Kris Fay As radio continues to expand into new media, the people who design and implement a station's online strategy become key players in the management team.
This month, RW begins a series of interviews with radio's new media leaders in search of best practices for stations seeking to enhance their online presence.
In Portland, Ore., Kris Fay directs the online efforts of Rose City Radio's KXL(AM), Newsradio 750, and KXTG(FM), 95.5 The Game. Rose City is co-owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. The stations have distinguished themselves in this competitive market with a viable and growing online presence.
Fay's job description is all-inclusive.
"I manage the online endeavors, the Web, streaming, e-mail and the IT department." His formal preparation for the job was a bit unusual. "I did a double major in English and history at Lewis & Clark College here in Portland."
Living in Japan during the early days of the Internet, Fay taught himself HTML and Web basics. Later he did an internship at Rose City Radio. "One thing led to another, and it turned into a full-time job."
In the past year, Fay has worked with station personalities to be more proactive with adding content to the Web site. "We urge them to put extra interviews and unused stories on the Web, do a blog and podcast some of their content.
"Podcasting is particularly attractive," Fay said, "because it is inexpensive to set up, and the ROI is great in terms of what we can sell them for." Download numbers and subscriptions are tangible stats that can be pitched to advertisers, who usually place their ads preceding every podcast.
In addition to podcasts of on-air content, many stations, including KXL, are adding Web-only podcasts. Local horse races and golf programs are regularly posted on the KXL site.
In addition to reaching out to listeners with additional streaming services for iPhone and other mobile devices, and peer-to-peer connections, the station started a WOMF — a Word of Mouth Forum — on Sept.1.
Portland.womf.com is a local online community striving to be the best source for finding quality local businesses.
"About the same time we were starting up the WOMF, the local Portland blog was shutting down," said Fay, "so it was good timing for us." The WOMF is expected to bring a different demographic to the online audience.
Fay thinks one of the best online strategies for radio is a value-added concept.
"Stations should look beyond simulcasting their content on the Web. They can do that by offering more opportunities to interact with personalities through blogs and video 'Webisodes,' and by putting additional content online."
There are also more opportunities in sales for listeners to interact with advertisers who sell products and services.
"Online media has a tremendous capacity to identify and target very specific groups of listeners for advertising in ways that traditional radio simply cannot," said Fay. "Different subscribers to podcasts and other online services hear different ads, depending on their location or preferences." He adds that this increased granularity is both a blessing and a curse, however.
Among its new media efforts, the station recently started a WOMF — a Word of Mouth Forum — on Portland.womf.com. "We can work with a client to target a very specific audience with a message. By the same token, advertisers get very specific information on how well a campaign did or did not work. It puts the onus on our sales staff to use that feedback to make the next online campaign better than the last."
Fay notes other online activities at KXL include more tie-ins with Google, as they branch out more into media.
"Most of our work has been with mapping and search engine optimization to make it easier for listeners to find our clients." He adds that not all of Google's tie-ins are well received by radio stations.
"They offer a service where they can fill your available ad placements, but that entails giving them access to a lot of sensitive information about sales and ad revenue."
Some stations, including KXL/KXTG, feel it is too much of a risk and instead opt to give some unused spots to local advertisers as a bonus. Fay adds that Google's ad placement program seems to hold more interest for small market stations.
Fay sees video as one of the technologies that will revolutionize radio.
"A few hosts are already doing video blogs, but if we can perfect the way we use video and make it cheap to produce, it can draw listeners in on a daily basis."