James Cridland

Why you’d be wrong to pull out of TuneIn

Last week, US broadcaster Entercom decided to pull its streams off TuneIn, the radio aggregator. From now on, the stations will only be available on Entercom’s own radio streaming website, radio.com; and the radio.com smartphone app.

David Field, the company’s CEO, said “We are committed to making Radio.com a leader in the digital audio space”. Seemingly, this is the way he’s going to achieve it.

I’ve said before that we should lessen our reliance on TuneIn. The radio industry doesn’t own it, after all: and, by and large, they don’t particularly care about us. However, I’ve never advocated pulling your stations off TuneIn — because that’s the wrong thing to do.

Pulling your stations off TuneIn isn’t financially clever.

The bulk of radio station revenue comes from radio listening, not from internet activities. If you can increase your total listening hours by 10%, then, roughly speaking, you increase your revenue by 10% as well.

PwC published a piece recently showing their predictions for the growth of radio in the Australian market. There’s plenty of growth in internet — but even by 2022, the company reckons that internet activities will be just 17% of total radio income.

Put simply, the best financial strategy for your radio station is to get more people listening — to make your radio station available in as many places as possible. That’s where the money is, and that’s where your focus should be.

Pulling your stations off TuneIn isn’t clever for your listeners either.

TuneIn is the default radio provider on many smart speakers and connected televisions. Sure, you can build your own apps for those, too: but that’s expensive and is a sure-fire way of losing focus. It’s unlikely that your own teams are going to be talking to as many hardware companies and car manufacturers as TuneIn are. It’s really hard to be all things to all people.

When your stations are removed from TuneIn, what will your listeners do? Sure, some of them will go and download your own app; but many of them won’t — and will find a new station to listen to. I hate to break it to you, but there are many more stations playing “your easy favourites from the 80s, 90s and now”; you’ve not really got the monopoly on that.

Forcing your listeners to abandon an app they’ve chosen (presumably for a reason) is certainly a brave test of brand loyalty.

Moreover, forcing listeners to choose a provably worse app is a questionable choice. TuneIn on the Apple Store has a rating of 4.6; the Radio.com app has a rating of just 2.7. On Android, Radio.com’s app has an average review of 3.5, while TuneIn’s app has an average review of 4.4. Why would you force me to choose second-best?

The strategy for radio apps is, I’d suggest, relatively clear.

Make your stream available on every single possible device, and in every single possible app. Your radio station is the most monetisable asset you own. Appearance here is valuable for station trial, and essentially free marketing.

But then use your own data, programming and intelligence to make your own app the best listener experience. A feast for the eyes as well as the ears — better artwork, talent photos and connections, higher quality streams; perhaps skippable segments, personalised advertising, unique content and fewer ads.

Be everywhere. But instead of bullying your audience, make them want to choose your app because it’s the best. It’s your data, and your programming. Why shouldn’t your app be awesome?

Now that’s, surely, the smart strategy.