The Groupon of Radio? Triton, Deal Current to Bring Daily Deals to Listeners

As radio's revenue shrinks, daily deals and other online services become a new important income stream.

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You've heard something about the death of print? Or about the struggles of traditional television in an Internet age? Well, it's been no easier on the third great old-school medium: radio. In recent years, the aggregate revenue for radio has declined from 21 billion to around 15, according to one estimate. But a company called Triton Digital Media, which helps local radio stations get savvy to the web, thinks it has found a way forward, and earlier this week it announced a partnership with a company called Deal Current to offer something like the "Groupon of Radio."

When Groupon wants to enter a new market, it has to establish relationships with retailers, and it must find its way into the inboxes of people who live in the region in question. Triton Digital's insight is that local radio has been forging relationships like this for years. It has worked diligently to foster relationships with local commerce, to serve ads over the airwaves. And as it has shifted--tentatively--online, many radio stations have developed databases of loyal listeners' email addresses, many of whom don't mind receiving offers in their inboxes.

Why should something like Groupon upend relationships forged over decades, figures Triton Digital? Says Chris Bell, president of Triton's Loyalty Division: "The reality is radio sort of invented the model of discounted offers to the consumers."

Triton has a clever way of finding antecedents for new media trends in old media: A video on its site points out that radio was "the original social media"--consider the image of the family gathered round the device for one of FDR's fireside chats.

The Triton, Deal Current partnership will push daily deals to Triton's 750 or so media clients. Deal Current offers software that promises to get publishers running their own daily deals operation inside of 30 days. Triton then will power much of the other necessary digital infrastructure to implement those deals with radio stations.

The deals won't be conducted on-air (though they'll likely be promoted that way); rather, most of the action will happen online. "The on-air component is that nice-to-have cherry on top. It's not the driver, but the amplifier," explains Triton's Patrick Reynolds. If you're signed up through your local radio station's website and its digital services are powered by Triton, then you could receive Groupon-like offers in your mailbox. The deals won't follow the "tipping point model"; says Bell, that model for social promotion has mostly played out, since Groupons are all but assured to tip these days. They will, however, follow the revenue-sharing model pioneered by Groupon, where all partners get a cut of the revenue resulting from the deal.

The Deal Current partnership is just the latest online money-making venture that Triton, a five-year-old company, is powering. Triton "started as a couple of people who had been in the radio business," explains Reynolds, "who spied an opportunity to do digital best practices" for radio, which lingered behind. More often than not, radio "follows their audience online rather than leading their audience online," says Reynolds--and Triton aims to change that, powering all manner of technology and services (databases, streaming, sales and marketing) to remedy that.

With the help of Triton and Deal Current, maybe "the original social media" has a chance to reboot, catching a sliver of the new social media.

[Image: Flickr user andrein]

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