Rivet Radio pivots toward B2B audio on-demand; conversation with CEO John MacLeod

Entering 2016, Chicago-based Rivet Radio is shifting to focus on serving business customers, putting its direct-to-consumer mission on the back burner for the time being.

Charlie Meyerson

John MacLeod

That’s the message from Rivet CEO John MacLeod, who spoke to RAIN News about the strategic pivot. It was also MacLeod’s explanation to the Rivet staff for a small staff reduction, an exaggerated account of which had leaked online and received a swirl of media attention.

Doubling Down on B2B

We asked John MacLeod to talk about the change of direction. He emphasized that a direct-to-consumer business is still a long-term brass ring for Rivet, a challenging one that takes more time to reach.

“We has always seen, and continue to see, opportunities in going directly to consumers and also going through business channels,” MacLeod told us. “We have found that the consumer business will be the largest long-term opportunity, but it is taking longer to materialize. Getting audio into cars, into devices, into home, is complicated.”

On the B2B side, MacLeod referenced media publishers which are coming into the platform, to be announced later this year, and business solution customers. Ane example of the second group was exhibited during the “on hold” audio  in the conferencing system Rivet uses — we heard audio news reports streamed from Rivet Radio.

“Distribution of our content to businesses, and media publishers wanting to leverage the Rivet platform, represent a more immediate business opportunity,” MacLeod said. “We’re shifting our focus to better serve our business customers.”

A Smart Data Platform

Rivet features a content creation and publishing platform that has uniquely attractive features for many businesses. John MacLeod described an extensive metadata structure that can make content identifiable and targetable.

“We have created two major sets of tools. One set is around content creation/management, and the other set is content distribution. It all works together. When we first started looking at spoken-word audio, we noticed the state of metadata in podcasting was an absolute mess. Everybody had metadata, but there was no consistent way it was created or delivered. You might have a headline showing up in an another field, for example. We started, in 2013, by saying we needed an audio data format that is easily managed and deliverable to everybody. that was originally why we got into original audio production.”

This data-centric approach to content reflects MacLeod’s career history — he was EVP of digital map company Navteq for 11 years. Before that MacLeod held executive positions at Sony Pictures and Walt Disney.

Each audio piece created on Rivet’s platform has consistent creation of headlines, descriptions, categories, keywords — and also time, expiration, and geo-spatial information. All these data coordinates allow specialized and targeted delivery of content to listeners, and also (as noted in our call by Terri Lydon, Rivet VP of Marketing and Sales), offers detailed audience targeting to advertisers.

“The core of our content creation and delivery system is this data format,” MacLeod explained. “Every story is a consistent, atomic unit of data and metadata. Internally we call them ‘rivets.’ They all work together.”

Driving Toward Connected Cars

The Rivet CEO spoke of “the rigor of data” as a key differentiator and strategic pillar that informs the B2B business that rivet is focusing on as 2016 gets underway. “As we have developed our tools and our ability to configure on-demand playlists, we have received increasing interest from media publishers, from magazines to radio” MacLeod said.

What is the ideal extension of Rivet’s B2B service? Ubiquity in connected cars:

“Our ultimate target is getting this in every car in the world. Where you can hear what they want to hear based on their location and interest. And a car company can set up rules and criteria of how it comes in. That’s where we see it going long-term. And media publishers can come in to create, manage, and deliver content through our cloud system.”


Brad Hill