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June 16, 2022 9:41 am  #1


Is "Zonecasting" The Next Big Thing For FM Radio? How Does It Work?

I'd never heard of zonecasting before, but apparently the FCC in the U.S. is close to approving its use for broadcast FM radio. Those behind the idea claim it will help radio stations become even more profitable.

So what is it? As I understand it, it allows a single radio station to place different ads on its airwaves in different parts of a city, all the same time. So under this idea, CHUM-FM could conceivably go to a spot targeting downtown Toronto, while at the exact same time, listeners in Brampton would hear a commercial for one of their businesses. 

It's based on the concept that Facebook and Google use, targeting a listener by where they are as they listen. According to the people behind the technology:

"A New York City radio station could target content to the whole market or geotarget broadcasts relevant to zones – New York City, Long Island, Connecticut, New Jersey. The technology works by using single frequency network transmitters like those used by mobile phone carriers."

"Stations may generate more revenue at a time when this is greatly needed. For example, a station that sells a 30 second spot for $100 could sell three gezoned spots for $50 each. Buyers get a discount for more relevant geography and less waste. Stations could earn $50 for each of the geozone spots that run at the same time. That means for a 30 second break stations could make $150 instead of $100. This helps the long-term viability of local radio."


It's that sentence about how it works that confuses me somewhat. How is it technically possible to effectively divide your signal like that based on where you are? I get how it happens with cell phones and the Internet, but on a transmitter? How would the signals be divided and yet allow you to rejoin the broadcast in progress in a seamless way? 

One test station in the U.S. is singing the praises of the technology, indicating it helped up its ad revenue significantly by effectively allowing them to sell the same spot breaks multiple times.

But the NAB in the U.S. is against the idea, noting the possibility for interference is real and could degrade a station's signal and reach, turning off FM listeners. 

Either way, it may be the future at a time when radio revenues aren't what they used to be. No word if Canada would adopt such an idea, although with the squeeze of signal space on FM in the GTA, I'm not sure if it would even be practical here.

It's an incredible world we live in. I just don't always understand it. 

Zonecasting Explained - Sort Of

 

June 16, 2022 12:32 pm  #2


Re: Is "Zonecasting" The Next Big Thing For FM Radio? How Does It Work?

For the local side of the coin, I see how this might be a good idea.
Let's not forget the National spots though.
Tide gets your clothes clean...no matter where you live. lol
BUT...where to buy Tide...at the end of a National spot, does this mean that a Scarborough listener can be informed that Sally's independent grocery sells tide for less than the big guys? (while Downtown Toronto listeners can be steered to shop at Fiesta farms for Tide?)
OR
Does the Tide ad end with a simple message to grab tide on sale at Shoppers drug mart (or whatever big well known store...?)

It's interesting to learn how this could pan out...


RadioWiz & RadioQuiz are NOT the same person. 
RadioWiz & THE Wiz are NOT the same person.

 
 

June 16, 2022 1:02 pm  #3


Re: Is "Zonecasting" The Next Big Thing For FM Radio? How Does It Work?

Radiowiz wrote:

For the local side of the coin, I see how this might be a good idea.
Let's not forget the National spots though.
Tide gets your clothes clean...no matter where you live. lol
BUT...where to buy Tide...at the end of a National spot, does this mean that a Scarborough listener can be informed that Sally's independent grocery sells tide for less than the big guys? (while Downtown Toronto listeners can be steered to shop at Fiesta farms for Tide?)
OR
Does the Tide ad end with a simple message to grab tide on sale at Shoppers drug mart (or whatever big well known store...?)

It's interesting to learn how this could pan out...

I work in advertising but on the digital side of things. This looks like interesting technology, and definitely could help terrestrial radio overcome one of its weaknesses, broadcasting the same message to a large area.

Given what I’ve seen businesses do with Google’s various services, I would predict local businesses would want to target specific neighbourhoods instead of the station’s full coverage area, while national brands (Canadian Tire, Best Buy, etc.) will keep a single ad but with some level of customization for the local neighborhood. For example, if you’re driving on the 401 near the DVP, a Canadian Tire ad might specify that the nearest location is on Sheppard near Leslie, or if you’re driving near Yonge and Steeles it will specify the location at that intersection instead.

This could open up new advertising for local businesses that don’t want to reach an entire metropolitan area, especially in large markets like Toronto.

 

June 16, 2022 1:13 pm  #4


Re: Is "Zonecasting" The Next Big Thing For FM Radio? How Does It Work?

But won't it cause interference problems? I understand the concept, per se, but I'm having trouble getting my head around how well it would work in practicality. What if you're on the border of say, Brampton and just entering the city of Toronto? Which message do you hear? Does one override the other? Does it shift mid-spot? Lots of questions about this thing before it gets deployed. 

Last edited by RadioActive (June 16, 2022 1:14 pm)

     Thread Starter
 

June 16, 2022 2:09 pm  #5


Re: Is "Zonecasting" The Next Big Thing For FM Radio? How Does It Work?

This sounds like a variation of Maxxcasting discussed a few weeks ago. Sounds as if the system is based on synchronous FM repeaters, with the audio source changing during commercial breaks to allow insertion of targeted content.
Synchronous FM repeaters are difficult enough to make work, and the rule is "synchronize everything".  That not only means GPS control of carrier frequency and the stereo pilot (19kHz) frequency, but it also means having the audio deviation (modulation percentage) track within ,1 dB.  Then you have to play with the time delay of the audio in order to maximize the interference-free area of reception where the two signals overlap.  If you use an alternate audio source, everything falls apart.  The mutual interference of the two signals will increase dramatically during commercial breaks. I just don't see how this can succeed.
 

 

June 16, 2022 2:34 pm  #6


Re: Is "Zonecasting" The Next Big Thing For FM Radio? How Does It Work?

A lot will depend on the price, and the number of listeners that the station has in specific local areas.  Newspapers do something sort of similar with their websites that target different local ads in specific areas or parts of town, or even other papers.  So not only does the advertiser choose the papers website but also geo targets specific areas of various towns.   Sort of like electronic flyer delivery, where the customer decides what parts of town will receive the flyer. 

This did work but wasn't as successful as was hoped.  Again comes down to the cost and results.     

 

 

June 16, 2022 7:50 pm  #7


Re: Is "Zonecasting" The Next Big Thing For FM Radio? How Does It Work?

RadioActive wrote:

But won't it cause interference problems? I understand the concept, per se, but I'm having trouble getting my head around how well it would work in practicality. What if you're on the border of say, Brampton and just entering the city of Toronto? Which message do you hear? Does one override the other? Does it shift mid-spot? Lots of questions about this thing before it gets deployed. 

What would those ads sound like in a car? Driving around, just leaving one zone, entering another...as an ad is airing?
Do the two zones accidently air over each other?


RadioWiz & RadioQuiz are NOT the same person. 
RadioWiz & THE Wiz are NOT the same person.

 
 

June 17, 2022 11:16 am  #8


Re: Is "Zonecasting" The Next Big Thing For FM Radio? How Does It Work?

Canadian transmitter manufacturer Nautel has information pertaining to SFN on their website... here are a few links that might be of interest...

Webinar on SFN

https://www.nautel.com/resources/webinars/fm-transmitters/single-frequency-networks/

and

https://www.nautel.com/press-release/nautel-unveils-sfn-option-hd-radio/

They also have a paper discussing a practical field deployment of SFN linked transmitters in Greece...(I think it is part of the webinar).


 

 

June 18, 2022 12:18 pm  #9


Re: Is "Zonecasting" The Next Big Thing For FM Radio? How Does It Work?

I vaguely remember there was a station based out of Chatham or maybe Leamington with a repeater / rebroadcaster  in Windsor on the same frequency. Along the 401 there was an area where both signals were the same strength. You could hear the radio in the vehicle switch between the signals resulting in picket fencing and other odd sounds. I don't think this arrangement was in place for very long. Perhaps they found another frequency. It was pretty funky while it lasted.

 

June 19, 2022 12:38 pm  #10


Re: Is "Zonecasting" The Next Big Thing For FM Radio? How Does It Work?

I hope the radio industry gets its voice tracking and automation problems fixed first before they attempt to zone commercials.  Got to walk before you can fly. 

 

June 19, 2022 1:19 pm  #11


Re: Is "Zonecasting" The Next Big Thing For FM Radio? How Does It Work?

The vast majority of the advertising on the stations with big enough signals & budgets to implement this is national/agency driven. Local ads for local businesses are becoming a thing of the past in bigger markets.