Let’s Talk Turkey!

Imagine…

A traditional radio company, a big one, finds that after years of success revenues are dropping and they’re losing a significant share of media buys — maybe even half as much as previous years. The suits get nervous. Something must be done. So a meeting is called. There’s a brain storm. Someone pipes up, “Hey, how about something to do with the internet?” People nod. But, quietly they are concerned that there’s no money there and it will likely cannibalize whatever is left of the traditional radio business. Smarter, cooler heads prevail. Imaginations run wild. Ideas are hatched. A vision is shared. Two years later, this big, old radio company is running the eighth biggest music streaming platform in the world — shattering expectations, goals, and super-serving their audience with a social radio experience unlike any other.

Sounds inspiring, no?

Okay, I took some dramatic liberties but that is essentially the story behind Karnaval.com, the number one start-up in Istanbul, Turkey according to Wired Magazine. It’s a multi-media, digital radio service created by the largest radio group in Turkey Spectrum Medya.

ali-abhary“It’s great to be singled out like that,” said Spectrum Medya CEO Ali Abhary. “But, it is even more poignant as a radio station, with radio being one of the oldest and not necessarily the sexiest mediums out there, for us to be on that list with those other great companies is a wonderful testament to what radio can be and that radio doesn’t need to have this dodgy, old image that it sometimes does.”

On this week’s Radio Stuff podcast, Abhary explained why Karnaval.com was an important business extension for the radio company.

“Just like in any other market, in Turkey we see radio revenues flattening and in fact radio’s share of the advertising pie has reduced. Historically about ten years ago it was about 6% and now it’s about 2.8%.”

Abhary’s challenge was to create a digital business that complimented the terrestrial radio stations, but didn’t cannibalize their traditional revenues. Enter Karnaval.com – a “radio rich,” digital platform that streams their five FM stations and 11 niche formats (Jazz, Classical, hard to find Turkish music among them.)

It wasn’t an easy sell for the traditional radio employees.

“It did take some time, but I think everyone has bought into it now. We promote our stations now as ‘Metro FM is a Karnaval.com station,’ our radio IDs are broadcast that way.” Abhary understands the trepidation, “Seeing this sort of disruption in their business is a little disconcerting at first, but I think they all understand now the value and the power the digital element can give and the great story that it gives to advertisers and listeners alike.”

Employees were the first hurdle. Listeners caught on quick and loved it straight away. So much so, they expanded the vision to include social interaction through the San Mateo, California company Jelli. Now listeners can vote songs up or down in real-time influencing the streaming radio’s playlist.

The next challenge was advertisers.

og_karnaval_400x400“It took a while to get it out there. Are you trying to sell ads to digital buyers or radio buyers? We’re able sell advertising on a targeted basis whether it’s targeted by device or by demographics or geography of listeners. The digital buyers are able to understand that. We’re also able to price it on a cost-per-listen basis. And they get that as well. But, the challenge is they don’t have audio creative, typically. The radio buyers on the other side, they have the audio creative but they don’t have necessarily the understanding of targeting or the digital capabilities that digital radio has. So, we actually did a two-pronged approach. We have our terrestrial FM team selling the Karnaval.com inventory that we have to regular FM buyers and we’re saying, ‘Who cares whether sound people are listening to is being transmitted on FM frequency to an FM receiver or via a Wi-Fi to a mobile phone or to a laptop connected to the internet? It doesn’t really matter as long as the sound is there.’ And the radio buyers have now bought that on and they’re starting to send us old-fashioned radio buys to the platform. The digital buyers at the same time whether it’s using audio or not using audio through rich media, pre-roll videos and whatnot, are also buying on from there. For a business that’s about a year old we’re doing fantastic revenue growth right now. ”

In just over a year, Karnaval.com is meeting and exceeding its goals and serving over 6.5 million unique users each month accounting for 21 million hours of listening. Karnaval.com uses its FM stations to promote the platform in addition to social media, TV commercials and sponsoring concerts. Through the concerts they can create unique content for the digital users such as back stage artist interviews and acoustic sets.

“The great thing about the service is that it has a lot of rich experience as you listen to radio that is beyond just listening to audio. So, as a song is playing you have artist biographies, discographies, a lot of photo galleries, we have an integration with Ticket Master where if an artist has a concert in town it will let you buy tickets to see that artist as you are listening to the song.”

Karnaval.com is not trying to compete with the Pandoras and Spotifys of the world. But, interestingly enough one of the “big services” in streaming music approached Karnaval.com this week in an effort to buy advertising for their own online music service.

I would encourage you to check out Karnaval.com or download the app, And you can try, but be forewarned it is all in Turkish. Regardless, it’s a great model for radio and new media success.

(Credit: I was first introduced to Karnaval.com from UK radio futurologist James Cridland

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