Not a week goes by without someone asking me about how to make more money selling a radio station’s online assets. With so many eyeballs on websites, social media and mobile, there is a consensus that stations aren’t getting a fair share of dollars spent on digital.
During a recent interview with NetNewsCheck, Radio Advertising Bureau President/CEO Erica Farber said, “Digital is still one of radio’s fastest growing sectors. Although it currently represents 4 percent of the industry’s total revenue, there are some stations I’ve heard about looking to increase their digital revenue by as high as 30 percent.”
While spurring growth of radio’s online sales is a fantastic goal, there is one vital element that is consistently absent from conversation about revenue growth. Can you guess what’s missing?
While it’s easy to agree that radio stations need to generate more money from online assets, it’s much more difficult to point out that, as a whole, we don’t have much to sell.
For more than 10 years, I’ve watched in amazement as both large radio companies and individual stations hire sales reps for websites that contain little interesting, entertaining or informative content. In the early 2000s one large company hired a dozen sales people to sell its group of websites six months before the websites were even launched! The outcome predictably was unsuccessful.
Here’s a news flash: Your station may have an amazing on-air brand and great ratings, but if you don’t produce freshly updated content for your website, you will neither attract nor retain a very large online audience.
If you really believe that consumers are flocking to your radio station website to see pictures of your disk jockeys, read about your station events or get concert listings, you’re living in the last century.
One of the big questions we face as an industry is whether or not we are truly ready to hire professionals to produce compelling content for our online product. While there are several all-news stations in major markets that have hired full-time content producers and writers, it is rare to find music or talk station websites with anything more than syndicated feeds and station promotional elements.
It is not fair to blame the radio station program directors for the shortcomings of website content. They are in their positions because they are experts at on-air audio programming; they’re not experts at creating online content, understanding digital metrics or hiring journalists, photographers and videographers.
Most radio groups now have, at minimum, corporate digital executives. This is a significant step forward, but it is just the beginning. If we are to take advantage of radio’s strength as a local medium, we must accelerate the hiring of digital content leaders in markets capable of driving significant Web traffic.
Is this approach to creating website content for radio station websites financially feasible? Market size, the local competitive environment and the state of the economy are important variables to determine if the investment is warranted. It may be feasible now for you to hire a staff that is mainly freelance and/or part-time, to create and maintain web-only content.
You may be able to save money and maximize Web traffic by creating one “city” site for your cluster. Some smaller-market stations find this approach more appealing because it permits them to compete with local newspaper and community websites.
Creating great local websites to attract an audience starts with a solid commitment to content. As your metrics grow, so will advertising sales. Expecting Web sales before you can deliver solid results only invites failure. The mantra “content is king,” has been used in radio for decades. Sometimes we just need to remind ourselves that while sales may be our master, the king rules all.
Mark Lapidus is president of Lapidus Media.