’t tell, Daniel is a very busy guy so we are especially delighted that he’s agreed to be a contributor on the Global Media blog.

GM: We’ve got so much to cover with you in only 5 (or so) questions, Daniel, so I’d like to jump right in and talk about mobile apps. In positioning a radio station for success, how important is the station’s mobile app? What features are most important to the consumer? What are some other suggestions that you may have for radio stations, particularly ones in emerging markets, as they develop their mobile app?

DA: A radio station without a mobile strategy in 2017 is like a radio station without a transmitter.
Mobile has become such an integral part of every consumer’s life; an engaging presence is critical to driving audience and revenue growth for broadcast brands.
We’ve designed hundreds of mobile apps for radio and TV stations around the world, and we have conducted focus groups and user-testing research with local radio mobile users.
We are seeing consistently that listeners expect apps associated with a radio station to provide a dynamic experience. They anticipate that radio mobile apps will go beyond simply starting a station stream and showing ‘now playing’ album art. Yet, most radio station mobile apps stop with the stream and a few simple features.
Our listeners are increasingly sophisticated. They download and use highly engaging multi-media apps.
Audiences have come to expect that a media app is a ‘second screen,’ providing content and an experience that is connected to your broadcast content in real-time.
Listeners look for content relevant to the station’s brand, such as additional music or video content, news/information, and on-demand audio/podcasts from personalities.
They also look for opportunities to interact with the station.


We are constantly developing new features and approaches to engaging audiences via mobile.

Recently, we launched a new feature called Flash Contesting.
For many years, stations have used “tenth caller” contests to drive time spent listening.
Here’s a perfect example of how we can use mobile technology to innovate, drive more tune-ins and time spent listening, and capture meaningful data for stations.
Here’s how Flash Contesting works:

1.    Listeners receive a push notification that says “Someone who opens the Love-FM App in the next 10 minutes will win a new iPhone! Open the app now to enter!”

2.    At the same time, you may announce on the air that someone who opens the station app in the next ten minutes will win the prize.

3.    As listeners open the app, the first thing they see on the screen is an entry form to share their name and phone number.

4.    Listeners keep the app open for ten minutes, listening to the station for the on-air talent to announce the winner of the contest or call the winner to put them on the air.

5.    In the studio, the on-air host sees a list of names, phone numbers, and location (we automatically detect the location of each user via the app), as they are entering the contest.

6.    After ten minutes, the air talent selects a winner, calls them to put them on the air. Now, you’ve rewarded listeners for downloading your station app and you’ve caused them to listen for at least ten minutes. With your listeners’ express permission, you’ve also captured some valuable user data (name, phone number, location).

Exceptional engagement – and far more effective and rewarding than a “tenth caller” contest, which has become a cliché in our business.

GM: Do you have an example of a station or group of stations that is doing a particularly exemplary job with its mobile app? What types of features make this app stand out for you as being top in its class? On the flip side, what are some of the most commonly-made mistakes you encounter when reviewing the wide spectrum of mobile apps for radio and TV stations?

DA: In Ireland, we are proud to work with Leigh Doyle, Mark Cunning, and the iRadio team. They are progressive, competitive, and future-minded. We’ve worked with them on a number of digital / interactive programming and mobile developments for the last few years.

We have also worked with Cox Media Group in the US on their radio mobile strategy for a number of years. Their mobile strategy is led by Tim Clarke, who is an incredible visionary in our business. We have worked with Tim Clarke and his team to innovate and stay ahead of the market on mobile.
Their stations are consistently market leaders in ratings and revenue.

One of our most unique partners is KJLH-FM in Los Angeles, a radio station owned by the legendary Stevie Wonder. As one of the world’s most celebrated independent radio stations, KJLH has fierce major market competition. Under the direction of General Manager, Karen Slade, and her team, we’ve collaborated with them to build a highly engaging mobile experience that complements and supports their broadcast brand. We also developed a promotional/marketing campaign using digital video (YouTube) and social media to drive downloads and usage of their app. The result has been a sharp increase in mobile engagement for KJLH and a steady increase in their broadcast ratings.

Continuous evolution and innovation around each of our partners’ mobile strategies is part of what sets our clients apart. We are always iterating on new features, testing new concepts with audiences across different demos, and gaging which approaches actually result in ratings, digital audience, and revenue.

More importantly, we are conscious of what does not belong in the feature-set of a local station’s app. Our team generates and vets ideas all the time for our station mobile apps. Perhaps only one in ten ideas actually end up in development.

GM:
Are there any benchmarks or metrics that stations can use to estimate whether they’re successfully engaging their listeners with their app?

DA: App downloads, app opens, active engagement in various features, time spent in the app, and ad impressions are among the most meaningful indicators of success.

We also work intently on the “discoverability” of each of our partners’ apps.
Making your station discoverable on mobile is indeed critical. With growing competition and evolving app store search algorithms this is becoming more difficult for many broadcasters. We invest strategically with each of our Futuri Mobile partners to ensure that each app is released with a title, description, and keywords that make it more likely to be discovered by the station's target audience.

Also, we've found that regularly updating the station app with dynamic content, new features, and a well-designed app store description about the updates raises its search relevance.

Regular updates, strong local promotion of the app, and social and digital promotion raise the rank and ‘searchability’ of a local station app. We have created a number of social, digital, and video campaigns to promote app downloads for local stations. By strategically targeting local connected fans, we’ve been able to drive downloads and engagement.

GM:
When launching a mobile app for a client in an emerging market, how different is the process and Futuri’s approach? Does your recommendation vary based on the level of development within a given market?

DA: Every market is different. Our process for design, development, and implementation of a mobile strategy is highly customized for each station and market. At Futuri, we have a team of nearly 100 professionals who come from software engineering as well as broadcast media.

Emerging markets may necessitate development for certain devices/brands over others. It may also mean that we focus on certain features or promotional methods differently based on the available audience.

Our Partner Integration and Futuri Mobile product team work hands-on with each partner to assess their unique needs, market conditions, and audience/revenue goals. The majority of our team has been in the shoes of a Station Manager, Sales Manager, Program Director, and/or Digital Manager.
Our SVP/Operations, Todd Thomas, has programmed radio stations in major, large, and medium markets. Our Director of Partner Integration, Kris Abrams, brings a wealth of experience in programming and station leadership to every station partner his team touches.
Veteran TV News Director and Journalist, Jill Manuel, brings a seasoned perspective to her work with stations who are using our TopicPulse social media system.

We have personally worked inside TV and radio stations around the world. That creates a unique appreciation and common-language between us and our partners. We can speak “short hand” together. We understand the pressures that are unique to emerging markets as well as established/mature markets, and we are committed to proactively developing strategies and systems that give our partners a competitive edge.

GM:
Do you see much variation across formats or countries when it comes to the percentage of a station’s app users who are local versus non-local?

DA: The variation appears to be based on the brand, more than a specific format or country of origin.
Certain brands have broad appeal. Heritage brands tend to attract a more ‘non-local’ audience, because they have audiences who use the brand as a way to stay connected to their hometown. We have also certainly seen that stations with unique distinctive formats (such as CKUA/Edmonton, a long-time Futuri Streaming partner, and one of our new mobile partners) attract a broad spectrum of listeners from territories well outside of their normal listening area.

GM:
What role do aggregator apps like TuneIn, iHeartRadio, Radio.com, Radio Pup, etc. play in a station’s overall digital strategy? How important is it for radio stations to be on one or several of these aggregator platforms?

DA: There are two prominent plays for radio on mobile: aggregator apps (such as TuneIn, Radio.com, Radio Pup, etc) and locally branded station apps (such as the apps we build for radio and TV stations). Both have an important part in the mobile eco-system. There are important reasons for stations to have branded apps as well as a presence on aggregator apps; most importantly that stations should be accessible wherever the audience endeavors to find them.
Listeners use individual station apps and aggregator apps differently and for different reasons.
Different approaches with different strengths (and perhaps challenges). We do not believe that stations have to pick one over the other. Many of our Futuri Mobile partners who reach thousands of listeners directly every week through their own app… also have a presence in aggregator platforms.

The data we are seeing indicates that a station with its own branded app as well as a presence in aggregator apps is really reaching two difference audiences via each. Through its own branded app, it is reaching highly engaged users who tend to contribute higher TSL – more of the station’s heavy users. Through its presence in aggregator apps, that station is more likely to reach listeners who switch between a larger number of stations.
We look at aggregator apps as a smart place for stations to be positioned for discovery by new listeners – and – station branded apps as a place for stations to drive loyalty, engagement, and frequency.
Strategically designed station branded apps can provide a deeper user experience: more engaging features, ways to engage with talent in real time, and ‘second screen’ interaction with live content.
Aggregator apps generally provide a more simple experience. However, they have a presence on connected devices that individually branded apps may not yet have, such as Amazon Echo and certain connected TVs.

GM:
Futuri is certainly known for being on the vanguard when it comes to developing new initiatives to engage consumers with broadcasters and publishers. Tell our readers a little about #engage. What does the platform seek to do? At the end of the day, is its success based in generating more ratings, additional revenue, or something else altogether?

DA: For the last seven years, Futuri has developed unique interactive programming tools, including Listener Driven Radio (LDR) and Takeover. We’ve seen audiences around the world delight in influencing their favorite local radio stations, signing up for alerts related to their favorite songs, etc.

#engage is a new platform that we are launching this month, which takes all of the revolutionary features from LDR and Takeover, and incorporates them – with a number of new features – into one comprehensive interactive programming platform for music radio stations.

Some of the features we’ve designed for the new #engage platform include:

   - Song Alerts - Drive tune-ins and TSL by alerting listeners via email, text, and Twitter when their favorite songs are about to play.

   - Social Triggers - Strategically time automatic social posts, synced with your playlist.

   - Interactive Programming - Listeners pick the music with any of the following approaches:
 

o    UPick Voting Sessions - Pit 3-4 songs against each other around stopsets
o    Stylized Voting Sessions - Pit 2 songs against each other, with animated avatars that visibly “fight” to see who wins
o    Top Song - Listeners pick the #1 most-voted song each hour
o    Takeover - Listeners pick every song for an hour or daypart
o    Takeover Countdown - Listeners decide on a Top 5@5 (or similar) in real time
o    FaceOff - Pit 2 songs against each other, and let listeners choose which 2 songs will face off next

   - Facebook Live Integration - Integrate your voting features with your Facebook page with a Live video showcasing your #engage playlist and your live audio stream. (Coming in June).

   - Discussions - Engage your audience in real-time conversation threads, right from your station’s website or mobile app
 

GM: There’s clearly been a lot of interest in podcasting over the past few years. How do you see the future of podcasting? How integral will podcasting be to the radio industry going forward, and where does a product like your POST fit into this model for the future?

DA: The radio industry spends billions of dollars each year generating millions of hours of audio. Most of that audio is consumed once by our listeners – when the audio leaves the transmitter, it’s gone.
At the same time, an entire on-demand industry has emerged, with listeners increasingly using podcasts and on-demand entertainment. Every research study we’ve seen indicates that radio only has a 2-4% share of this on-demand sector. And yet, the radio industry creates extraordinary targeted content in virtually every local community across the planet.

Radio can capture a substantially larger share of on-demand listening by strategically repackaging its broadcast content for the podcast and on-demand space.

We built POST to create an efficient bridge for broadcasters into the on-demand market.
POST automatically parses a live linear broadcast into individual audio files. In other words, it automatically detects each talk break that runs on the air. Then, air talent use a touch screen in thestudio to turn their last talk-break instantly into a podcast on iTunes, Facebook, Twitter, the station website, and where appropriate, iHeart.
We also provide licensed images for stations to use when they POST audio.
On-demand segments with a creative licensed image see an average of +183% more engagement compared to audio that is only accompanied a station or show logo.




The POST system is part of innovation that was started nearly a decade ago by StreamOn, a Canadian-based company we acquired in 2015. Led by Andrew Snook (now VP/Streaming Services at Futuri Media), they have developed a number of methods and algorithms that automatically detect and parse audio from a live linear station stream. After we acquired StreamOn, Andrew and his team collaborated intensively with longtime Futuri leader, SVP/Technology, Craig Bowman to turn their unique cloud-based audio logger into this podcast production and deployment system.

GM:
What are some other areas of interest for Futuri Media in the near future and how do these initiatives play into your overall vision for the future of the radio industry?

DA: One development that we are very excited about is Futuri’s TopLine system, the result of an exciting collaboration with a longtime partner, Tracy Gilliam. A veteran station manager and media sales leader, Tracy saw a unique opportunity to help stations tell their story in a more strategic and professional way. As a result, we recently released a new system (“TopLine”) in the US (to be released outside of North America soon), which provides custom sales research to broadcast sales teams.

Futuri TopLine is an app for station account managers, where they can enter information about a target client. Then, within 24 hours, they receive customized sales research in a client-specific, data-driven sales presentation designed to develop new recurring revenue. The research shows why that particular station brand is a perfect fit for that particular buyer, based on qualitative consumer research.

Sophie Fry was recently named Director of TopLine. A veteran broadcaster with 25+ years experience in senior management roles at companies including Cox Media Group and iHeartMedia, Fry has a track record of being a results-driven executive specializing in developing fresh concepts for generating new revenue. Sophie will help further deliver on TopLine’s mission to provide unique capabilities to broadcasters looking to go into sales calls with maximum firepower.

We believe that this is the best time to be in the media industry. Yes, it’s true that there is more competition for radio and TV broadcasters than ever in history. However, it is also true that consumers are spending more time with media than ever in history. They are connected 24/7.
There is a NEED for innovation and creative strategic approaches. Our goal at Futuri is to shape the future of media. That’s what excites every member of our team.

Our team prides itself on continuous proactive innovation. Thank you for the opportunity to share some of our latest, Stuart!