By Kevin Casey
NEW YORK — An audio content aggregator service that uses a call-in phone number may seem a bit counterintuitive in the face of the trend toward apps and web destinations but ZenoRadio’s success of pulling together listeners and audios sources over the past 12 months is a case study in serving an information-hungry, niche community. ZenoRadio allows users – the bulk of which are immigrants here seeking radio stations from “back home” – to dial a phone number and hear their favorite radio show, personalities, soccer matches, etc. on their phone (mobile or otherwise). Founder Baruch Herzfeld dreamed up the idea after a security guard in his building, who comes from West Africa, expressed his boredom and the desire to hear radio from “home.” Herzfeld’s hobby was doing an internet radio show and in his mind, one thing led to another and ZenoRadio was born. Herzfeld’s experience in the telecom business provided him with the experience to build a back-end interface that allowed the broadcasters and radio hosts to monitor active calls and streams, and a front-end interface that allowed listeners to change channels using their handsets.
Herzfeld met Morris Berger, former CEO of IDT Entertainment (a company that was sold to Liberty Media for $450 million), and Berger signed on as CEO of ZenoRadio. Berger was intrigued by both the viral growth of the product in the ethnic communities, and the rare opportunity for broadcasters to reach out to customers anywhere in America for free – both for the listeners and the hosts. Noting that almost everyone has a cell phone and most people have unlimited or very inexpensive calling plans, it’s an affordable service. Berger states, “The era of ‘unlimited data’ on mobile phones is over. The best way for listeners with unlimited calling plans to listen to streaming radio is via a call-in number. ZenoRadio provides the bridge to the listener, and a CRM interface to the host to stay better connected to the listeners.”
In the past year the company has entered into deals with 500 streaming radio stations from around the globe and now provides service to more than 150,000 unique listeners a month. The majority of the listeners are immigrants listening to talk radio from their home country. Only recently, Berger states, have American-based broadcasters started seeing the potential of using ZenoRadio’s technology to reach their listening audience. Leading this charge are religious and political stations. Berger says, “The next main targeted markets are the religious communities across the country. They have a viral and loyal listener base – something that is critical to ZenoRadio.”
Berger and Herzfeld strongly believe this service will catch on with more talk stations. Herzfeld says, “Our back end provides much more granular reporting for the radio hosts and greater interaction with the listeners. Both broadcasters and listeners will soon get over their internal dissonance – the mental separation that thinks establishing a radio connection via a call-in number is old technology – and realize that it is the most economical and flexible way to reach mass audiences.”
ZenoRadio plans to begin advertising on its platform over the next few months in various ways, including inbound voice prompts, SMS and in-broadcast insertions. Visit www.zenoradio.com.
Kevin Casey is vice president and managing editor of TALKERS. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.