BRISBANE, Australia — Digital broadcasting through DAB and HD Radio offer some advantages for broadcasters: particularly a benefit of offering additional audio streams in available bandwidth.
For many operators, however, it’s been difficult to monetize those extra stations. There’s a chicken-and-egg problem: it’s problematic to invest in content until audiences are bigger, yet audiences are reluctant to listen to under-invested output.
Australia radio operator NOVA Entertainment has discovered a way to monetize their DAB spectrum — by using it to produce a in-store radio station for Coles, Australia’s most popular supermarket.
Coles Radio is produced by Nova at their Brisbane facility, and heard on speakers in the supermarket’s 800 stores across Australia. Carried on DAB+ digital radio, it is also the most popular commercial digital radio station in the country, according to the industry GfK ratings.
“Coles Radio” is actually six different radio stations for different states and territories in Australia, each of whom run an identical music log but different advertising to cope with different product offers. There’s an additional station for smaller city-centre stores, which are limited in stock. Some versions of the station are time-shifted. Playout is through Nova’s RCS Zetta installation.
Music is the main output of the station, but Jay Walkerden, Nova’s Brisbane GM, told me over a coffee in his office that they have just introduced a new show. “We started T he Studio with Miriam Young, a program 3pm-6pm Monday to Friday, and 11 a.m.– 2 p.m. on weekends, for the peak times at the stores. You’ll hear everything from music news to a ‘sense of day’ — specifically around things going on in the market. We can split this by market, so if Perth is having a holiday coming up, we’ll broadcast something different there.”
Programming is similar to a normal radio station, and staffing levels are the equivalent of 1.5 dedicated people to look after the station, Walkerden told me, since it benefits from the radio station’s existing infrastructure. Music is tested alongside the station’s other brands, the top 40 Nova and the soft AC Smooth brands.
The station uses IP delivery to stores via existing Coles infrastructure, as well as DAB+. Shoppers in-store hear the output of the station on supermarket speakers while they shop, occasionally augmented by staff announcements. It’s a variety format, with song lyrics carefully checked to ensure suitability for Coles’s wide range of customers. “We’re able to be quite reactive,” Walkerden told me: music can be changed instantly if there’s a big new release.
About 5.5 million people go to a Coles store every week, making Coles Radio the largest radio station in Australia in terms of total audience cume. Both Nova and Coles sell advertising on the station, with a varying revenue share model; most advertisers will buy into all Nova network stations, including Coles. The new presenter-led program on the station has opened new opportunities, said Walkerden. “What The Studio has now allowed us to do is enhance the monetization — we’re now able to sell live reads and show sponsorship.” Additionally, Walkerden told me that record companies are beginning to take notice of the station’s reach.
Average dwell time in a Coles store could be as little as five minutes, or as much as 45 minutes, Walkerden told me. Advertising breaks are therefore a little more frequent than on traditional radio. “It has a really good effect on sales,” he told me, with evidence that advertisements on the instore radio can prompt listeners to switch brand or add a product to their shopping list. “It’s like a reminder to buy something,” he said.
For store workers, programming subtly changes for overnights, being a little higher energy when traditionally shelf-stackers are at work. “I once worked in a retail store,” Walkerden said, “and by the time I’d been there only a few days, I knew every song on their store system and what order it was coming. This is a much better experience for store staff.”
The station’s availability on DAB+ Digital Radio means that listeners take the station home with them; and feedback to the station is increasing after the addition of The Studio . Broadcasting on DAB+ also offers other benefits in terms of redundancy and research.
In-store radio offers a profitable way of using existing bandwidth, infrastructure and skillset at a radio station to offer a new service. In the case of Coles Radio, it’s produced a #1-rated station, as well as enhanced advertising opportunities for all of the company’s brands.
DAB or HD subchannels can make more revenue — and perhaps NOVA Entertainment’s work with Coles Radio can show the way.