It’s been more than a decade since the so-called new media was brand-new.
Now as online communications continue to mature, stations have opportunities to create revenue streams while adding value to their brands.
However, participants in a panel at the fall NAB Radio Show said radio’s missed opportunities potentially give ground to upstarts in the increasingly competitive audio entertainment market.
Competition or opportunity?
Brett Atkinson, director of online products and strategy for Bonneville Salt Lake City, brought the hands-on, daily experience of combining radio with the Web at www.ksl.com, www.fm100.com and www.1035thearrow.com. He mapped out the challenges that radio faces.
“What do you call the industry that we’re in? Traditionally, it’s been the radio broadcast industry, but now it’s so much more than that; [some call it] the audio entertainment industry.
“There’s huge competition for audio entertainment consumption. These range from MP3 players, satellite radio, pure-play radio sites, musicians’ Web sites and MySpace. End users have a tremendous number of choices as to where to consume their audio entertainment. How do we differentiate ourselves and make it important for end users to come to our Web sites?”
Zach Braiker, president and founder of Refine+Focus, an online marketing and communications agency, said radio managers would do well to see how new media is succeeding.
“It’s all about now. The Web sites that are successful offer fresh content constantly. There’s something new every second. It’s exciting. When you go to many radio station Web sites, the same doesn’t always happen.”
Marc Girolimetti, founder of Green Grotto Studios, an interactive strategy firm, observed that radio professionals need to see themselves in terms of the larger media business to best take advantage of opportunities.
“The common ground is content. Radio is a content provider. People consume content, that’s why people go to the Internet, turn on the TV or radio.
“Before streaming, what I really loved about the radio is how it was very regionalized. You couldn’t tune in from beyond a certain range,” said Girolimetti. How best to leverage localism? Get listeners to participate by providing online content.
“Empowering listeners to upload pictures [from cellphone cameras] that tie in with a station or event can turn into an ad campaign … maybe have a scavenger hunt,” Girolimetti said by way of example.
Making a go of an online initiative takes more than creating content.
A station’s integrated media identity must involve an end-to-end proposition reaching across research, programming and sales. Session moderator Jim Kerr, vice president of digital development for Pollack Media Group, a media consultancy, said getting the sales staff aboard is make-or-break. As they reach out to existing and potential clients, they must communicate effectively about the new online opportunities. They may be surprised by how savvy customers are.
“Having an educated sales staff is key. They need to know more [about online media] than the people they are selling to,” said Kerr.
Another crucial element for ongoing success is developing a method for staying on top of fast-changing trends.
Braiker suggested that program directors get connected with their station’s core Web audience and pointed to London-based Virgin Radio, now Absolute Radio, as an example of creating a “learning culture” to stay on top of the audience.
“They meet [with listeners] for offline events, offer interactivity to connect with presenters. Stations become a conduit of connection. It’s easy to ask listeners to show what they’re using [on station sites and elsewhere]. This is a learning culture; listen to them to see what you need to do more of and what to do less. Creating a learning culture is the best way to stay on top of their needs.”
The upshot of the session: Opportunities abound for radio to gain ground in the audio entertainment space; but if radio doesn’t take advantage of these, others will.
Kerr reminded the audience of how the music industry missed when file-sharing of MP3 audio first attracted vast consumer interest.
Napster, he said, taught a crucial lesson. If you don’t provide solutions to their needs, consumers will go elsewhere.