Marketron converts to open platform

Inside Radio, Frank Saxe

The world of radio software may never be the same. Traffic and billing software provider Marketron is reworking its business model and its technology, and it has the potential to change how other radio technology providers do business as well. Marketron today is unveiling Mediascape, its new platform that is based on an integrated and open technology platform.

For users of the system, they'll be able to add applications from Marketron and any other software provider - including competitors - into a single system. CEO Steve Minisini says rather than build a system off of traffic as has been done in the past, technology is moving toward an open platform where traffic becomes one piece of the product. It's not unlike what is being done in the cell phone world, where Andriod is the backbone and tech vendors develop apps for that system. "It's about creating an ecosystem, it's not just about any one company." Minisini says. For stations, Marketron touts Mediascape as being in a better position to integrate all the various elements such as digital, mobile and data management.

With a dominant market share, the shift is likely to have broad implications. Marketron is working with companies including Triton Media, and Microsoft to create Mediascape-ready apps. Minisini says by converting to an open source platform, the industry will attract developers who would have never bothered working in radio because it was too tough to break into. For instance, social media service company Get Satisfaction wants to interface with Mediascape. "This gives our customers a whole new way to do things," Minisini says.

The move to open its platform is a potentially risky move for Marketron, which currently holds a roughly 70% market share of the traffic software business. But CEO Steve Minisini says after 17 months leading the company he's concluded the only way for Marketron to keep growing is for radio to grow too. And that requires something big. "We believe this industry needs some fundamental changes," Minisini says. The creation of Mediascape is based from conservations Marketron has had with the hundreds of ad agencies it works with. They complain radio isn't in a position to cope with the increasingly complex campaigns that are being created. "We're looking at the numbers, and the dollars are moving away from our sector," Minisini explains. With broadcasters' financial situation more "squishy," it could trickle down to Marketron. So far there's been limited impact - Marketron revenue grew more than 20% last year. But long term it will, Minisini believes. He thinks Mediascape will help close the gap and keep advertisers on the air. "If Marketron can help the rest of the industry raise the bar, then what's going to happen is new advertising dollars and opportunities will flow into the industry and companies like ours will be able to get a share of that new revenue," he says.

Yet in doing so, it means Minicini must have confidence in his own team. Marketron will license the software for a fee, but it will make most of its profit going head-to-head on the sale of apps used in Mediascape. Because it's an open system, if rival Wide Orbit wanted to, Marketron could conceivably be competing on its own platform. "We have put ourselves in a situation where our future is dependent on our ability to be able to innovate and execute," Minisini says. One broadcast group has already told him they plan to "displace" the technology providers that won't integrate with Mediascape. "I think we're going to see a different way that business is going to get done," Minisini predicts. "And technology providers are going to have to respond."