YouTube Turns into Radio’s Latest Transmitter

YouTube turns into radio’s latest transmitter.
Gary Begin/Sound Advantage Media

The “Video Killed the Radio Star” line has been hurled at radio countless times over the past four decades. However, radio may get the last laugh. Moving past just on-air audio, one broadcast is showing that a powerful radio brand and a smidgeon of investment can translate well on the new TV enterprise, known as YouTube. So far a single station has logged 100 million video views.

Online video advertising accounted for 8% of total ad spending in 2013, according to eMarketer, and is forecast to hit 14.5% within four years. One radio station benefiting from the trend is Emmis rhythmic CHR “Hot 97” WQHT, New York, whose YouTube channel recently registered its 100 millionth view. But the tendency global hip-hop brand didn’t hit the milestone by simply placing a camera in its air studio and repurposing what it broadcasts over the air. “We treat digital as its own separate platform,” says Lin Dai, VP of digital programming and entertainment for Hot 97 and its sister video network Loud Digital. “You need to produce and program digital content differently than you do with your radio content.”

Dai says its video viewership dramatically took off after it converted an artist green room at Hot 97 into a TV studio. Equipped with TV lighting and a multi-camera set-up regulated by a tri-caster, it allows producers to cut between five camera angles during a single video shoot. The result is a high-quality TV look and feel that Dai says viewers are more likely to consume than interviews shot in a radio studio. The fully equipped TV studio enables the station’s digital team to generate more video output sooner. “What used to take 8 hours to edit now takes 1 to 2 hours,” Dai says. “We can put out double to triple the amount of content.”

He says stations looking to succeed in online video need a dedicated digital content team, rather than relying on station staffers who do digital on the side. “It requires a different type of skill sets,” Dai says. “You need a team that is passionate about digital that’s not doing it part time as a side to a radio job.”
The $50,000-$100,000 investment Emmis made to create a TV studio is paying off in web traffic and ad revenue alone. Dai says most of the channel’s growth has occurred in the last six months, since the TV studio became fully functional. Hot 97.com gets 1 million unique visitors per month while the station’s YouTube channel attracts another 1.6 million monthly views. Astonishing viewership!

The content that Hot 97 streams on YouTube also streams on its own website. The station site caters more to a local New York audience while the YouTube channel’s audience tends to be global, with minimal audience repetition between the two assets. The YouTube channel has become so popular that Hot 97 is among a handful of media properties that YouTube allows to sell advertising on its platform through a revenue share arrangement.

Hot 97 has parlayed its digital success into the Loud Digital Multi-Channel Network, an assortment of some 40 websites that is sells advertising for, including sites for rapper 50 Cent and other artists. Crosstown Yucaipa urban AC WBLS (107.5) has joined the network with hopes of increasing views on its own YouTube channel and monetizing them. The most popular content on Hot 97’s channel gravitates around the station’s iconic personalities like Funkmaster Flex, who hosts a freestyle show with a guest artist, or the station’s morning show, which conducts a 20-40 minute interview that can be edited down into a five-minute audio break for broadcast on the station.

“A listener enjoying the interview on their car radio can watch the full interview on their computer when they get to work on our YouTube channel,” Dai says. The original web series “97 Seconds,” which provides an intimate artist profile, recently kicked off its second season with rapper Macklemore. The clip generated 60,000 views in just three days.

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