Radio Apps for iPhone and Android Get Social

Radio may have been one of the first social media platforms. As linear media technology, radio needs “back channels” to enable dialog, such as telephone lines for call-in shows and request lines – a work-around so ubiquitous it was nearly invisible to listeners for the better part of a century. But the rise of more easily participatory social media and the concurrent explosion of mobile devices are just a few of the reasons radio stations are scrambling to remain a part of their listeners’ lifestyles.

Moblico has launched a mobile app that leverages mobile, streaming and social media capabilities to keep listeners engaged with their brand and provide stations new sources of revenue.

Launched on Kansas City’s Sports Radio 810 WHB, the free iPhone and Android app allows listeners to access the stations’ locally produced sports news/talk programming from their mobile. WHB’s ESPN-originated programming does not appear to be available for streaming, though there are programs from other national syndicators. The application also includes access to podcasts, a schedule of streaming programming and a page of advertiser deals.

The station, owned by Union Broadcasting, already has a mix of local and national advertisers on the app. Advertising opportunities are enhanced with mobile shopping and scanable coupons. Promotions can be tracked in real-time, an advantage over broadcast media.

Interactivity includes social sharing. Listeners can be a part of local shows by communicating with on-air hosts through the app via SMS and telephone. On the Android version, users can share with peers via SMS and email, as well as Facebook and Twitter if these are loaded on the phone. The iPhone version does not yet have Facebook or Twitter sharing, but Moblico reports these features are in development. In response to a question from Social Times, the company told us that there will be more user-generated content capabilities in the next version of the app.

When we loaded the application, we found streaming started up within seconds and, for difficult-to-stream voice-only programming, had decent audio quality. Certainly good enough not to turn off fans of the brand.

Radio giant Clear Channel has iheartradio, a mobile app with access to streams of hundreds of it’s stations bundled with original and on demand content. There are also a number of apps for music stations that vary in features, with some including multiple live streams and others with running playlists.

As with other linear media content providers, radio stations are struggling to find ways to effectively leverage social media to support their brands without chasing fans to alternate locations. (I have not seen an audio streaming application on Facebook, have you?) The broadcast industry trade group, NAB, is lobbying for FM receivers to be mandated in mobile phones, a move that may be more symbolic than effective.

For radio stations and groups, Moblico offers a few steps in the right direction. Radio watchers will likely keep an eye on how widely apps such as Moblico are adapted. Including social sharing, along with brand interaction and revenue opportunities, makes this app very appealing for stations that have their ears on the prize – branded content generating income.