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Jelli’s “SpotPlan” Propels Radio Ad Buying into the 21st Century

When we last wrote about Jelli it was nearly five years ago. Jennifer wrote about their user-controlled radio model, which lets listeners choose upcoming songs on a local station using its website or the Jelli smartphone app. That version of Jelli still kind of exists at about a dozen stations, but you’d hardly know it from looking at the company’s website. Instead, Jelli has transformed itself into a online radio advertising platform.

Jelli Spot Plan screen shot

Jelli SpotPlan screen shot

Today Jelli announces its new “SpotPlan” which it calls “the first programmatic buying platform for radio advertising.” In plain English, what Jelli is offering is a web-based cloud platform for buying radio ads.

For anyone not familiar with the commercial radio industry this might not seem like much of a big deal. But radio advertising is generally a business stuck squarely in the 20th century, most often requiring advertisers to call and email sales reps to negotiate and book spots. Jelli propels the business into the 2010s by letting advertisers browse stations, audiences and ratings to select desired spot times from available inventory. The company also offers an application interface to let clients connect Jelli’s platform directly to their own in-house systems.

Frankly, this is not normally the kind of announcement that we typically cover here at Radio Survivor. We say that are not the voice of the industry, and we take that credo pretty seriously. At the same time we are quite concerned about the future of radio, which is a medium that is quite needlessly stuck in the past in so many ways. While there are many faults to be found with the state of commercial radio in 2014, there’s no denying that it makes up the majority of the dial. So we also like to see when there are opportunities for commercial radio to move forward.

Last October I wrote positively about CBS Audio AdCenter which lets small businesses easily buy ads in their local station’s online streams using a web interface. I praised the platform for bringing the functionality of online advertising, like AdWords, to the radio world, even if only to their internet broadcasts.

It looks like Jelli offers the opportunity to bring that functionality to broadcast radio, with a roster of 350 stations in 128 cities. Without knowing more about the kinds of campaigns and the pricing I can’t say whether this makes radio advertising more accessible to more small businesses. But just as online ad platforms make it easier for any business to buy advertising, I’m willing to bet that Jelli opens up radio ads to more buyers.

I think this is worth reporting here because local businesses and stations both benefit when it’s easier, more straightforward and more transparent to book ads. I would hope that this might also empower local station management to break free of the stodgy and conservative programming philosophy that has slowly strangled any semblance of creativity in commercial radio over the last 15 years. But, that probably is a little too optimistic.

Nevertheless, if there is going to be ad supported radio, it is a good thing when technology permits more buyers to browse inventory and create campaigns without jumping through too many hoops, make dozens of phone calls or deal with paperwork from the 1990s.

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