Radio One makes a mobile play

Inside Radio, Frank Saxe

Radio One is jumping feet first into the mobile marketing pool. It's signed a group deal with Marketron and created what it's calling the Radio One Mobile Network. The company has already begun a rollout to stations, where account executives have been undergoing mobile sales training for the past several months. There are already strong indications that advertisers are interested. "In just the three months this has already been a significant source of new revenue both in terms of on-air and digital," Radio One general manager of digital Dan Shelley says. Since March Radio One has built its mobile database to more than 500,000 unique users across all 50 stations, with several million ad impressions being delivered on a monthly basis. Shelley says he's been amazed at just how interested clients have been in mobile, with the product requiring a lot less hard-selling than one might think. It's also served as a "gateway" for smaller advertisers that haven't typically been big users of Radio One stations. "It gives them a conduit to our audience because we can customize it so it is more affordable than a strict terrestrial campaign," Shelley says. "So we get terrestrial dollars and incremental digital dollars, that we would otherwise have not have gotten."

Marketron has been growing its mobile business since buying mSnap last September. It now works with more than 1,000 stations including group deals with Citadel, Beasley and ESPN Radio. But Radio One marks its entry into the African American-targeted realm. Pointing to Pew research that shows blacks over-index for adoption and use of mobile platforms, Marketron Mobile Solutions VP Martin Kristiseter says the company was encouraged to expand in that direction from marketers. "When we look at some of the national brands and agencies, they are looking for ways to reach that audience over the mobile phone at scale," he says. Kristiseter believes the ad buyers and audience are there, however the missing piece so far is fully training radio salespeople on how to sell mobile.

Beyond ad sales, Shelley says Radio One will use its mobile capabilities for contesting, promotions and interaction with listeners - all of which will help grow its user base further. There's also another positive side effect. "This has proven to be an excellent way to excite traditional radio sellers about digital," Shelley says.