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Philly FM creates novel Web future

There are those in the industry who see an increasing threat to radio stations as Internet simulcasts allow listeners to access stations around the country.

WBEB-FM Philadelphia is looking to turn that threat into a new opportunity, becoming the first station in the country to bring radio advertising into the click age for every on-air advertiser.

"Our concept of how radio should interface with the Web is that the Web should be an extension of the radio station," says President and co-owner Jerry Lee. "Other people see it as a separate profit stream, but I don't believe that. It should expand the experience of the listener, and that will increase the value of the station."

Using software developed by, the station is offering its listeners a customized virtual radio on the desktop, with a visual component showing CD artwork of each song as it airs and the logo of each advertiser as its commercial airs. Listeners can click on the album cover and buy the album of the song playing on the site. Or they can click on an advertiser's logo and go straight to the advertiser's Web site.

"We have 250,000 core listeners, and every one can have their own personalized page," Lee says. "We're the only station that has, in real time, every single song and commercial that is on the air also on the Web site."

Advertisers have reacted positively, he adds, because of such features as a daily advertiser log that allows listeners to access commercials hours after they originally aired.

On-air commercials will be stored on the Web site for the duration of the advertiser's campaign, and, if an advertiser doesn't have a Web site, the station's Internet department will create one for it.

"In the end, we feel we'll be able to get two to three times more money than what we get for a current commercial," says Lee. "I think the increase in revenue will happen once we get 50% of our core listeners on the site."

As for listener estimates, Lee expects 20% of the station's core audience to take advantage of the Web site within the first year and 50% to have used it by June 2002.