Free Android and iPhone app Check In Radio hopes to streamline relations between radio stations and listeners by letting fans enter contests digitally via their smartphones, rather than having to call in to register. Whether both sides of the divide will embrace the application or appreciate the new vistas it opens is another matter entirely.
A complementary download from Triton Digital, the software, which allows stations to announce giveaways on-air, then set limited timeframes for online entry, is available at no charge to both parties. Users, whose location is monitored via built-in GPS functionality, can quickly reference links to local broadcasters to speed up the process, while stations can rapidly retrieve viewer info, pick winners and dole out rewards. Designed for pairing with Triton's mobile marketing and social engagement tools, it's hoped that the app, like sister services, will allow stations to worry less about back-end operations, more about creating clever promotions.
"It's a win-win," claims Chris Bell, Triton's president of applications and services. "For customers, it means not having to memorize a station's phone number or program it into your phone to win prizes. It's also a simple way to tell friends about favorite stations. Radio stations get a snapshot of the geographical location of their audience, which is key for providing localized content… and it's a cool way to engage [listeners] and boost ratings numbers."
High-tech features aside though, the app may present potential downsides. Consider that public commentary is still a vital source of on-air content for many stations. Requiring listeners to stay tuned in for specific announcements and phone in at preset times also remains a time-honored tactic for keeping them glued to the dial. Given equal chances to shrink rather than grow real-world interaction, it remains unclear whether program directors and execs will truly embrace Check In Radio's innovations.
Triton says it's confident that it can win skeptics over, however.
"If anything, it'll increase call-ins by encouraging listeners to connect with stations on their mobile phones," Bell explains. "The app itself also has a one-click connection to dial the station. The other important thing to remember is that this is not an either-or sort of thing. Stations that choose to use Check in Radio don't have to stop doing phone-based contests… they can do whatever works best for them."
Ultimately, do or don't, there's plenty of time for partners to come around, however, confesses Bell, as money isn't as much of a worry for the company as problem-solving on a grander scale.
"At the end of the day, we're in a pretty unique place at the intersection of traditional radio and digital," he says. "We get to hear firsthand what radio stations are looking for, and we have the infrastructure to build it for them in a cost-efficient way. Check In Radio might not sound like a revenue generator on its own, but as a supplement to our other offerings, we can almost make one plus one equal three."
"For now, it's not about the Benjamins… part of real innovation is taking chances, and Check In Radio is one of those chances for us – sort of a bonus for clients," he admits. "At some point if the whole world starts checking in we may consider additional features such as local offers, but right now it's just a fun project for us that we're hoping listeners and radio stations enjoy, too."
Besides, chuckles Bell, succeed or fail, the program also has significant upsides for everyday music lovers which make it worth doing alone. "Another bonus is that the app turns out to be a great tool to simply find out what radio stations are available in your area." Fans' antennas are doubtless already perking up.