Infinity to Stream, Sell Ads Online

Radio broadcaster Infinity is making 11 of its news and news-talk stations available online and will have its existing national and local sales forces sell commercial spots on the streams. Infinity Broadcasting is a unit of Viacom.

“We have a very aggressive sales strategy that we’ll be rolling out in the next couple of weeks as we move toward launch,” said David Goodman, president of marketing at Infinity. “We really believe that we have a tremendous opportunity to dominate the at-work audience.”

Industry-watchers have painted the move as an acknowledgement of the competitive environment that could be dragging audience away from radio broadcasting. In recent months, satellite players like XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio have gotten more aggressive with marketing, while more homegrown trends like podcasting have also begun to pick up steam. Broadcasting competitor Clear Channel has also made a renewed commitment to the Web, hiring former AOL Music exec Evan Harrison last November to create interactive experiences on its radio station Web sites.

The Infinity stations whose programming will be streamed starting March 14 include: 1010 WINS (New York), KFWB-AM (Los Angeles), KNZ-AM (Los Angeles), WBBM-AM (Chicago), KCBS-AM (San Francisco), KYW-AM (Philadelphia), WBZ-AM (Boston), KMOX-AM (St. Louis), KDKA-AM (Pittsburgh), and KRLD-AM (Dallas). The company has already seen success with streaming at WCBS-AM (New York) and WXRT (Chicago), according to Goodman. The company, which operates 185 radio stations, says it will make announcements about other formats later.

Goodman expects to find interest among advertisers eager to reach an at-work audience aged 25 to 54, including companies selling office products, office services and financial services.

Rather than dedicate a team to selling online spots, the company will have its existing sales staff offer streaming ads to both current and potential clients. But Goodman stressed the company wouldn’t throw in online ads to sweeten an offline deal.

“This is not a value add,” he said. “We’re putting together a pricing strategy now. In the next couple of weeks, as we go live, we’ll be introducing the strategy to the market.” Goodman wouldn’t reveal average CPM rates, but said pricing would be “competitive” to what’s already being offered online.

Goodman said stations would survey streaming listeners about their geographical location and occupation, and would target ads based upon those characteristics. He wouldn’t say what technology Infinity would deploy to target and serve ads, but he expects to announce a decision in the coming weeks.

Infinity will sell the same types of spots that it sells on the broadcast site, but expects to add more interactive features as time goes on.

“We’re looking at kind of various ways to integrate advertiser messages into those commercial positions. We clearly envision a rich integrated advertising opportunity,” said Goodman. “I think that as we roll this out and as we evolve this, we have the ability to create interactivity with the player.”

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