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Who Are the Digital Directors?

With new platforms proliferating, radio has a new breed of innovators

Pictured are Ivan Heredia, vice president of marketing at Radio Disney; Lauren Devillier, vice president of digital media, Disney Channels Worldwide, seated; Alyssa Talovic, director of digital marketing, Radio Disney; and Jason Byers, senior manager, product management, Disney Channels Worldwide. The bad news is that because of the proliferation of new digital platforms, people no longer need a radio to hear news, weather and music. The good news? Radio can be heard on all of these platforms. Savvy broadcasters have come to see smartphones, iPads and other mobile media not as competition but as new ways to connect with listeners.

As a result, radio organizations now have a new breed of manager, one focused on “digital” concerns.

“Our goal is to enhance and grow the engagement level between our fans and our brands,” said Tim Murphy, vice president for digital strategy, Entercom. “I work with the programming and promotions side of the house to drive ratings, and I work with our advertisers to develop ways to generate more leads for their businesses and create awareness of their brands.

“It’s not like a new business has emerged; the core function of local media is the same. It’s just happening on a multitude of platforms.”

Those words do not sound like they came from a traditional broadcaster and, indeed, Murphy’s background includes stints in packaged goods and the digital division of the New York Times. He has been at Entercom since 2008.

“We took a massive hit in the newspaper business,” he said. “It shook our core assumptions about how media worked, and that was formative for me. And there are a lot of themes and concepts that are constant between newspapers and radio.”

Murphy discovered that in newspapers as well as broadcast, consumers want their content to be available whenever and wherever.

“Our job is to grant that wish,” he said. “If they want to consume us on their phone on a bus, or time-shifted on a train to Philadelphia, we must be nimble and adapt to that. So letting them know on Facebook when an interview or concert is coming up is just a part of that.”

Murphy said that the average small business owner receives 20 to 35 pitches a month from various marketing solutions companies.

“Some of these are email-based, there is the online Yellow Pages, and we have people out there who build social networking strategies. We in radio need to position our capabilities in light of this new competitive world,” he said.

Murphy believes that accurate ratings metrics are finally a reality, and that this is a good thing.

“Text is to radio what the click was to Google. What I mean is that we can measure it and keep track of it. Because people can text quickly or go to the Web on their phones, it reduces the friction between advertisers and their potential customers. People must understand that we drive measurable, actionable outcomes.”

Does Murphy think that this blast of new media options will settle down in the near future?

“I think settling down is gone. That concept no longer exists, and anyone who is thinking the industry will mature again is in for a rude awakening. The pace of change will only accelerate, and the thing that I really have hope and excitement about in the audio industry is that everything is moving to mobile. We are positioned well to exist in this mobile world.”

While Murphy operates at the corporate level, digital directors are also found at local station clusters. Such is the case with Larry Downes, director of Emmis Marketing Group Indianapolis. Under his purview are four radio stations’ promotions and digital operations.

“We have our own platforms, our website and our text stuff, all of which we can monetize,” said Downes. “We use them to engage with listeners in ways we can’t do over the air. Then we have other ways of getting the word out through the marketing side. This includes social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. It’s harder to monetize those because they are someone else’s platforms. We use them primarily to communicate with our audiences and entice them to use our platforms where we can generate revenue.”

The Emmis cluster in Indy can be heard via iHeartRadio ( and TuneIn (, where visitors can hear streaming radio stations from all over the United States or create their own.

“We really want to make sure we’re available wherever people are looking for us,” said Downes. “Whatever we have online, we want to be accessible in a mobile version. The best thing we can do is be available and discoverable any way people want.”

Downes has a staff of five helping to manage his sites and social media, and there is also one person who focuses on digital sales. But where does one go to find people with these skills?

“My staff is entirely people who have no radio background,” said Downes. “Our videographer is just out of school. Our designers have graphic arts backgrounds. We have them spend a lot of time in our promotion and sales meetings learning the business. Translating radio to what they do has not always been easy.”

Some of the people applying for jobs in the digital domain at Emmis are freelancers seeking a more stable environment.

“We don’t want to turn skilled people into mediocre managers,” said Downes. “Everyone wants a straight career path but there isn’t one anymore.”

Downes stressed that broadcast radio is still the heart of the business at Emmis.

“Nothing I’ve been talking about, video, social media, makes any difference if you don’t have a good on-air product.”

Disney has been known for its innovations in film and television; and its radio business is no different. With a combination of terrestrial affiliates from New York to Burbank, Calif., and Internet operations spanning the globe, Radio Disney is a network that uses multiple digital channels to stay in touch with its target audience of very young people.

Communication is a two-way street for this station through its website (, the Radio Disney app and social networking. With features such as on-air requests, voting for the Radio Disney Music Awards, N.B.T. (Next Big Thing) and Music Mailbag, listeners get to express themselves.

“Giving kids a voice is critical,” said Lauren DeVillier, vice president of digital media at Disney Channels Worldwide. “It’s the underpinning of what we do in that space. We track where our audience is now, and where they are headed. We are constantly updating in response to what our consumers are looking for.”

There have been more than 4 million downloads of the Radio Disney App; there are 860,000 followers on Twitter and more than a million fans on Facebook. Only by utilizing these mobile aspects of Radio Disney could the company move quickly when needed.

“We had a last-minute opportunity presented to us to feature (teen singing group) Fifth Harmony live at Disney World in Orlando in support of their participation in N.B.T.,” said Ivan Heredia, vice president of marketing, Radio Disney. “With only 48 hours to get the word out, we turned on the entire Radio Disney machine. That included a live call-in on the air with the group, posting a blog and promoting the event across all our social media platforms. The group’s record company, Epic, expected several hundred guests to show up for the concert but we had had thousands of screaming fans there.”

Heredia’s career is typical of many digital directors in that he didn’t come from a pure radio background. He moved from promoting records to becoming vice president of marketing, Radio Disney.

In a mature industry like radio, where job cuts frequently make headlines, digital and mobile platforms are becoming a bright spot for employment. And to be considered for these jobs, Radio Disney’s Lauren DeVillier listed the main qualifications: “Understanding the digital marketplace will help move your career in the direction our consumers are already headed. You just have to have a little expertise in application development and a passion for the product.”

Ken Deutsch, a regular Radio World Contributor, owns a digital watch. You can reach him at[email protected].