Sticky content and the broadcast media
In the January 2012 issue of Wired, there's an article about frequent YouTube contributors which contains an interesting statistic about the stickiness of web media. Although individual YouTube video channels can reach audiences in the millions, exceeding the instantaneous audience of many TV channels, the average usage of YouTube is only fifteen minutes per day per person. This compares with five hours usage per day for the average US TV viewer. Obviously, that statistic has implications for both audience engagement and advertising revenue, especially since YouTube ads are easily skipped.
The Wired article makes the point that media download sites require the user to be actively engaged and clicking in order to continue watching or listening. Online videos tend to be short, and users quickly find something else to interest them. YouTube is responding to this low stickiness by creating automated playlists of related content, so that YouTube becomes a more passive, broadcast-like experience.
It seems Sourcefabric's Airtime, with its playlist builder, show scheduling calendar, and support for streaming media servers, already offers something qualitatively different from click-to-download audio files (like podcasts). Streaming scheduled shows containing themed or otherwise related media then becomes a way of curating the best audio content in a meaningful, linear way, a way that can increase user stickiness relative to the lucky dip of media download sites.
The listener outsources the task of finding and sequencing audio content to the Airtime producer, in much the same way that a dancer in a nightclub expects the club DJ to organize the music. The clubber could spend many hours each week finding the best new music, and then learning how to sequence that media for maximum impact, but they may prefer an expert (the DJ) to do that for them. After all, they have other things to be getting on with in their own, busy lives. The listener may also enjoy the communal, live and interactive experience (the club or radio station) more than the solitary experience (alone at home, clicking).
Audio has an in-built stickiness advantage over video, in that audio does not require our full attention - we can be on the move, at work, or in the bathtub, and listen to the same radio station all day. That principle applies whether Airtime is used to stream audio via the Internet or to a traditional radio transmitter. At the same time, Airtime is more modern than traditional broadcast radio because it enables web-based collaborative production and scheduling. FM and digital radio offer highly scalable one-to-many broadcast to ubiquitous, low-cost devices, but the two-way Internet provides an excellent back channel.