Radio is no stranger to tech.
Over the past decades, new technology has helped Radio stay lean, and maximize productivity without sacrificing on-air or brand quality. In fact, it could be argued that the best type of technology is the one that helps Radio minimize the effort spent on distractions so they can focus on doing what they do best: good Radio.
However if you’re responsible for the digital vision or technical direction of your company, how do you navigate through the plethora of software choices out there today? Platforms that overlap, connect, work well, don’t work so well, built by Radio folk, built by people outside of Radio, expensive, cheap and free; they’re all available and there seems to be new shiny toys every Radio Show.
As a provider of software for Radio, I want to share a concept that I’ve come to appreciate, and it's all about user experience (UX for short). In general, the simpler the UX, the more the user will love the platform. You look at the Google search screen for example. Simplicity itself - one box. One box inviting you to enter your search query, and one button to execute your search. A simple solution for a very difficult ask: provide the public with instant access to the accurate information to any query of the Internet. It was an expensive road to get to that simple design.
Now take radio for example and it's unique needs and workflows - digital disruption has affected Radio in a very specific way. The change is happening on the battlefield - the quest for the audience’s attention. It’s the people who work in Radio who must learn a new paradigm and take direct responsibility for the transformation of Radio for the digital age. They must re-learn how content is delivered and monetized and particularly how the audience is engaged with. While there are software platforms to assist in this cause, finding the right fit for your organization that is also simple enough for your people to learn on is a tall order.
Part of the challenge is that the kind of money that goes into developing such simple and beautiful UX, is usually reserved for broader-based applications that overlap some of Radio’s needs, but as their business model is to appeal to a broad target, their fit for Radio is hit and miss. Things being simple and being on target are not necessarily consistent. So Radio has to look at more niche software plays, ones closer to the industry. But the more niche you go, the smaller the companies are and the greater the risk your platform will lack connectivity, vision, and UX.
I talked to a lot of software vendors, and Radio people at Radio Show 2015, and here are some of the better examples of what good software vendors do and what Radio clients want most in their software vendors. In both cases, it came down to one thing: Vision.
Your software platforms require a clear vision. This is a new frontier for your staff - don’t just send them the right tools, send them the right tools that prepare them for success. Teach them not just how to use them but how to get better using them. This is where data and user experience come into play.
Software vendors for Radio should be providing:
1. Best practices (Coaching)
Let's face it, the way of doing business and audience engagement in radio has never been more different than it is today. The core values haven't changed, only the way we've done it. So wouldn’t it be great if your software vendors provided you with coaching in terms of how best to use their platform to get results? Better yet, how about baking the coaching into the platform, to help guide your people to getting the best results? Intuitive software is an incredible enabler to unlock your staff’s potential for results that matter to Radio.
2. Report cards (What are users doing well / needs improvement)
In a sense, your staff is "going back to school" as their methods of engaging the audience have dramatically changed. They let you know how you're doing with report cards at school. Shouldn't your software vendors bear this responsibility? Give you targets to shoot for? Provide you with a few simple reports on your best results, and where you can improve? How else will you know if your station is on it’s way to graduating to becoming a digital expert?
3. Release Notes (Advance notice and benefits of use)
To begin with, this tip assumes your software vendor actually releases new features regularly. Some do not, and some older legacy based systems based on proprietary technology are failing to keep up with the new open systems based in the cloud. Don't you just love how you open up Facebook one day, and everything is different? Or stuff suddenly didn't work the way you thought it was going to? Wouldn’t it be great if they would provide you with advanced notice specific to how you're using the platform so that you can prepare? That's the way you're going to win; with partners who care enough to proactively inform and teach you how to leverage the best results out of the new features, before they come out.
4. Sales Support (Capabilities and ROI Presentation for Clients)
The digital software you buy should generate clear and tangible ROI for you, the buyer. But part of that ROI is the ability to sell better, and if it doesn’t, ask yourself if it’s really necessary. One such support that was mentioned many times was built around sales capabilities presentations to ad clients. This support ranges from full ROI for radio advertising presentations to a "Corp” website for local ad buyers only. In both cases, there is something for the ad buyer that clearly demonstrates the ROI for him/her in the dynamic way only Radio can. The tools that were the most in demand were Radio ROI calculators, templates, and case studies featuring actual past successes in market, all going towards driving integrated and local ad sales.
5. Radio Policy (Baked into the platform)
If your software vendors really have your back, though have your best interest at heart with radio policy baked into the product. Policy is one key area that makes radio unique and has defined its success over the past hundred years. Taking responsibility for the "what" and "how" on the air is what radio kids are best that. Shouldn't your software vendors be able to leverage this skill of yours or did you go? For example: Never pay another fine again! Avoid the big fines from having one of your dozens of social media station accounts use a rights protected picture without permission.
Being responsible for digital vision or technical direction of your company is one of the most interesting, yet challenging roles in Radio today. There is no shortage of digital software for radio today and the options will only increase in the future. However, if you evaluate your platforms against the five tips above, you should be better prepared to make your decision for your best fit for your company.
To see the previous post in our Radio Show 2015 Highlights series, click here.
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