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How Turntable.fm Is Altering Radio Advertising

One of the most addicting new websites that everyone at ad:tech will go home and join has to be Turntable.fm. A social network that makes playing music for friends a simple game, Turntable is part of a new class of innovators changing how radio works in the 21st century. Founder Seth Goldstein sat on the panel of a session entitled "Digital Killed the Radio Star...How Pandora, Spotify, Turntable.fm & TastemakerX are Shaping the Future of Advertising." Goldstein held court with such digital radio powerhouses like Pandora and Spotify, assisted by the simple brilliance of his idea.

The crazy thing is that the Turntable idea would've worked a decade ago and, hopefully, will work much longer into the future.

For advertisers, however, Goldstein is presenting a challenge. The site will never have a "traditional" ad, he claims. Turntable is requiring marketers to spend time and money to make something unique and quality. The site's growing user base is making this challenge more and more acceptable.

A Computer Nightclub (That's Also Open in the Day)

The presentors onstage made very clear that they don't consider their respective companies to be competitors. Turntable is, after all, extremely different from digital radio originator Pandora or social music collector Spotify. What makes the less-than-a-year-old site different is that it is part-social, part-game and part-art, plus users get to show off their musical tastes.

Turntable.fm is a digital club full of big-headed avatars. There are a different "rooms" a user can join, most based on genres (dubstep, classic rock, 90's Alternative). Once in a room, a user can stand in the crowd and chill or jump onstage if there is an empty DJ spot and play some songs for everybody. Songs are searched for in the site's extensive database or uploaded by users.

Once onstage, each of (usually) five DJs play tracks in order from left to right. The crowd gets to vote on how they liked each track and each "Awesome" vote gives a DJ a point. Get enough "Lame" votes, though, and you'll be booted from the stage. It's usually lame to pick something too popular, but also lame to pick something wildly obscure, just like iPod DJing at a real party.

What differentiates Turntable is the merger of social and gaming, allowing users to listen to and play music with each other in real time.

Room for Advertisers

Because of the format, there isn't really room for banner ads or for the music to stop and a Bud Light video to interrupt. It would seem, then, there is no room for ads at Turntable. Goldstein does not believe that is so.

Creativity is the key, he claims. Just like with the best Facebook ads, a good campaign must always provide a social context.

Some businesses have "sponsored" rooms. Before South by Southwest, Pepsi and Intel both had rooms plastered with branded "wallpaper."

Another great trend is the sponsoring of name-brand talent, or the exposure of new talent. The South by Southwest companies also brought ?uestlove in to DJ, causing a huge stir among users.

While Turntable's ad policy might be strict, it keeps the social site uncluttered and fun. The exclusive policy could also be seen as a gateway to reaching exclusive consumers.

This article is part of Allvoices’ series on ad:tech, the largest digital marketing and technology conferences and expositions. Check out allvoices.com/adtech for more of Allvoices’ ad:tech San Francisco event coverage. This series is supported by ad:tech.