Why Bother with Digital?
Updated: Dec 11, 2019
Last month I conducted a digital session with two medium market stations. (One country and one news) Each session participant receives my contact infomation because question and answer could go for two hours. I find that many in radio going through the digital process do not have complete buy in on social media or their current digital strategy. (Hence all the questions) I encourage participants to send me questions anytime.
I didn’t bring up my concern in the meeting because we had used up a lot of time already and I felt it may not be a straight forward answer. My concern with putting full news stories on Twitter and Facebook is that I don’t see how it helps our actual customers (the advertisers)? I understand that if we are only worried about the audience and getting them informed then we should be getting that info to them however we can, but when I tweet something or it is posted on FB our advertisers get nothing. For example, my friend's company used to buy ads from the news station. He would pay for ads to run during specific newscasts with the understanding we will do all we can to make people listen to that newscast, but then said advertiser sees that all our stories are available online without the need to hear or read advertisements. Essentially, my question is does it matter that we are turning our backs on the advertisers by creating content they can’t sponsor or do companies not care about that?
Thanks for taking the time to write and being passionate about radio. This is going to be a long answer.
First, your customers are both listeners and advertisers. Our job is to connect the listener to the advertiser. The best way we can serve the advertiser is to deliver as large an audience as possible.
The first reason your news station needs to have an online presence, is because its brand pillars of “News”, “Local” and “Now” also exist online. Without an online presence, the station wins none.
Let me first address the chasm that exists in radio. Apologies in advance for the age stereotypes but let's work with the data we have in front of us.
Everyone over 45 has the same old radio habits with a few modern day distractions; they know they can get their news from the local station at the top and bottom of the hour. There’s also some supper hour TV news, and a local daily newspaper.
This article is almost a year old but I would encourge you to read "How Millenials Get Their News" from the American Press Institute.
Many people under 45 consume news via a cell phone. Twitter, Facebook, and whatever way they stumble upon it. The end goal is for your local news radio station is to get the branding credit for distributing the “Local” “News” “Now”. If your station does not participate in any online news distribution, which one of your three news competitors will take your brand pillars for anyone below 45?
TRIVIA QUESTION: What percentage of users of your news station's audience site in January are in the 18-44 demographic?
The Answer is at the end of this response.
Your General Manager indicated to me that the best opportunity for the station is in the 35-64 demographic. Without an online presence, the station will become virtually unknown to anyone under 50 in less than 5 years. That will make it hard to sell advertising. And while we are on the subject of advertising, those younger listeners your station has don’t even bother sitting through ad blocks. So we need to reach them a different way beyond the traditional 30 second ad.
I know you have heard a lot about radio stations making cuts. Know why? They are still trying to jam 30 second ads into the ears of younger demos who have grown accustomed to surfing and fast forwarding. My session with the sales department present new ways to replace that money in the aggregate by selling your valuable digital properties. Newspapers are having cutbacks because every section of the paper is being unbundled. Sports is live and online 24/7. News is on Twitter right now. Classifieds is called Craigs List or Kijiijii. The Entertainment section is called TMZ and every local bar and movie theatre foolishly believe their Facebook page can replace traditional advertising. Unlike Radio, Newspapers have not figured out that their best chance is perspective from trusted journalists. Radio HAS figured out that keeping strong personalities on the air makes money and brands the station effectively. I would argue that newspapers are the ones having the problem of “giving away” their news for free online without being able to monetize it.
Now let me address your friend's local business. He can buy 30’s if he wants. But it really comes down to who he is trying to reach. Because the business is a sporting goods store, I would encourage other selling points outside the commercial blocks. The business also has a nice website so it clearly believes that digital is important. How about making the website apart of that? Many purchasing decisions are made just buy scoping out the website. The big challenge for radio is having other things to sell beyond the traditional 30. Podcasting is proving that people are willing to put up with live reads and spot mentions in return for great content. I suspect the only ones uncomfortable with this change is talent.
I hope this has addressed your questions.
TRIVIA ANSWER: Remember when I asked a question? What percentage of users of your station's site in January are in the 18-44 demographic?
The Answer is 76.5%
So go where your listeners are. They want news and are coming to you for it in droves. Serve them.
Matt Cundill is a radio consultant who works with radio stations of all market sizes in Canada and the United States, creating ON AIR and ONLINE marketing strategies that make branding and selling sense to your company.