I believe in radio and I believe in radio’s
future. But the hard truth is that if broadcasters don’t evolve with both the
technological shifts and an understanding of how our audience is changing, we
may sink our own ship.
Internet radio becoming available in the car, the entire landscape is changing,
radio itself is still solid. Everyone knows radio. Even those not
technically making radio still call
it radio (XM Satellite “Radio,” Pandora “Radio,” etc.)
WHERE IS YOUR AUDIENCE?
The great Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi
once explained the secret of his team’s success. He would tell his players, “Go
where the opening in the lineup is, not where you think the opening ought to
worked for football and it works for radio. As a broadcaster, if you want to
thrive in today’s digital world, you need to go where the audience is.
Your listeners are getting their media, both
information and entertainment, online or from their mobile devices, which they
are using constantly.
while the metrics haven’t caught up with the new delivery systems, the audience
is there. Arbitron and Nielsen are trying to figure out a way to measure it
accurately, but in fact, the audience is likely not declining. It’s probably
is, and always has been, in the content business. But now it’s time to add
another element: Content in combination, delivering across multiple
And that content had better be good. Most listeners
are distracted easily and have short attention spans. PPM proves it: If
they’re bored, they’re gone.
now includes written pieces, photos, video and headlines for social media
(Twitter, Facebook, etc.), as well as long-form audio. All content is online,
interactive and mobile.
Newspapers that are staying afloat are surviving
because they embraced this multiplatform approach early on. While it may not
have paid off immediately with
instant cash, those who invested early are now reaping the rewards of a
faithful following. They saw the writing on the wall and knew that they had to
entire world is online, and radio has got to keep up. Name one business you interact
with that is not online. You probably can’t. From banking, to buying groceries,
to shopping for birthday presents, to checking the weather forecast … it’s all
Look at Arbitron numbers in Los Angeles, where Clear
Channel encodes the stream of KFI(AM). A year ago, the online stream of the morning
drive show with Bill Handel actually beat KABC(AM)’s over-the-air signal in the
25–54 demographic for that time slot.
Norm Pattiz, who created Westwood One, just
launched PodcastOne.com, an aggregated one-stop site that offers “radio” shows
from hundreds of online broadcasters for listeners to download. With stars
like Adam Corolla, it will make money by packaging online content, for shows
with more than a million listeners, to sponsors.
radio station sites creatively grow audience by providing extra content that
you can’t get on air, and continue to maintain a connection with the listener.
This is what radio does best.
the answer no manager or station owner wants to hear: Creating quality content costs money. Invest
money in talent and producers. Hire good people. It takes vision and it takes risk. You’ve got to spend it to make it.
Look at top-rated WTOP(FM) in Washington. By
working across all platforms and adding staff to create relevant, unique
content, they’ve grown both their audience and their revenue.
radio in Kelowna, Canada is thriving entirely online. And there are
ever-increasing numbers of examples.
DON’T KILL THE GOOSE
Companies and stations that have shortsightedly cut
personalities and support staff, and run satellite or automated programming to
save on personnel costs, are finding they have lost their connection to their
audience. Instead of profiting from radio’s golden eggs, they’ve actually
killed the goose.
win our audience back, it will cost money. To hire personalities that attract
audience with unique content and who can make the emotional connection? Costs
was the last time you heard a birthday dedication? Or some way a station host
made a local personal connection with a listener; one that created a feeling of
community? That has all moved online.
can win in a digital world by investing in people who specialize in digital, whose
full-time job is connecting with the audience online. You can’t just hire
an intern or make this one more thing the promotion or sales assistant has to take
TV stations, newspapers and online media have
made social media a full-time gig. It’s a dedicated professional position. And
it involves a lot of work.
you want to win the digital audience, make your digital content manager needs
to be a full-time gig. The job description includes packaging and
developing specific content for digital and online, in conjunction with your
on-air programming. This will increase your brand and help you better connect
with, serve and grow your audience
ABOUT THE NAB?
The National Association of Broadcasters has
been in a strange position; it wants radio to succeed, but seems somewhat
ambivalent about promoting any form of media other than traditional
broadcasting. This could be an overabundance of caution, because traditional
broadcasting loses viability when stations don't get onboard across platforms.
All business has an element of gambling to it.
If you’re in business, you know that to succeed, you have to invest, try new things,
hire good people and take risks. It takes time, but the pay off can be great.
one question from all managers is, "How do we make money off of this right
now?” What’s the return on investment? If they don’t see an immediate
payoff, stations are reluctant to invest. But remember, it's a long game.
If managers in radio aren't willing to risk investing now for payoff in the
future, everyone loses. Quality content across multiple platforms pays
consider public radio: Podcasts in public radio are bringing in lots of money.
Sponsorships on the podcasts (check out “This American Life” or “Radio Lab”
online, to start) are sold at a premium. They have verifiable numbers of
radio invested early in online products, by hiring specific producers to help
create content. And they are now reaping the rewards in ratings and revenue.
in the time to do it right, and spend the money, and we can win this.
Opinions are the
author’s. Valerie Geller is president of broadcast consulting firm Geller Media
International; she leads workshops and seminars and trains broadcasters to
become more powerful communicators in the digital world. She also is author of “Beyond Powerful Radio: A Communicator’s Guide
to the Internet Age.” Visit www.gellermedia.com.