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Part 2: DI's Ari Shohat on how to grow audience

Posted on: 07/07/2008

Here’s part two of our recent interview with Digitially Imported founder Art Shohat (pictured below, at right, with some members of his staff). (Read part 1 here.)

KH: Ari, you’ve got great audience numbers! To what do you attribute that? And what advice would you give people thinking about launching an Internet radio station?

AS: It would be a combination of many attributes.

Word of Mouth – Give listeners a reason to like your service so much that they will tell their friends about you. The reasons could be a combination of: making your site look great, ease of use when tuning in, offering awesome audio quality, amazing or unique programming.

If your content does not differentiate you from 50 other competitors, then at least the way you present and package your content should do so for you. (Or you can rename your brand to start with a digit and get some top listings on WindowsMedia.com’s radio directory to get listeners that way.)

Be Unique; Try to Get Personal — This deserves a separate mention. Competition is entering the space at an exponential rate, and everyone is at risk of being marginalized and diluted. You can’t afford not to start growing a loyal following. Tip of the hat goes to Bill Goldsmith of RadioParadise.com –- you could attempt to play his music, but nothing can replace his personality for his following.

Soliciting Bandwidth Donations –- If you are an independent outfit then it’s never too early to start asking your audience for bandwidth donations. Sure there will be a lot of flakes, but get someone technical to screen what’s real and what’s wishful thinking on bad pipes.

If you are a small webcaster, a little is all you will need to keep on growing. Don’t worry about scaling, because as you get more listeners, your total pool of bandwidth donors is likely to increase as well. Digitally Imported started out by daisy-chaining multiple relays that came and went over time, and we do this for many channels to this day.

Of course, all this goes hand in hand with the point about word of mouth appeal above. Cultivating a loyal audience base means sometimes people with bandwidth actually might care to give their time of day and help you out for free.

Constant Uptime –- Make sure your service is available 99.99% of the time. Having it gone for a brief time, for whatever technical reasons, is extremely bad. Having a bandwidth resource that constantly buffers is worse than having none at all – make sure it’s stable at least for everyone in North America.

Always Have Great Content Playing –- Listeners are just as fickle as any web users. With website trends we know that most visitors to a new site just take a few seconds to decide if they will stay or bounce back. Internet radio is exactly the same – once a listener is tuned in, you have to impress him right then and there. If you happen to play a rare mediocre track at the time a new person tuned in, it’s very likely you lost him, and his word of mouth potential, forever.

Be Visible –- Try to insert your station into as many outlets as possible. Internet radio directories such as Shoutcast.com, WindowsMedia.com, iTunes Radio, AudioRealm.com – you have free exposure there. Monetizing it is a whole different story. Also try to get people writing or blogging about you, pay if you can or have to. More exposure of that kind adds up over time. Just make sure you have something worth talking about when people actually get to you and tune in.

Luck –- This goes hand in hand with being visible, and asking for help. You get to recruit great talent, great resources, and great hookups. It is rare, but once in a while you get lucky, so do position yourself to be on the receiving side should it be driving by.


Parts 3 and 4 of this interview coming soon in RAIN. To read Ari’s blog, visit http://www.arishohat.com/

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