Absolute Radio's new website - technically beautiful, commercially brave
The new Absolute Radio website is more than just a lick of paint: it's a different way of thinking about a radio station online
By James Cridland
Posted 28 October 2014, 5.32pm edt
Visitors to the new Absolute Radio website, launched yesterday, might be forgiven for thinking that something's not there.
The website - fully responsive, displaying perfectly on any screen, looks impressively different for a radio station website. Very large images, with vibrant, crisp artwork all over the place, and a carefully minimalist design that exudes the brand identity of the station.
The station's taken a leaf out of Google's Material Design and the latest version of OSX - flat design with subtle animations are all over the website, with the purple brand accent colour front and centre. It replaces separate websites for individual Absolute stations with one for the entire brand - the schedule shows all the stations, and the presenters page lists presenters across all the stations, not just the ones on the main service.
It's only after playing with it for a little while that you're struck by what's missing.
There are no banner ads.
The website's still being monetised, with their competition section still there, and a newly-promoted ticket store - but there are no banner ads, no twiddly buttons, no MPUs, nothing. And this is highly deliberate.
Speaking to Bauer's Digital Product Director Anthony Abbott over a coffee a few months ago, he was animated about this strategy.
From his point of view, chasing page impressions is increasingly irrelevant. Much brand engagement now happens away from websites - particularly on social media and within mobile apps. Couple that with the ever-lowering cost-per-thousand of ad banners, he has a better idea how radio stations can earn revenue online: by getting the audience to sign in and listen.
Absolute's inStream strategy of offering personalised advertising when you listen online is offering significantly higher yield to the brand, in a business that has seen raw spot-rates fall almost consistently over the last twenty years. The opportunities that "big data" can offer the radio industry is high. Yet, almost entirely, these opportunities are not taken by radio stations.
This new website's strategy is that, by chasing sign-ins and listening, they focus on the main business of a radio station: increased audience, and engagement with their audience. That's smart. And the right thing to do, I think.
The new Absolute Radio website is inspiring from a tech point of view. It's a fully responsive site, and looks and works well on a mobile, a tablet or a large-screen computer.
A view of the source code shows neat, properly indented code. All the various Facebook, Twitter and even Microsoft tags are in place. URLs are mostly free of opaque ID numbers.
All personal elements - registration, logging-in, personal information - are dealt with by using secure SSL. https pages are really good practice for anything to do with personal information, and the only other broadcaster I can think that does this is the BBC. This is really very good practice, and something I ought to do here on media.info.
Much of the content appears to be carefully manipulated. Hero images on the front page appear to go through a cycle, with different, and striking, images appearing on every return. Logging in appears to change the content given to you on the front page. No longer am I being given generic information about the radio station - now I'm being given direct calls-to-action in terms of content and concert tickets. My cookie contains an "ARVisitCount" figure, which leads me to suspect that the station will also surface different types of information when I return to the site. Again, the clever use of data in this way is impressive and worth investigating further.
There's lots to learn when looking under the hood. The lack of third-party code from ad banners means the site loads snappily and fast.
On a personal level, I'm gratified to see the retention of some of the copy I once wrote for the station (when it was branded Virgin); and I'm particularly pleased to see the "made in the UK" flag retained on the bottom of every page. It's something I put onto the Virgin Radio website in the mid 2000s, and occasionally blog about. We should be proud of the digital innovation coming from this country; and Absolute Radio gives us much to admire.
"Admire" is the ultimate word to describe how they have pushed the limit ahead.
I guess that this amazing website will be soon capable to change the paradigm of our entire industry, focusing on "our" secret weapon: audio.
Thanks to you James, for reporting me this, and to the staff at Absolute for having created it.
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