Capital invests in Gold with second Web launch

The profit potential of a second Website for Capital Radio may not be obvious, but with good management and a little luck, it could be worth it

First it was Chris Tarrant. Now you can listen to Tony Blackburn on the Internet. But what’s wrong with the wireless?

From this month, Capital Gold fans who want to listen to Tony Blackburn and Caesar the Geezer through a personal computer and modem can do so.

The launch of the Capital Gold site (www.CapitalGold.co.uk) on March 3, complements Capital Radio’s existing Website which is branded around its FM service.

Capital Radio has devoted 12 staff under Douglas McCallum, head of new media, to running its Web operation.

But as Capital already delivers to car and kitchen radios across London, an obvious question arises – why bother?

McCallum says: “The new media business is operating on a profit-and-loss basis, and my pitch has been to make this a profitable business within three years.”

The Capital FM site offers a range of information and merchandising services, as well as live radio feed, to Capital fans and surfers. These include an online CD-ordering service in collaboration with HMV Direct.

Capital is also developing local listing and content such as cinema, gigs, and restaurant guides. With Gold coming online, it will also carry sports information.

But the method of converting all of this into a profitable venture is a moot point.

Extending and improving merchandising in areas such as CDs, sports and cinema ticketing is one obvious route, says McCallum. Long term it could develop these local content and listings functions to include classified advertising, much like London’s Evening Standard and Time Out.

“If we don’t do these things, someone else will,” says McCallum.

Capital sites claim to be generating more than 1 million page views per month – a respectable, if not spectacular, performance.

So far, advertising support has been limited. But since December, half of the new media staff has concentrated on selling sponsorship and advertising opportunities for Capital’s sites.

McCallum expects to see mainstream consumer brands being signed up before the summer, as the sales drive begins to deliver.

John Ousby, financial controller at Virgin Radio, who also manages the station’s Website, says Capital Radio is staking a high-spending and perhaps high-risk approach in developing its Web presence.

But he is in no doubt that as the workplace audience and the liklihood of free local phone calls in the UK domestic Internet market grow, the notion of mass demand for Internet-delivered radio will no longer appear a pipe-dream.

Virgin Radio’s year-old Website claims to have generated 750,000 visits, with weekly visits running at between 20,000 and 30,000.

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