At the recent Radio Show in Nashville, SoCast hosted a panel discussion featuring four industry leaders to discuss radio in the digital era. Along with an insider perspective on the radio industry today, the panel provides an essential checklist for digital success in 2017.
The participants include:
- Cam Cowie - COO, Harvard Broadcasting
- Michele Mitchell - VP of Digital Operations & Strategy, Neuhoff Communications
- Amy R. Stroud - Digital Marketing Director, Forcht Broadcasting
- Todd Stapleton - General Manager, Cromwell Radio Group
SoCast: What strategies do you use to rally your team around digital and ensure adoption across the company?
Michele Mitchell: When I first started my digital role, we had 3 markets and each one was doing their own thing using different platforms to distribute content. Now, we work together across markets helped by creating bi-annual Programming Summits. The day-long summits are attended by all programming personnel with a goal of growing our digital presence as an organization. This has led to a friendly competition and much better communication between markets.
Cam Cowie: For us it all started with a commitment to digital from ownership and management. We understand a minimum of 20% of tune-ins are coming from channels other than traditional on-air listeners through streaming and mobile. Therefore, we did not want to be left behind. Next, we set out to make our digital content better than our on-air content. Finally, we put together a team of internal “digital champions” from sales, interactive management and technology to make sure we were all moving in the same direction – improving our radio brand. Everything we do must serve our brand.
SoCast: What type of experiences do you think listeners value in digital?
Amy R. Stroud: First, it is important to know who your listeners are, combined with the format of your station. For example, if you are a news talk radio station you will assume that most of your listeners are interested in information, more so than the music and entertainment stations. If you’re an AC station, your listeners want a little bit more music and light heartedness and fun. Second, you need to know what type of content your listeners are looking for and how they are responding to it. Are listeners contacting you online, texting, or visiting your Facebook page? Wherever the most listeners are coming from, that's the medium they are more comfortable dealing with. We also have noticed if you instruct listeners to “text us”, “visit us on Facebook” or “follow us on Instagram” they do it most of the time. Again, it changes from market to market and station to station.
Todd Stapleton: One of the big things we’ve committed to is consistency. No different than using a “top of the hour” format on-air, we want to ensure our online content is delivered at the same time, everyday, so people who go looking for it will find it. If you’re consistent each day, that’s when your numbers go up. That’s when you can take it out and you can start making some money off digital.
SoCast: How do you manage the increase in demands of digital given the number of channels to distribute content?
Todd Stapleton: First, I think more than anything else you must have a platform that makes it easy to do multiple things. Second, as a company, you must commit to digital because the numbers are there to support the investment. This is important to advertisers who want to know, how many people are listening? In smaller markets, a lot of times we cannot provide on-air listener numbers because they are just not available. However with digital, you can give them numbers; so I share them every month with our programming and sales teams. Here’s the numbers, here’s our page views, here’s what we have each month so they understand how important it is and what our listeners are looking for. You just drill home the importance of it and the numbers show that.
SoCast: What do you look for when considering a digital platform partner?
Michele Mitchell: We have a limited number of people who are doing lots of different jobs, so our products must be very user-friendly so that we can teach multiple people how to use them and spread out the workload. We also want partners who aren’t “set it and forget it” types. Instead, our partners are constantly evolving their product. Plus I’m not a huge fan of long contracts, especially in technology because things change so quickly. In addition, when I’m researching a company, I want to get my hands on the product; because it’s totally different when you’re looking at a pretty PowerPoint presentation versus using the software.
Cam Cowie: One of the things we look for in a partnership is the ability to be part of the build process. We take a very active role, so our teams in each market design the overall strategy and structure for their brands and their individual markets. Essentially, our partner trains our trainers which allows our team to be part of the building structure.
Amy R. Stroud: There are two keys for me. First, does the product work for us, can we do it quickly, and will it serve our listeners? Second, whenever we choose vendors they must be willing to be part of our radio station’s team. We want to make sure they are invested in us, that they have our best interests at heart.
Todd Stapleton: SoCast is our digital partner, and the key to selecting them as our partner is [that] their platform is easy to use. I’m not the most digitally savvy person on earth, but I am the one that posts 99% of what goes on our station’s websites. I must be able to get content up quickly. I must able to share it to our social media pages quickly. Flexibility is another key. One company we used to work with restricted ad placements to three areas of our web site. With SoCast, you can put ads anywhere you want. For example, if an advertiser wants to sponsor a specific area of our site, I can put an ad there.
Is your radio brand looking to grow their digital revenue and engagement? Speak to a SoCast Digital Specialist to learn how.