C’est La Vie NextRadio
Remember NextRadio? It’s the app which allows listeners to live stream any broadcast radio station for free. For years the radio industry, led by Emmis’s Jeff Smulyan, built and supported the platform as the way to bring terrestrial radio into the mobile age. To quote Smulyan in early 2017, “Regaining portability is life or death for our industry.” Apparently other broadcasters didn’t share his sense of purpose for the app. Yesterday in Emmis’s Earnings call Smulyan announced the plan to dramatically reduce operations for NextRadio, which is corporate speak for killing the project.
So what went wrong with NextRadio? According to Smulyan the issue was that other broadcasters weren’t willing to commit R&D money or promo time to grow the platform, which left Emmis in the unenviable position of having to push the boulder up the hill by themselves.
I’d contend that NextRadio’s problem was more fundamental. If you’re going to stream music there are so many better options out there which don’t force you to listen to DJ blabber, 5-6 minute commercial breaks, repetitive playlists, and endless self-promotions. Heck, even radio’s talk formats sound better streamed as podcasts than the actual stations. As a result listeners saw no benefit in downloading the NextRadio app, much less using it.
Unfortunately the demise of NextRadio cost Emmis over $7M and will probably lead to the loss of several jobs. Nobody wants to see that happen to colleagues in the audio space. It also serves as a cautionary tale that effort alone can’t make an idea successful – it has to be a good idea in the first place.