Hyperlocal radio group enjoys national growth of cloud-based syndication

A husband-and-wife broadcasting and station ownership team has seen fast growth of their home-grown cloud-based syndication system that is being used by dozens of station affiliates, and might be unique.

john heidi small 250wJohn and Heidi Small started their first radio station in Sioux Falls, South Dakota (92.1 FM and 1520 AM), in 2010. The created the 1980s-music Sunny Radio format (“Where It’s Always in the 80’s”) for that station, and expanded it to a second station in Sioux City, Iowa (97.1 FM and 1250 AM). Last week the couple announced that the Sunny Radio format would be syndicated to a station in Chattahoochee, Florida. Another Sunny Radio affiliate will roll out next month in Texas.

These developments grew out of a small creative agency the Smalls started in 2006, creating and producing radio spots for clients in nearly every U.S. state. In November 2014, their AM/FM business rolling along for four years, the couple started CloudcastRadio, designed to syndicate all or part of the content they were creating and programming in their own stations. CloudcastRadio is marketed as a more flexible syndication system than larger outfits using satellite delivery.

cloudcastradio logo 250w“This is a chance for local broadcasters to BREAK AWAY from the Satellite companies that tell YOU how many minutes of inventory you get on your own radio stations,” according to a company description. “We put YOU back in control of your own station by letting you take one hour or a whole format.”

CloudcastRadio started as an in-house tools for moving content between the two broadcast Sunny Radio stations. “We were doing it for our stations to start,” John Small told RAIN News in a phone conversation. “Then we thought that with some minor tweaking, it could work for stations in other markets. In April of 2015 we started providing content for other stations outside of our company.”

That tweaking includes providing programs with breaks that are not ID’d by station. The syndicating station sells local ads against CloudcastRadio programs. “They can sell their own advertising, and we have some barter ads also,” Small said.

The system as a whole might be unique. “I believe it ism” John Small said. “There are some people who have certain aspects of what we’re doing, but the way we’re doing it is unique.”

CloudcastRadio has quickly grown to serve 49 stations, and the most recent sign-on is taking the entire, 24-hour Sunny Radio format. “It’s a 24-hour slate of programming, and they get access to all our branding, jingles, and imaging,” Small said. “It’s a way for us to make it really simple and easy for a station owner. Do they want to devote their work hours to sales or programming? Usually the time is best spent in sales. We can help with the programming, including really great imaging that’s fresh, and daily shows that can be set up and automated.”

The programs are downloaded, not streamed, from this cloud-based platform, and the process can be automated. The station’s local computer plays everything on the air. Some program elements can be customized. John Small gave an example of a station which might have scheduled a county fair appearance where it will give away concert tickets. The CloudcastRadio announcing staff can create the promotional breaks and include them in the total package. Most stations buy some amount of customization work, and many update it every couple of months.

The Smalls’ goal for the next year is to have 200 affiliate stations, and more full-format choices to offer clients. Now there are two — in addition to the 80’s-music Sunny Radio, there is County Road Country.

We were curious about the opportunity here for show creators. Is CloudcastRadio a market for producers, similar to PRX being a market in the public radio realm? The answer is yes, according to John Small, but with a business consideration for his young company. “We’re giving the radio programmers a platform to market their shows. It has been a challenge because we want to continue being the delivery vehicle — we don’t want to be responsible for everybody’s content. So, if we have 50 shows coming out of here, we want the stations to have their agreements with the content creators, not with us.”



Brad Hill