Entercom's WEEI.com bills itself as "the sports page of the future."
This means that WEEI.com offers all the sports that its local Boston users could ever want, delivered on every platform imaginable. This includes audio content from Boston's Sports Radio WEEI, video clips and comprehensive text/graphics stories prepared by sports "text primary" journalists.
Tim Murphy Add the fact that WEEI.com's text and streamed audio/video can be accessed on the Web or via Entercom's new iPhone app — either in real-time or on demand from WEEI.com's extensive archives — and WEEI.com's "sports page of the future" claim makes sense.
(And you can bet that as soon as someone comes up with a new electronic medium, WEEI.com will be on it. That's just the way the site works.)
That said, "We don't think of the WEEI brand as a multiplatform product," says Tim Murphy, Entercom VP/GM and the guiding force behind WEEI.com.
"Instead, we think of it as an integrated content platform, where radio is just one distribution point for our content.
"To my mind, it makes no sense to section out radio and digital as separate platforms; either when producing content or selling ads. To the user, it's all one brand — and that's how we need to be programming and managing it."
Murphy knows of what he speaks. Before coming to Entercom, he helped venerable print publications like the Boston Globe and New York Times find their way in cyberspace. Then as now, his fundamental belief is that content comes first, distribution platforms second. In fact, it is fair to say that Tim Murphy doesn't really care about platforms per se, beyond the fact that they serve to deliver content to his audience.
Visitor numbers endorse Tim Murphy's approach.
In the last two years, WEEI.com's monthly unique visitor total has climbed from 200,000 to a peak of 900,000. "We are about 800,000 right now, and expect to hit a million in playoff season," Murphy says. "Visitors are consuming about 400,000 unique units of Audio & Video on Demand content monthly — that's podcasts and audio and video played on-site — and the numbers keep climbing. And we get about 580,000 referrals monthly through web searches and other sites to WEEI.com.
"Finally, on a per capita local audience basis, WEEI.com is the largest provider of streaming audio in the country. So yes, our approach is working."
One way that WEEI.com is building traffic is by giving users what they want.
"We have done our research and discovered that sports fans really want to keep on top of breaking news," says Murphy. "To meet this need, we have launched a feature on digital platforms called 'This Just In.' Anytime anything happens that is related to Boston sports — be it a press conference, player announcement, game results, anything — we get it onto 'This Just In.' This keeps our users right up to date and keeps them tuned to us first."
Driving ad revenues
Using an integrated approach is a great way to drive advertising sales.
"We do a promotion where we sell local products and restaurant gift certificates for 50 percent off through our website," says Murphy. "This is a real win-win: We recently moved 3,000 cards in two days for two of our advertisers. They got the business and our customers got a great deal."
Musing on the power of revenue-building power of integration, Murphy says that sticking to the multiplatform perspective is the biggest mistake being made by radio stations today.
"They waste time and lose revenues by doing radio first, and then talking about digital content," he says. "The users are not segmented: They listen to radio and use the Web as well. To reach them all, you have take an inclusive, integrated approach."
This attitude extends to applying revenue against budgets. "It is still early days for digital media, which is why it makes no sense to insist that digital content lives solely on its own revenues. If you don't integrate everything and instead cut back on digital to save money, you are cutting yourself out of a growth market, where radio's future lies.
"Entercom knows this, which is why they have invested in WEEI.com. You can't get caught up in short-term problems, if you are going to make it in the long run."
Murphy says WEEI.com's immediate goals are to reach the 1 million monthly unique visitor mark, add more unique video — "we like to do a mashup between ESPN and 'The Daily Show,' to keep it fun for our users," he says — and just provide increasing amounts if timely, relevant content.
"We just want to win," he concludes. "We want to be the prime source of sports news for Boston sports fans, and we want to keep pushing the envelope when it comes to delivering integrated sports content in new and different ways."