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Content Marketing Belongs on Radio

The industry has been in the storytelling business from the beginning

Storytelling is suddenly very much in vogue for retailers.

Advertising agencies, once the kings of creating commercials, are now shifting to “content marketing” campaigns, focusing on the lifestyle of their clients’ products or services. Rather than creating 30-second spots for radio or television, agencies are hiring journalists, public relations executives and social media “influencers” to write in-depth articles, capture amazing pictures and shoot video to tell cohesive stories.

iStockphoto/cacaroot This original content creation is supplemented by user-generated content and through a process known as “curation.” If you guessed that curation often means liberally re-purposing content created by others, give yourself two points.

How long has radio been in the content business? Since our beginning. For argument’s sake, let’s call it 1922.

Yet even with that depth of experience and amazing ability to tell a story inexpensively through audio, our industry is sitting on the sidelines, for the most part, while these campaigns run through other media.

Strangely, I’ve mentioned it to several colleagues and have received shrugs and blank stares. Maybe I’m just not stating my case clearly enough, so I’ll take another shot at it.

Content marketing is indeed the latest trend in advertising. Millions of dollars are being invested in storytelling, which is a method to sell products and services to customers. Our medium largely is not discussed as a viable medium for this type of product marketing.

This bothers me immensely because I believe that, when done well, storytelling via radio can more powerful than articles, pictures and even video. Over the airwaves, storytelling sparks the imagination in a way not possible on any other medium. After all, our grandparents and great-grandparents weren’t mesmerized by that box in the living room for nothing.

I don’t claim to have all the answers as to how the radio industry can break this barrier, but I’d at least like to spark a dialogue that could move radio into content marketing’s future consideration.

First, we should consider what we have to offer content marketers.

Let’s start with inventory. Perhaps a company will need two or even three minutes to tell a story. Can we stop thinking solely in 30- and 60-second units and offer more time to lay out a story? Yes, we can — especially if it’s interesting — and many content marketing campaigns must be in order to work. There’s no reason we can’t utilize an entire stop-set to tell a story.

How about creative production? There are already lots of companies capable of creating demos to remind agencies of radio’s powerful audio storytelling ability. Want to bring out the big guns? Hire recognizable actors for voice-over work and use a cinematic approach to audio production.

Once we’ve scored with amazing creative, we have the job of reminding agencies about the unmistakable reach and frequency of radio. While agencies will tout content marketing videos that have reached hundreds of thousands, or even millions of views, these are the exception in the world of content marketing. More commonly, campaigns are driving tens of thousands of video views and similar stats for article pageviews. Time on page for content marketing campaigns frequently is measured in just a few seconds, up to a couple of minutes. Radio’s reach, frequency and cost are highly competitive against this playing field.

Nonetheless, we have our work cut out for us because we have allowed our industry to paint us as old-fashioned, boring and even irrelevant. At the end of the day, advertisers are interested in one thing: results. Radio can deliver action for content marketing campaigns, but advertisers won’t ever know it if we don’t manage to get ourselves back into the game.

Mark Lapidus is president of Lapidus Media.