Welcome to the second edition of SoCast’s Faces for Radio where we interview experts from the radio industry to talk about digital. This month. We’re interviewing Todd Stapleton, General Manager at Vandalia Radio, a SoCast client based in Vandalia, Illinois. Vandalia Radio’s story is actually amazing, since they regularly do over 100,000 page views per month despite their town only having a population of 7,000. They do this by acting as the primary local news source for their town, providing information on local sports, weather, traffic and obituaries. Read on to learn more about Vandalia Radio’s strategies.
Listen to the full recording on Soundcloud or see the abridged transcript of our interview below:
SoCast: Hello everyone, this is Symon from SoCast. I’m joined today with Todd Stapleton, the general manager of Vandalia Radio in Vandalia, Illinois. So Todd, thank you so much for taking the time. I just want to point out that Vandalia has a population of about 7,000 and Vandalia Radio is doing regularly over 100,000 page views per month. Those are some very impressive numbers so we’ll definitely dig a little more into how you’re doing that.
SoCast: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and how and when you got into radio?
TS: Sure. Graduated college from Southern Illinois University Carbondale about 20 years ago. Been in radio really ever since. Been at Vandalia for 17 years and started as a news guy, sports guy and on the air guy, still do on-air work and took over as GM about eight years ago.
SoCast: What’s the biggest change you’ve seen since you’ve gotten into the industry?
TS: On the on-air side everything’s digital. We started to see a little bit of that when I first got into it when I was in college. You did some digital work, a little bit of digital editing here and there but most of it was still done the old-fashioned way. We still hadn’t gotten away from reel-to-reel and carts and things like that. The fact that those are all gone and everything’s digital and everything’s on a computer on the on-air side. And, just the fact that we do have websites, that we all stream 24/7, you have all that technology. I mean that’s all changed. I would have to say that the last 20 years in radio with all the changes we’ve seen in the equipment - on both the programming side and with the news information side it has been the biggest explosion of new technology in the radio business.
SoCast: How has SoCast helped you improve what you do?
TS: SoCast just runs really good websites. It does a great job taking care of everything on the back-end for us. Whatever we’ve asked for has been there. When it comes to selling ads or anything like that, the one thing I know that we like a lot is that it’s not cookie-cutter. We can be able to do whatever we need to do when it comes to ads and different things we might sell. And just really being responsive whenever we’ve had questions, we’ve had concerns or we’ve had things that we want to change, SoCast has stepped up for us and kept our websites looking clean, looking fresh all the time. Just been really good working with the folks at SoCast.
Also, our numbers have gone up dramatically since switching to SoCast. We saw that really from the first few months. One of the biggest things that we see with SoCast that helps us drive engagement is the sharing on social media and the fact that SoCast makes that as simple as it could possibly be. Share on social media, put it out in front of the folks on Facebook and Twitter. They’re going to go back to your website. Then you get some extra clicks here and there. When they go back to our website everything is there, accessible, looks clean and it gets people to click on other things.
The increase in digital revenue has also been significant. With SoCast, we get about 15% of our revenue from digital. Before, we got virtually no revenue from digital, so we’ve been able to grow that quite a bit over time. With the engagement numbers that we’ve got, we’ve been able to sell our digital inventory at a higher rate. With the SoCast platform, we’ve also been able to sell more different types of digital inventory.
SoCast: What do you think the biggest opportunity is for radio to grow and expand its connections with its audience in the next few years?
TS: I think digital is definitely a huge opportunity, especially in the smaller markets because those things haven’t been there as long, it’s still kind of a new toy to a lot of people and a new opportunity to a lot of people. The digital side is still one that has a lot of revenue growth that we can achieve. I think radio’s done a pretty good job of establishing themselves on that [digital] side of the ball but now we’ve got to go out and get the revenue for it. Sometimes that’s what you have to do - show people what you have and then go out and try and get the dollars with it. I think that’s where we’re at, especially within our company. I think we’ve done the legwork and now we’ve just got to get the digital revenue side where it should be. I think that is a big opportunity for everybody over the next few years.
Need help turning your radio station into the primary local news source for your town? SoCast provides you with the integrated platform that you need to extend the reach of your stations, leverage your digital manpower to increase posting frequency and ultimately grow your digital revenue. Talk to a SoCast specialist today to learn how you can accelerate your digital growth.