Boston.com's new revenue 'stream': online radio

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Publishers continue to diversify their digital offerings to attract new audience and advertisers and build sustainable and profitable online and mobile businesses. But launching an alternative rock streaming radio station would seem a stretch for most. Not to The Boston Globe.

Ever since the Globe launched its premium content site, BostonGlobe.com, last year, the company has been looking for ways to differentiate its legacy Boston.com site from its shiny new paywalled sibling. Earlier this year, the company launched Boston Sports Live, a streaming video program, on Boston.com.

In May, another opportunity presented itself. Longtime local alternative rock station WFNX was sold to Clear Channel and laid off most of its staff, including its popular DJs. The Globe pounced, hiring three on-air personalities as well as program director Paul Driscoll.

“These personalities all had a great following, and we knew looking at research that many of their fans were already Boston.com users,” said Lisa DeSisto, general manager of Boston.com and chief advertising officer for The Boston Globe. “We saw it as an opportunity to add a new feature to get users to spend more time on the site, and to attract new users.”

The Globe launched what it's now calling RadioBDC in June and plans to go live in the next few weeks – as soon as its Android, iPhone and BlackBerry apps are approved for their respective app stores.

In addition to attracting new audiences to Boston.com, DeSisto sees an opportunity to lure new advertisers and develop new ad programs that take their cue from traditional radio. The company hired a sales manager with radio experience and is training its print, digital and integrated reps on “the magic of selling radio,” DeSisto said.

“This isn’t so much about banners and spots, it’s about sponsorships,” she explained. RadioBDC plans to host a lot of local events – ranging from ski parties to private listening events to live remotes at a business’s grand opening – and wrap sponsorships around them. The sponsorships will be sold a la carte or as part of an integrated package including digital display, mobile and print.

The sales team will also offer standard units on the RadioBDC section of Boston.com, including video pre-roll before a stream begins. It is also building ad experiences within the audio player, such as synching banners with the spots delivered during a broadcast.

“A DJ might be promoting an event and say if you want to join us, click on the logo and enter for a chance to win,” DeSisto said. Other monetization opportunities could come from features such as microsites that feature photo galleries of events.  

“What I love about this is it’s about old school radio meets new technology,” said DeSisto. “It’s a great marriage of experts.”

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