For so many years radio was the most popular means of entertainment. It was first of all free; then later it became portable, then becoming interactive thus making it easy for listeners to ask for what they wanted to hear.
Radio stations did not charge listeners for the entertainment, normal radio stations still don’t; and for so long the radio station business was pretty much the same simple model.. providing entertaining programming to its listeners, selling advertising spots enough to cover operating costs and make a profit.
Advancements in technology over the past few decades however have shrunk it’s popularity, rendering it less relevant to a majority of its once loyal audience, consequently limiting the amount of revenue to be made through advertising spots. The dawn of the digital and portable age of music was the also the start of the demise of the traditional radio business model.
Portable music players, music on demand, user generated programming, internet radio.. these are but a few among many reasons why radio stations are now having a hard time keep audiences. Smaller audiences mean less people listening to advertiser messages, the very reason less money is now spent on radio spot placements. Today’s advertisers pursue their markets through non traditional media and non traditional advertising channels.
What radio stations may not realize is that the very same technologies that have shrunk its audience also offer radio stations new opportunities at generating revenue and delivering both programs and advertising. Now radio stations need to change the way they make their money and overhaul the way they do business or will likely go out of business.
In the mid 90s I was selling advertising for a radio station that was the only one of its kind to be 100% digital. The problem during the time was, advertisers did not want to simply advertise on radio, they want to save money by hitting two birds with one stone. Companies had a radio budget for their usual institutional ads, and then they had an events budget which they used to sponsor and participate in events which also gave them some amount of exposure. These guys realizing that they had been spending too much, smartened up and now wanted to spend one amount of money and get both exposure in events and get premium advertising spots for their own products. Events marketing became the buzz, and radio stations who could draw huge crowds were now becoming event organizers giving product spots for free over and above spots about the event. Other radio stations were tying up with event organizers and not charging them for excessive even airtime promotion but taking a cut off gate / ticket sales from the events.
Those were days when radio stations lost focus about their identities, and succumbed to pressure from advertisers in an effort to survive the crisis at the time.
Today, I hear about radio stations struggling, diving on rates, selling spots and closing contracts at amounts that were half of what I sold those contracts for over ten years ago. All prices have increased over the last ten years.. cost of living has increased, products and commodities have increased but why have radio advertising spots taken a dive or still remained the same.
What radio stations must do now is to focus on how to get their programming and advertiser messages across to their audiences and not simply relying on the radio to do that. Advertisers are interested in two important things, getting their message out to the audience and seeing conversions from that ad placement. Radio stations would need to deliver these outside of just their on air broadcast by way of a website, social networking, mailing list marketing, delivery of pre recorded programming or content, partnerships with organizations or businesses that allow content distribution and content syndication.
Many people know what it is, a lot of people have one, but a vast majority do not know how to use websites to achieve specific goals. With a website a radio station can offer added value to its advertisers by posting ad messages on its site, or testing ad messages or offers from clients to see what works. Websites can be equipped with powerful tracking tools that gather data that help test and improve advertising messages.
Of all the many benefits that Web 2.0 has afforded website owners, the most important is the ability to get your message across to other people through social networking sites and even have them voluntarily advertise you without you telling them to do so. This is the reason why companies today spend a lot of time managing their online brand reputation, because it is so easy for other people to simply talk about your brand on blogs, forums and micro blogging platforms like Twitter.
Social Networking works when you constantly grow your network. Again a large network means a large audience that you can market directly to outside of the regular broadcast.
Mailing List Marketing
Huge Fortune 500 companies spend millions of dollars in a year to get people to receive updates and information directly through email. A mailing list is a list of people who are already open to what you have to offer because they have given you that permission to market to them by signing up to be on your mailing list.
If you have a list of 1000 people on your mailing list who subscribe to receive party updates where the radio station is involved, those are 1000 people who will instantly get news about events you are holding. You can run a regular newsletter and send these out weekly for instance, and one section of the newsletter has a sponsor section, and your client’s advertising messages. The great thing about mailing list marketing is you are able to test different messages or offers to see which one gets more attention and more clicks from newsletter recipients. Knowing what kind of copy works, gives you and your client ideas for the right copy to use on radio ads, and other forms of advertising because you have test data to support it.
Establishing partnerships is always a great way to create more business opportunities, especially if your partners will distribute your announcements or networks on their own network or captive audience. If you tie up with a company that has 1000 employees and maybe get their HR department to send out announcements in your behalf with information about your events or sponsors messages, this will significantly increase the number of people you are able to reach outside of the broadcast.
Pre Recorded Programming Content
Podcasts are so very popular for one reason, it offers convenience. People can download shows they like and listen to them at their preferred time. Creating entertaining program content that listeners can download and listen to is also a good medium to reach a percentage of your audience who might not have the time to listen at length to your broadcast or tune in at a certain time to listen to a show. Of course, it goes without saying, these shows will also carry sponsors’ messages.
We know that Web 2.0 is alive and well, people blog, people post on forums, people have websites, now you should let these people syndicate your content on their sites. By syndicate, I mean give them the means to put your broadcast on their website. This works pretty much like a YouTube video, where you can publish a video you like on your website by simply pasting a little bit of html code that YouTube gives you.
Create that code, make it available to visitors, who can then paste that code on their websites, and they can listen to your live broadcast or live stream on their website, plus their own visitors can listen to your broadcast as well. They hear the music and the ads, and if they click a link that is included with that feature, they are brought to the your radio station’s website.
Radio is still relevant, people will avail of your programming, you just need to look for more means to deliver it.
Radio first started out as a means of recreation, people tuning in to find entertainment. Due to its popularity, it became an effective tool to reach out to a mass audience and deliver advertising messages. Today radio needs to adapt to the times and leverage on the tools available to us, the internet and other communication mediums can and must be leveraged to assist in the distribution of a radio station’s content and reach out to new audiences on new platforms or face closure and go extinct together with the now dead radio station revenue model… falling victim to rapidly changing times and the inability to adapt.