I’m honored to be moderating the panel “Innovators and Inventors — Looking Ahead on the Digital Highway” — at Convergence 2014 in Santa Clara on June 4 and 5. Our intent is to spotlight a few select companies whose strategic imagination is an exciting and dynamic consideration for our business. The annual Consumer Electronics Show every January in Las Vegas provides an inspiration to the thought process of innovation and creativity that we are surrounded by and my hope is this panel will give you a different vantage point to some new “thought leaders.”
One of them who will participate on my panel is Shane Bogardus the president and co-founder of OnRoute Digital Media. Here is an interview about his innovative company.
Buzz: Tell me about your company. Take us from the idea’s incubation to the launch and tell us about your current state of affairs.
Bogardus: The concept of OnRoute Digital Media (onroutedigital.com) and our BreadKrum Trail platform originated after a scheduled meet myself and co-founder Noel Bonk had with the local bus transportation company. We were looking for a way to deliver messages while en route to and from work and start an ad network, if you will, within our city. Upon leaving with a definite “maybe not” due to a recent contract renegotiation with a static signage provider, we realized that (though fewer were using them at the time) most everyone was looking at their phones.
We realized that as technology grew and smartphones became standard issue, this would be the perfect place to deliver relevant content and messages to them when they were in and around the city.
This led to designing and coding using GPS technology and eventual early concepts of filtering by demographics of age and gender.
We knew we needed a way to promote it and that is when I realized the industry that has inspired creativity and afforded me and my family a good life was again going to benefit from this technology.
I now was going to be able to continue delivering my clients’ messages to consumers but now directly when, where, and why they want it.
I knew if I could make it, other friends within broadcast sales would benefit from it as well.
Our team focused on creating a platform and product that specifically worked within the sales flow of today’s sales teams.
We launched our native application as “apps” were just coming to popularity, and well before most streaming apps for radio and news/weather became the norm for television brands, offering them a way to promote themselves and that of their advertisers.
Fast forward to three years of bobble heads of “yeses” and “we likes” but no signed contracts other than a letter of intent by a now-merged company in the radio business — shocking, I know — to a company that was focused on our core assets and less on the next thing in digital.
We received great support from the NYSBA here in New York State by the leadership there and are forever grateful for their support and contribution to our acceleration.
We have found that a 2-4 percent growth in the core business has left little pain for progress in this area even though there is advertising growth of 35 to, in some cases, 150 percent in the markets they serve.
Due to this, we have pivoted our approach in championing the industry and focused on delivering the dollars to them, still with the mission in mind to help move them into this space, by approaching brands and agencies directly to utilize the platform now in a software development kit (SDK) that will easily integrate into their existing applications and deliver these messages to consumers.
However, many do not have the “app affinity” that broadcasters have with their digital assets. We believe the path to reaching our goal of supporting the broadcasters is to deliver dollars, now mobile-budgeted dollars, directly to them through these engaging brands and the sophisticated agencies designing campaigns of value for them.
Buzz: How has radio responded to your efforts?
Bogardus: We always received open doors and warm welcomes and left with a roomful of confirmation that BreadKrum had value.
The responsibility again to generate the content, as they would with a TV or radio commercial, was necessary and many didn’t have the digital infrastructure to support this. Especially when it was just 2-4 percent of their revenues at the time.
I know this is changing, as I see the larger companies creating “Digital Departments” to handle these requests on the national and regional business end. When they can offer to every client, including the local base, they will begin to garner more share of every piece of business and foster stronger relationships by providing ROI never seen before in our industry.
Buzz: What differentiates you from your competition?
Bogardus: One is our understanding of not just how to utilize technology to create these hyper-local and micro-local channels to distribute the message, but the one-on-one psychology and creativity that goes into the campaigns to make them successful.
I believe it was Chris Lytle that stated it best, as I paraphrase: You can’t test my station or channel, only the copy you put on it.
Well, now with the opportunity to target through behavior, activity, and opt-in information provided by the user, we can test and prove the validity of messages through this new one-to-one, relationship-channel-creation through mobile.
Two, we currently combine both GPS and low-energy Bluetooth iBeacon technology to deliver that message or offer from five miles away to five inches away from the product, service, or event of interest.
We got a head start on this given our young company was focusing on bettering our product offering, which leads me to the third differentiation. We are still a young company and can easily adapt and shift to the rapidly changing habits of consumers and provide custom solutions to each brand based on our business model that other software as a solution (SaaS) companies cannot do.
Buzz: What do you think the radio business needs to do to enable more innovation to occur?
Bogardus: The industry, as I mentioned, is still a very strong and profitable business that strives, quarter to quarter, to deliver value to its shareholders or private equity investors (not all but most, today).
That has left very little R&D dollars to explore, test, fail, to then succeed.
We have taken that risk and have shown its reward in redemption and attendance through the clients we work with. Radio has the power to close the sales circle through its mass delivery of message with our existing model right down to the activation of redemption at the point of sale through its on-the-go mobile applications.
We saw that three years ago and it has finally come to fruition.
Whether they work with us — and we certainly hope they do — or other valued young or start-up companies trying to take a share of this opportunity, we must leverage our value now with our listenership and the trust they place in delivering relevant and entertaining content, and extend that opportunity into the mobile space.
Buzz: What counsel do you have for someone looking to break into the business with a new idea?
Bogardus: This is a tough one, since any salesperson hired to deliver new clients and sales for our industry must initiate and activate new ideas to be successful. The problem they face is it must be within the assets that we currently have in place, or have the business sense to create a P&L that lays out the plan for success, since most third-party partnerships require writing checks of some sort to execute.
I recommend exploring small test models and show success in message delivery, retention, and/or redemption before engaging the many great companies in our industry. Bring them success, even if small but with great multiples in profitability, and that certainly will draw their attention and interest. I can offer that since that is exactly what we are pursuing now.