While I was undertaking my research for in-stream audio, one interview couldn’t be scheduled in time before the cut-off date for editing. It was with a company called Spectrum Medya, which launched Karnaval.com, a digital radio platform, about a year and a half ago. Spectrum is based in Istanbul – the intersection of where the East meets the West — and in many ways, it's charting where traditional radio meets digital audio. Karnaval has a hugely popular Internet radio stream and was recently selected by Wired Magazine UK as one of the 100 hottest startups in Europe.
I’ve included a transcript of my interview with Ali A. Abhary, Spectrum's CEO (Twitter: @alitalks), below for you to see how a publisher is handling and viewing these changes in the audio ecosystem.
Q. Tell me about your service.
A. Spectrum Medya is owned by private equity fund the Actera Group, which joined two and a half years ago. At the time, the Spectrum consisted of five terrestrial radio station networks across 20 to 30 different cities in the country. Turkey had state-owned broadcasting until the '90s, until deregulation, which is when we got chance to really steer two of the oldest radio stations in Turkey under our own control.
Q. How was the ad business for traditional radio before digital?
In 2002, the zeitgeist orchestrator David Bowie opined, “Music itself is going to become like running water or electricity.” A few years later, in 2005, the futurists Gerd Leonhard and Dave Kusek proposed “music as water” in their industry-shaking book, The Future of Music (A Manifesto for the Digital Music Revolution).
The metaphor was simple — music would flow on demand, like a utility, to people's home hi-fis and portable music players. Subscription access to "all" music was the approach that ultimately ended up with no more ownership of physical or even digital copies; CDs, mp3s, and the other ground-bound trinkets would no longer be necessary. Even in my own behavior, I see this change — where once I’d spend time ripping my CDs and loading up my 160GB iPod, now I simply curate music, like my Boxing playlist, in the cloud via Spotify.
Eleven years later, Bowie’s prediction is coming true and streaming is progressing at speed. In metropolitan Argentina 1 in 3 consumers are listening to streaming music - evenly split between mobile and computers (desktop, laptop, tablet). In France 15% of those we surveyed streamed on a computer but a whopping 27% used mobile. In fact this trend to streaming via mobile is likely to be one that will continue worldwide and today in metropolitan regions of Hong Kong and Mexico, as well as South Korea mobile has already considerably overtaken computers as the preferred listening method.
Is Jon Stewart’s recent online success in China a sign of new opportunities for non-Chinese brands? In China, the demand for global brands and content continues to grow - to the point that it has spread into new industries like comedy shows, where cultural cues are paramount to success. Jon Stewart is just one of many western icons with newfound success in China, all in part to the accessibility of new consumers through the internet.
Online businesses selling anything from humor, makeup, or shoes to baby formula can’t ignore these demands for their products in China: More and more consumers are exposed to global brands of all kinds through online offerings and travel. There are huge advantages to being one of the first brands to be noticed in the market, but just showing up isn’t enough. To be successful, learn from Jon Stewart and:
Localize your offering. Give your consumers things they can relate to and use. Jon Stewart did this by coming up with culturally relevant jokes about China’s culture. For retailers this could mean offering products that respond to needs specific to consumers in China, like Godiva’s Chinese New Year Chocolates.
Develop a fan base online. By giving your very social Chinese consumers a platform to talk about your brand, you can generate free marketing and new insights. Jon Stewart’s fans aggregate his videos in one place and work together to translate and upload subtitles on his video clips.