The pivot to paid is ending for Mike Francesa.
In August 2018, the popular sports talk radio host rolled out Mike’s On, a subscription audio and video app with exclusive interviews, daily updates, plus periodic live streams. The app turned heads for its pricey subscription fee of $8.99 per month or $99 per year for access.
The effort will wind down, as radio giant Entercom (owner of WFAN, home to Francesa’s radio show) has bought the app and will dismantle the paywall to integrate the content with its ad-supported Radio.com. The Mike’s On app gives Radio.com a new set of features, such as live video, to test out on its audience; earlier this month, Entercom launched a sports digital network featuring video and audio produced by a mixture of radio DJs and former professional athletes, such as Ross Tucker.
The steep cost of the app attracted plenty of doubters that a popular talk radio personality would be able to convert his legion of fans into paying subscribers. Since its launch, Mike’s On has accumulated a small cluster of subscribers, though new downloads have slowed to a crawl over the past few months, with the app driving fewer than a thousand downloads a month in each of the past four months, according to Apptopia.
That audience pales in comparison to the Radio.com app audience, which has been averaging over 230,000 downloads per month over the same period, also per Apptopia. But it’s big enough to learn from, as Entercom plans to eventually migrate away from an app product strategy focused on specific shows in favor of one organized around topics and talent. That may eventually include a paid tier of the app as well, according to a source.
Glenn Rubenstein, the founder of Adopter Media, an agency focused on podcasts and on-demand audio, noted that larger media companies have been trying to give top talent more of a platform to create and distribute more content, partly to keep them from leaving and forming a direct relationship with their audiences. If Entercom can figure out how to integrate these supplementary content types into their flagship app, it could provide a blueprint that it can apply to the rest of their stations’ talent and shows.
“It can easily be replicated across all of their other properties,” Rubenstein said.