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Interactive radio tagging tool AirShr closes

Australian tagging tool shuts its doors. What can we learn from its closure?

By James Cridland
Posted 12 December 2016, 12.52am est
AirShr
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Announced in a blog post today, the interactive radio tool AirShr has closed. A message from CEO Phil Hayes-St Clair, and CPO Opher Tom-Yov, starts by saying:

Unfortunately, and despite our very best efforts, AirShr has not achieved product / market fit. It’s for this reason, and with a heavy heart, that today we announce the closure of AirShr.

Australian product AirShr was a product designed to remove friction between radio advertising and the call-to-action: the perceived problem of "what was that phone number?" when hearing advertising on radio. Users would download the AirShr app and press the button whenever they heard something on the radio they were interested in. The app would remember metadata about the ad and then present it to the user (as well as allow it to be shared along with audio).

It was launched with a video - now unavailable on YouTube - of a man listening to a concert promo in the car, and nearly crashing it while he scrabbles for a pen to write down the number to buy the tickets.

AirShr could also be used to capture information throughout a broadcast - from music being played to interviews and news stories.

The product launched on a Grant Broadcasting station in Woollongong NSW, and was then trialled on NOVA 106.9 in Brisbane QLD. Its test in Brisbane was used almost 1,000 times a day earlier this year, while the app was heavily promoted on the air. The app, however, was not used on any other radio station.

Recently, AirShr launched a product on Kickstarter attempt last month for a product called "Remember". This was designed to enable anyone to press a hardware button in the car and then dictate messages to their phone to help them remember things. For many people, however, this capability is already built-in (try saying "take a note" to Siri or Google Now).

The closure announcement includes eight pieces of 'knowledge' that they'd be taking forward, including relatively unsubtle digs at the radio industry: "Telling the truth matters, especially if it is unpalatable", and "If an industry doesn’t feel they have a need to change, they won’t (...until it’s too late)". They also promise a forthcoming podcast, and invite people to sign up for more details.

I've demonstrated AirShr a few times at conferences, and have met Phil and Opher. They're likeable people, enthusiastic and excited about what they do; and that is clearly evident from their communication. Their product was polished, and presented exceptionally well.

Since they're sharing learnings, I'll share the advice I've given them privately on occasion:

Don't call a radio-advertised product a name which has to be spelled-out on-air. UK readers with a long memory may remember GWR Group's online venture called "koko.com", which needed to be spelt every time it was mentioned on the radio. AirShr is the same; as, sadly, is the new Mediaworks app announced last week in New Zealand. There's a reason why "Radioplayer" or "iHeartRadio" have succeeded.

Don't design an app: design an SDK. Sophisticated radio stations will already have an app. This functionality should be in their app, not in another one. All talk-up on-air should be telling people to download the (radiostation) app, not a third-party one. Build an amazing SDK, and use that in your own demo app. It then becomes another reason to install the radio station app: and everyone wins.

Don't rely on radio stations having decent metadata. This is unfortunate, but you end up having to build a lot of kludges into a product like this to enable it to work as you'd expect. I removed AirShr-like functionality around commercials from one station I've worked at, because it was actually really hard to get any valuable metadata about the commercial content. (Sure, it's an ad for McDonald's, but is it for the breakfast muffin or an afternoon special?)

I'm sorry to see AirShr close; particularly since I've been watching RadioTAG - a service based on RadioDNS technology - also seem to fail. Both AirShr and RadioTAG were good opportunities to add a new layer to radio. Perhaps the biggest learning for the industry is that much radio output appears to have little to engage listeners.

  • Also in this space: BBC Playlister - an AirShr button for music tracks, if you like - was apparently used 10m times in its first year. Like AirShr, the BBC have played with a hardware button. Watch The BBC Playlister Button from Next Radio 2014 to see how it did.
James Cridland — James is the Managing Director of media.info, and a radio futurologist: a consultant, writer and public speaker who concentrates on the effect that new platforms and technology are having on the radio business. His website is at james.cridland.net, where you can subscribe to his weekly newsletter.
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