Friday, November 17, 2017

It's Official! AirKast and Cortana: Streaming quality radio content using the Cortana Skills Kit


All of us at AirKast are thrilled to announce our official partnership with Microsoft and Cortana Skills!

With the launch of the new Harman Kardon Invoke speaker, consumers now have access to a home speaker that combines premium Harman Kardon audio with Cortana’s intelligence. The speaker comes with first-party music integrations to Spotify, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn, but there are a number of 3rd party skills that utilize the audio streaming functionality of the Cortana Skills Kit to provide premium audio content to consumers. AirKast, one of our partners, worked closely with the team to build on these features to ship a number of radio skills for Cortana.

AirKast_Logo_Black_Text.png

AirKast is a category leader in audio streaming that works with over 60 media companies -- including CBS Radio News, Fox Radio News, and Cumulus Media. AirKast uses it's proprietary technology to create applications that are used for listening and interacting with radio station streams and advertisings.

Working closely with the Cortana team, AirKast was able to publish multiple skills in a short duration using the Microsoft Bot Framework and the audio streaming capability of the Cortana Skills Kit. One of their Cortana Skills, for CBS News Radio, helps you listen to live CBS news feed on Cortana from anywhere - just say "Hey Cortana, Open CBS News Radio".

Larry Leung, CEO of AirKast Inc., says "We are just getting started and wanted to show the world what is possible with Cortana and IoT. We at AirKast are thrilled about the engagement so far and its potential to further advance our customers’ presence; it’s just the beginning."

Visit http://www.airkast.com for more information about AirKast
To learn more and discover the currently available skills, visit: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/cortana/cortana-skills/

Monday, November 6, 2017

Microsoft's Cortana and AirKast: A Match Made In Heaven.

It's nearly impossible to turn on a television, open a magazine, walk into a retail store, shop online or turn on the radio without hearing about a new smart speaker.  The world is rapidly changing to a 'screen-less' world and your voice, now more than ever is in control.

This holiday season, smart speakers will be the hottest gift item due to their low cost and infinite power as a digital assistant.  Simple tasks such as finding time and weather, recipes, sports scores and news headlines become as easy as saying "start" or "play".

AirKast is proud to have been asked to be a beta partner in the development of Cortana smart speaker skills for Microsoft.   The newly released "Invoke" speaker from Harman-Kardon is the newest entry into the home entertainment world.  It's sleek design, numerous speakers for high fidelity playback and tap pad for shortcuts are just part of this amazing new product. Inside the Invoke are three woofers, three tweeters, two passive radiators, and a 40 - watt amplifier that creates a 360 degree sound that can fill a room and seven microphones so it can hear you from anywhere. Check out the full capabilities here.

What also differentiates the Cortana is that it not only works with smart speakers, it's compatible and/or pre-installed on all Windows 10 personal computers and Xbox and even your Android and Apple phones; opening up a whole new world beyond its competitors.  This ubiquitous distribution across multiple platforms is the first step in voice activation, anywhere, anytime and on any device.  It integrates with Skype, Linkedin, Outlook and Office 365 to name a few creating seamless integration into your daily personal and business life.  Another difference is that Cortana works with "AI or Artificial Intelligence" Bot's, little pieces of code that control your voice commands.  No more need to install skills or say "Alexa play" all you have to do is tap Cortana say "Start" and your audio session begins.

The world of AI in 2017 will be everywhere from personal assistants and smart speakers to industrial automation, the power of the human voice is changing the world at lightning speed and AirKast will continue to build smart speaker skills on all platforms for our clients as they emerge.

Friday, August 18, 2017

AirKast To Provide Free Alexa Skills to 800 North American Radio Stations/Hosts

AirKast To Provide Free Alexa Skills to 800 North American Radio Stations/Hosts

Unique Functionality Will Help Sell Mobile Ad Campaigns, Drive Listener Engagement

Pleasanton, CA, August 18, 2017 -- AirKast Inc., a leader in mobile app development for broadcasters and media companies, announced today that it has developed and will be providing free Alexa skills for all its customers -- including over 800 North American radio stations, syndicated radio hosts and podcasters -- so they can bring compelling voice interaction to their audiences.  Beyond the basic launching of radio music streams, AirKast’s unique Alexa skills will enable listeners to explore, interact and request other content from stations and hosts available through their own branded mobile apps.

Most critically, AirKast will be providing a unique functionality that will now allow those stations and hosts to collect and harness permission-based user data to help them sell mobile ad campaigns and drive listener engagement beyond current levels.

New Alexa Skills Will Help Enrich Personal Connections with Radio Audiences

 “We expect that these new Alexa skills will be quite beneficial to radio stations -- by permitting them to forge easy-to-use personal connections with their audiences, and by giving them new content whenever and wherever they want it," explained AirKast CEO Larry Leung.  "It’s our mission to not only provide basic Alexa skills, but also more advanced voice recognition, so fans can interact with a radio station’s podcasts, show schedules and other application-based content,” he added.  "The radio industry is excited to see the resurgence of ‘at home’ audio usage as it's been competing with other digital music services." 

"The effort to deploy Alexa skills is so minimal, it makes perfect sense to offer it free of charge," Leung stressed.

AirKast also offers Apple Car Play and Android Auto functionality for free -- which will be relaunched with auto voice controls -- and believes Alexa voice commands will significantly enhance that experience. 

Additional New AirKast Features Released

AirKast is releasing other new features for customers, including: advance push notifications, which include the ability to launch geo-targeted messaging for programming and sales; multi-language support; intelligent message scheduling; segmentation opt-in/opt-outs; visual mobile listening heat maps that can help identify user activity down to the local county level; breaking news and weather alerts; and live in-app video streaming support. 

“We’ve also added live in-app video support to recapture the attention of our customer’s branded audiences," said AirKast VP of Engineering Hung Nguyen.  "Currently, many radio stations drive their audiences to third-party video sites, like Facebook, YouTube and Periscope, and we want our customers to be able to bring their audiences back to their own broadcast and branded environment -- so they can start to measure and monetize their live video efforts.”

“AirKast is committed to providing data that can  help our customers make better business decisions and, most crucially, that can directly help drive radio sales and programming results,” he added.

AirKast is a category leader that works with over 60 media companies -- including CBS Radio News, Fox Radio News and Cumulus Media -- as well as syndicated show personalities like Mark Levin.  AirKast uses its proprietary “AirBridge” platform and “Air Connectors” to create mobile applications that are used for listening and interacting with radio station streams and advertisings.


About AirBridge and TuneKast

AirBridge, the industry's award-winning hosted digital media delivery platform created by AirKast, is used to build enterprise-class mobile applications that are reliable, secure and scalable so companies can target large audiences that require simultaneous access. AirBridge currently supports market-leading mobile devices, including iPhone, iPad, Kindle and Android. Designed for terrestrial and Internet-based radio stations to increase AQH, TuneKast is a mobile application framework that features real-time digital media and online content within branded mobile applications.  Please visit
www.airkast.com


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Best Practices: If You Use Push Notifications...Don't Be Pushy.

One of the most powerful tactics in your mobile arsenal is the use of push notifications.  It's important to remember that fans have self selected to 'opt-in' for the information and with that comes great responsibility.  More than any other mobile feature the acceptance of a push notification implies that the user trusts you'll be respectful of their time.

Marketing Land authored recently published "5 must-do push notification best practices for mobile marketers".  The article makes light of some key things to take into account when planning a push strategy.  If you don't have a long term, measurable strategy you're just using the tool as a tactic for short term gain.

Here's what they recommend as best practices:
1.  "Think Big"
2.  "Segment Smartly"
3.  "Define your KPI"
4.  "Timing matters and so does testing"
5.  "Use proven words and CTA's to entice users to take action"

Think Big
In an on demand world everything is breaking news, so how do we define what's "BIG"?  Think of it this way, scarcity and limited time events create interest and fear of missing out.  So ask yourself "Is this push notification exciting and relevant enough to have engagement impact".

Segment Smartly
The more relevant the information to the user, the greater the response rate.  Are you doing notification blasts and hoping for the best or have you researched and segmented your database before you set your push strategy.

Define Your KPI's
Is it downloads?  Is it click throughs?  Is it UGC?  How will you measure your results and benchmark it's success?

Timing And Testing Matter
Ready, Aim Fire!  Be sensitive to the scheduling of your messages.  When do you see the biggest usage peaks in your mobile app?  Are you using intelligent sending?  Are you using multi-language support?  Are you geo-targeting your messages?  These are critical things to think about before you send to the masses.

Use Proven Words
Words sell, it's that simple. Do your homework and think high impact/low word count when crafting your messages.

How Far Is Too Far?
Broadcasters need to be mindful of what they push out.  Irrelevant sales promotions will be your death knell so filter your opportunities wisely.  Push notifications should be about experience first and sales second.  "Wendy's wants you to sit in the first row for free" is different than a "2 for one"   Remember points 1 and 2 before you send a message, always question yourself "is it big enough and relevant enough" to use this sacred form of communication.

Friday, July 21, 2017

If A Picture Is Worth A 1000 Words...How Much Is A Video Worth?

If a picture is worth a 1000 words how much more value does video bring?  There are some impressive statistics to back up the use of video in your marketing efforts.

A May 2017 artictle on Tech.Co lists some of the staggering engagement numbers about video engagement and in particular, mobile.  Here are some very compelling reasons for you to include video in your mobile app.  It's not just for breaking news but retail views!

"More Than 50 Precent of All Videos Are Viewed on Mobile
Not only are more than 50 perecent of videos viewed on mobile, there’s been a 233 percent increase in viewing since 2013. It should be noted at the vast majority of views are through phones and not tablets. Mobile is also behind an overall 33 percent increase in video views. Anyone interested in mobile, video market should also know that their target audience members are frequently watching videos that are five minutes or longer."
And when it comes to making retail purchases the numbers are even more impressive.
"90 Percent of Users Say That Product Demo Videos Help Them Make Decisions
Using video helps customers through all parts of the consumer journey. This includes the phase where customers are narrowing down the products that interest them. By including product demonstration videos, brands can build goodwill by helping customers through the decision making process."

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Mobile: Sure They Listen But Do You Know Where They Live?

One of the greatest challenges is working to identify who your mobile fans are.  Given that latitude and longitude are the most common data points; how do we as marketers build a profile of these active fans.  Most mobile apps will ask you to log in with a social network enabling them to capture some first person data that can help you start to build a profile and that's a great start.  When we build our apps we think about the audience first.  Not only what functionality will keep them engaged but what we do with the data we collect to build out new features.

There a number of easy ways to capture mobile user data.  Single sign on (SS0) is one such tactic but there's so much more that can be done.  If you don't have the ability to buy big data and overlay your audience you can start by doing some basic things:

1.  Mobile Only Contest Registration:  This may be one of the simplest things you can do by building hidden web pages or in app contest entry pages that allows you to collect first person data that can be merged with other user profiles.

2.  Gated and Windowed Content:  By creating content that is only open to premium users you can drive registration data.  An ongoing release of gated and windowed content allows you to create small chunks of bite size data on a regular basis which has high appeal (do your homework first to find hot topics!)

It's important to understand that mobile listening is different than desktop or listening and collecting mobile listener locations during live streaming will more than likely produce migration patterns during the day due to portability.  This is actually one of the greatest assets of mobile user data as it can give us insights to how people move around a city during the day.

Heat Maps and Retail Beacons

Heat Maps have been used in marketing research for decades and now that mobile users are not only receiving information they are also sending a wealth of information back to service providers.  At AirKast we allow our clients to quickly see where their mobile listeners are streaming from in a market down to County level.  Yet another data point that can be leverage for radio sales or programming or any advertising buyer who wants to know 'where do your users live'.

Below is a snapshot of a major national Conservative talk show host.  Not only do we see heavily concentrated listening areas but fringe areas where they are popular.  When working with national advertisers this is a great visual to explain where to aim your marketing.  The next immediate layer of data that will help guide your advertising efforts could be retail foot traffic attribution within these key states and counties.  You've now started to create a behavioral profile of your mobile audience.


Here are some quick stats on beacons:



  • 65% of retails who employ the beacon technology claim they are able to target customers “down to the aisle level”;
  • 24% of beacon adopters have registered a steady growth in sales;
  • 59% of customers who receive beacon notifications feel more engaged in stores.

  • If relevancy drives engagement this combination of data can be a very potent mix for your mobile marketing plan.

    Wednesday, July 19, 2017

    Mobile Engagement. Is It Happy Ever After Or Death Do Us Part?

    Cigar Dave Live from Las Vegas

    The advertising world is abuzz with some key words when it comes to mobile users.  How many times have we heard the term 'immersive',  'engaging' and 'sticky'?  Bottom line is great content drives engagement.  The biggest challenge is how do we as marketers keep the content consistent with what the user expects (relevancy) and deliver that message without becoming annoying.

    It's pretty hard to argue the facts:

    "Mobile marketing's awesome potential in 2017 is reinforced with reports like this one: research firm BIA/Kelsey predicts that U.S. mobile-ad spend will exceed $40 billion -- and the industry can expect that number to pass $65 billion by 2020. Last year, mobile digital ad-spend fueled mobile-side growth on a path to outpace desktop ad-spend. Meanwhile, smartphones and tablet devices account for 51.3% of Internet use. By year's end, 75% of online content consumption will be mobile, media buying agency Zenith forecast late last year."

    The value of video experiences continues to grow and when done in combination with programmatic and behavioral targeting campaign performance continues to prove its value.

    The report later continues:

    "New ways of approaching the mobile ad unit will drive a focus on key ideas, such as non-intrusive mobile experiences, dynamically animated and adhesive banners, and ad delivery that dovetails even further with consumers' locations and activities. Mobile video ad-spend is projected to exceed $6 billion by the end of 2017, meaning 2017 will be a prime moment for mobile marketing to capture its share of resulting media allocations."

    Recently one of our clients "The Cigar Dave Show" took advantage of our in-app live video capabilities to help expose their clients at the Las Vegas International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers trade show  The goal was simply to give fans a behind the scenes look at some of the best new cigars and products.  Through a combination of push notifications and publishing a broadcast schedule in his app and email, nearly 600 fans turned on the live broadcast to watch Dave talk to his clients.





    How well did it do in driving fan engagement?  How about a CTR over 3.2%?  Why did it work so well?  When fans can gain access to exclusive content that is timely and meaningful their curiosity gets the best of them and they become 'engaged'.  What's even more intriguing is that the broadcast was concurrently shown on YouTube and and still drew a significant number of fans to the mobile app. 

    While most brands are fascinated with Facebook video, the only company that monetizes that activity is Facebook.  AirKast believe being in the path of the fan at all times is important but we shouldn't do it at the expense of brand control.  

    How is your brand using mobile and video to drive engagement, relevancy and stickiness?