The Radio Network (TRN) says personalities are at the heart of its drive into internet radio, after launching a new iHeartRadio show with ZM breakfast hosts Polly Gillespie and Grant Kereama.
The network is embracing technologies that were meant to be the death knell for radio and is growing its terrestrial listener base in parallel, says chief content officer Dean Buchanan.
"What we're seeing with all consumers now is the growth of digital," says Buchanan. "People want access to their favourite content how they want it, when they want it.
"The idea behind the Polly and Grant Show is they have such a large following and Polly is considered one of the best interviewers of the stars, but she's limited to 6-10am on weekdays. iHeartRadio takes all those historical strengths of radio, the fact it's free and portable, but means you can hear it any time you want."
Gillespie's social media following played a part in her appointment to the new show, TRN says. She has over 86,000 Facebook likes and 16453 Twitter followers.
"Being in contact with listeners and readers is now 24/7," says Gillespie. "There is no switching off, no closing time and no set hours for listening. It’s an on-demand world and we must be on demand everywhere.”
The show will include music and Gillespie's celebrity interviews that will be played on other TRN stations. Elements of the pair's new show will air on the network's other stations ZB and Classic Hits.
TRN might consider other internet-based shows for its big names, Buchanan says. "It's a very different model — in traditional radio, talent is just on one brand. We get a very different response from audiences. They just love the content and the person."
He cited the example of The Crowd Goes Wild hosts Andrew Mulligand and Mark Richardson, whose brand transcends content platforms.
The network has had good traction from the iHeartRadio stations it created last October, teen-focused Ultimate Access and Rock Anthems, Buchanan says. He adds the high rate of radio streaming in the US has increased listenership of terrestrial stations and TRN is starting to see the same patterns in New Zealand.
TRN announced the beta version of the digital radio service here last August, followed last September by the app. The platform now has over 105,000 registered users in New Zealand and more than 120,000 have downloaded the app, Buchanan says.
Growing its international audience is a secondary benefit of iHeartRadio shows, says Buchanan. "We have a lot of expat listeners and that's one of the great things about the internet. When you did your OE 20 years ago you had to write a letter home and it was too expensive to call home unless you called collect. Now it's cheap to go overseas and you can listen to the radio for free on your smartphone.
"A lot of our overseas listeners love particular personalities and they also love the brand."
However, he says most TRN advertisers target domestic listeners.
The network plans more iheartradio concerts this year, having previously featured artists like Lorde, Stan Walker and Jessica Mauboy.