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Friday, August 22, 2014

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Online coupon company hooks up with Internet radio

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From left, Ilan Liberman, Eleonora Rubinov, Foster Moos, Russ Horton and Don Andrews at a recent gathering in support of Internet radio at Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square [Pam Chiotti photo]

How many mayors do you know of who have a radio station named after them? None, you say?

Ever hear of Mississauga, Ont., Mayor Hazel McCallion? She, along with a few thousand others, are all ears when it comes to Haze FM, the Internet radio station named in her honour.

It’s a station that not only draws listeners from Mississauga – it also has listeners from around the globe. Yet, Haze FM is just one of thousands of Internet radio stations in North America that are tearing listeners away from conventional AM and FM radio and turning them into Internet radio junkies who are thrilled with radio that’s mostly commercial free – for now anyway.

This dearth of commercials is exactly what interested a fledgling Jewish online coupon company, Deals Gone Crazy. Toronto residents Eleonora Rubinov and Ilan Liberman are the founders of www.dealsgonecrazy.com, a company that e-mails information about daily bargains to its subscribers. The company launched its site in November and first followed the traditional marketing route, using online pop-ups, e-mail blasts, hand-delivered flyers and word-of-mouth to spread the word. They even had a booth at Dr. Flea’s flea market in Toronto, where they kibitzed with customers. Business trickled in, but it wasn’t enough to stay afloat. The pair conceded that if ever they were going to grow, they’d need to ramp up their marketing campaign.

Aware of heavy competition, they looked at avenues that would set their company apart. “We’re a startup” said Rubinov, “and the concept of advertising on Internet radio is also just beginning to make its mark – the same as us. We felt empathetic toward the medium. We know we can’t grow on our own. Everyone has to help each other out and that’s what we did.”

They began a radio ad campaign on four Internet radio stations: www.d-moos.com (a station that broadcasts out of the McGibbon Hotel in Georgetown, Ont.), www.rtds.ca (Radio That Doesn’t Suck, based in Toronto), www.swisssh.ca (based in Orillia, Ont.) and www.thehazefm.ca. The campaign comprises 30- and 60-second commercials, with some newscast and program sponsorship sprinkled in.

According to Statistics Canada, more than 80 per cent of the population  used the Internet in 2010, and nearly 37 per cent of Canadians over 16 years of age listened to radio online. That works out to about 10 million people. Many listen to conventional radio that also streams online, but thousands of other listeners, are tuning in to stations that broadcast only on the Internet, where an eclectic mix of music, news and talk runs 24/7. While advertising on Internet radio is still in its infancy, infants grow up.

“We have 15,000-plus hours tuned each month,” says Rob Reid, owner of Swisssh Radio. His listeners tune in from all over Europe and from as far away as Brazil, Vietnam, Australia and the United States. His station is also a favourite with Orillia residents.

“Commercial-free radio is what drew us to Internet radio,” said Rubinov. “We thought that if someone heard a dozen or so songs in a row and then one commercial, our company would really stand out. And since we’re an online company, we want to support Internet radio.”

Clearly, as time progresses, more and more advertisers will be looking to “air” their radio commercials online, where cost is minimal and airplay is maximized. Rates for Internet radio are pennies on the dollar compared to terrestrial radio and print ads. And since Deals Gone Crazy is in the deals business, they knew where to look for a bargain.

With a mind to attract Jewish businesses in Toronto, and their feeling that the need was there, the Deals Gone Crazy executives approached merchants in Toronto’s Jewish community.

“We keep kosher here at home,” said Rubinov, “and I’d like to find some kosher establishments so I can go to more restaurants.”

Right now, mostly hairdressers, spas, limousine and fitness-training services are Deals Gone Crazy’s dominant advertisers, but with the company’s new focus on restaurants, more food deals – kosher and non-kosher – are expected to appear in 2012. Thus, the new slogan: “Deals Gone Crazy: Get What You Dish For.”

“Get What You Dish For” refers to a new approach that differentiates Deals Gone Crazy from other online coupon companies. “If somebody wants a particular deal, and we’re hoping it’s a restaurant, we try to secure it. If we do, that customer gets a free voucher,” Liberman said.

But, most importantly, he continued, is their promise to keep customers coming back to the merchant once they’ve used their first voucher.

“Our marketing campaign is all about customer retention. It works… We put merchants first,” said Liberman. “That’s one of our trademarks.”

The decision to invest in Internet radio is paying off. Liberman said the deals are coming in, and customers are appreciating saving money. “We’ve had at least 2,000 hits since we started advertising on Internet radio in November, and we’ve had people check out our site from as far away as Greece and Rome. People like the deals and are coming up with great suggestions.” The customer base blossomed from a mere handful of subscribers to more than 700 hits after just four days of advertising on Internet radio.

Russ Horton, the man behind D-Moos Radio, said he’s ecstatic about having Deals Gone Crazy on board. “They’re the first company to throw their full support behind Internet radio,” he said.

Liberman has become a big fan of Internet radio. “I’ve been hearing music I know and like, and I’m also hearing a lot of music and really creative programming that I haven’t heard before. I’m excited to be part of this.”

He admitted he was skeptical at first, wondering who exactly listens to Internet radio. But as he heard from Don Andrews, who has a late-night show on www.swisssh.ca, Internet radio listeners are fiercely loyal. Andrews, an Internet radio pioneer who is well-known from his days on conventional Toronto radio, said there are likely thousands of Internet stations across North America.

“I told a story on the air about a Vancouver woman who couldn’t afford a plane ticket to Toronto to see her parents. One of my listeners phoned up. He works for an airline, and arranged for her to get a free flight. It’s a nice thing to happen over the holidays. That’s what Internet radio listeners are like,” he said,

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