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8 Steps Broadcasters Can Take To Expand Their Digital Presence in 2010

Flickr credit: VictoriaPeckham

Here’s my list of 8 things that broadcast stations can do to expand their digital presence for the coming year. It’s not a list of simple fixes – these are ideas that will require investment and dedicated effort.

  1. Dedicate a full time position to creating online content for your website and stream. This is not the webmaster – not the person who writes the code. I’m hoping  most stations already have that person. This is the Director of Digital Content who spends all day every day making your website, stream and various extensions interesting to your audience. The rest of this list has a lot to do with them.
  2. Put all the local information you provide on your website. I don’t just mean a news feed, I mean all the local stuff you say on-air. And tell your listeners it’s there. Refer your listeners to your website constantly. WCBS AM in New York does a great job with this. They constantly refer to the “Mentioned On Air” section of their website during newscasts, and they have their web guy do a segment every day on-air talking about what’s new and interesting on their site.
  3. Use Twitter to connect with your audience. Get your audience to follow you on Twitter and then give them information everyday. Local news stories, personal updates from station personalities, information about station promotions, ways to win stuff, even information from your advertisers. Do not use Twitter merely as a way to promote your station – that’s sure to backfire. Instead, use it as a way to deliver relevant information to your audience. Return the follow to everyone that follows you and always include a link to your site.
  4. Register your listeners online. There’s no reason not to register people who want to listen to your stream. Targeted advertising is the way of the future and it’s coming fast. You should be registering your audience with their age range, email address and gender. Find a platform that makes it easy for them  to register and login or stay logged in so it doesn’t make it hard for them to listen to your stream.
  5. Develop an side channel for your stream. Something that is related to your station’s programming or audience. If you’re a news station, try some Adult Hits. A CHR station could do a kids channel. A rock station could do something edgier, or something that features local artists. There are a bunch of services out there that will develop and brand a side channel for you. You have the audience, why not expand what you’re doing to give them more to listen to and more reasons to love you.
  6. Stop running broadcast commercials on your stream. Resolve now, once and for all that you will not run any commercials with phone numbers on your stream. That every commercial will have an interactive call to action. Visit our website, click on the banner now, send a text to xxx and we’ll send you a link. Those are the ways that your streaming audience wants to interact with  your advertisers and it’s up to you to make sure advertisers understand how to use your stream effectively.
  7. Develop a section of your website that supports your advertisers on-air and online campaigns. Let your advertisers list their offers, link to their websites. Then tell your listeners that they can get information on any of the ads they hear on air or online by visiting your website anytime. It will boost sales for your advertisers and boost renewals for your station.
  8. Get your mobile platform in shape. Consider having an app built that makes it easy for your mobile audience to connect to your stream. Partner with portals that let your listeners connect via their phones – both smartphones and feature phones. Then promote the heck out of it.

To execute this list effectively, station managers must shift their thinking away from the idea that the on-air product is the most important element of their business, and recognize that the content is what matters. The broadcast is simply one way of distributing content. All the other ways matter just as much, and require the same kind of attention. Start thinking like that, and watch your digital presence expand.

New Online Audience Metrics Coming Soon

reynolds andoAndoMedia presented a preview of new metrics at RAIN Summit East last week. In keeping with the format of the Summit, Patrick Reynolds of Ando gave us a few snapshots of data. The online listening audience measured by AndoMedia grew from 204 Million in May of 2009 to 234 Million in August of 2009 – and according to Reynolds, that growth was attributable to increased listening, not to increased number of stations being measured. After the presentation he also told me that number does not include Pandora’s audience, which would surely have an impact.

The average Internet radio listener streams nine sessions per week, and 77% of listeners stream every week. I particularly like that last stat. An enormous percentage of Twitter users signed up, tweeted a few times, and have yet to return to the medium. Twitter retains only about 40% of its users from one month to the next. The fact that streaming audio is keeping ¾ of its audience active on a weekly basis is very promising for continued growth.

Ando is about to make significant changes to its measurement, and Reynolds talked a little about some of the new terms they will be using. Replacing Average Quarter Hour will be the term Average Open Sessions, which will count all sessions of at least a minute in length. This unit is closer to the actual data they are collecting and requires less manipulation. It’s also more in keeping with terms used in other digital media metrics.

According to Reynolds the changes have been blessed by MRC, the board they are working with for accreditation of Webcast Metrics. He promises a new ranker soon, following a four month hiatus while they worked through some of these transitions.

Radio Station’s Twitter Contest Needs Tweeks

twitter_logo_headerKPLX (The Wolf) in Dallas may be the first station in the country to air a Twitter Song of the Day contest, but they won’t be the last. It’s a simple, great way to integrate social media into a station’s over the air platform, and build a network of listeners.

According to Radio Online, the station is working with a promotional company to run the first ever $1 Million Twitter Song of the Day contest. To qualify, listeners must tune in to The Wolf until September 4 and listen for the “Twitter Song of the Day.” After registering on Twitter and following The Wolf at twitter.com/995theWolfDFW, listeners must tweet the appropriate response after hearing the daily song.

Each day, The Wolf will award concert tickets to ten contestants. At the end of the Song of the Day contest, one finalist will be selected to play for $1 million. To win, they must correctly predict the final score of the Dallas-New York football game on September 20. (I’m a little baffled by the football score curve thrown in, but I guess if it’s September and you’re in Dallas it’s all about football..)

I signed up to follow the station and indeed, they started the contest yesterday. It turns out, they don’t actually tell you the song of the day on twitter, they tell you when to listen to the station to hear it. A good, old fashioned ratings promotion, with a minor twist.

Instead of forcing me to listen at 10:10am everyday, I’d rather see the station use twitter to give listeners what they really want – a way to stay in touch with the station and participate, even if they aren’t listening at the correct moment in time. Tweeting the name of the song would do that. Or even better, use one of those fun tools to actually tweet the song. Like blip.fm – stations can build their own channel on blip, and share the music on twitter and other sites.

This is a good illustration of the dangers of using an online platform that you’re not familiar with. The station started tweeting on August 24. They probably put an intern in charge of the tweets. They have about a thousand followers so far, but they’re not even returning the follow to ten percent of them. (If you want to keep them, you should return the follow to your listeners..) Twitter is a social tool for building a relationship with your listeners and connecting with your community. A social tool. Even a branding tool. But a way to get listeners to jump through timed hoops, not so much…

A Delicious List of Websites

Time Magazine has published a list of 50 Best Websites, which will provide me with several hours of surfing. Without checking out any of the ones I haven’t heard of, I am delighted to see Delicious sitting at #3, although I would have put it at number one. Delicious, a social deliciousbookmarking site owned by Yahoo, is the one place on the web I visit everyday and could not live without. I use it to organize things I read, sites I visit, and all information that I find on the web. I frequently bookmark articles there for the Articles I’m Reading section of Audio4cast.

Another site that I use a lot, Flickr, is also on the list. I use this one to get images for my blog, but it’s also a great place to share pics. Twitter, Google, Facebook and Skype, all indispensable to my online self, made the list as well.

Pandora, Spotify, Musicovery and Last.fm represent Internet radio on the list. Pandora and Last.fm are “near twin radio killers” according to Time, while Musicovery is “a music-streaming site with a mood-ring interface that works like a soundboard for adjusting your robot DJ’s musical taste….(with an interface) so radically different from Pandora and Last.fm that it seems like it was beamed from an ultra-sophisticated, über-arty future utopia. ” Spotify, according to Time, is the holy grail, celestial jukebox that will stream any song you want and pay the royalties for you. Given that you can’t listen in the US yet, it might be just a little early for them to appear on this list, but it’s definitely trendy to talk about them.

It’s a great list. Unfortunately, they forgot Audio4cast, but there’s always next year….

BigChampagne Knows Who’s Listening

big champagneMusic tracking, both online and offline, legit and not so, is big business for BigChampagne. The company, which recently announced a measurement deal with Universal, has done well in recent years by specializing in tracking music consumption across multiple platforms. As consumer listening behavior has shifted, this service has become more and more valuable.

According to Wired’s Epicenter blog, “BigChampagne gets real-time data feeds deeper than what is surfaced to consumers on various services: iTunes, broadcast radio, Last.fm, retail outlets, Rhapsody, and file-sharing networks. It collates this data so that music and marketing people from interns to executives can see what we’re listening to on various networks, allowing them to plan tours, choose singles, and figure out where to advertise.”

Since the company’s launch in 2000, BigChampagne has become an increasingly bigger source of intelligence for record companies about who’s listening to their music, what music they’re listening to and where they are listening. They also have partial IP and zipcode data on illegal filesharing. BigChampagne holds limited partnerships with Warner Music Group, Sony and BMI as well.

As part of the deal with Universal, BigChampagne will provide with an analysis of songs and listening patterns from millions of users of social networks, including Twitter and Facebook, and online music services from iTunes to Amazon.

BigChampagne is definitely looking to eat into Nielsen’s share of measurement of the entertainment sector, and has been quicker to adapt to measuring new platforms. To date, all the reporting is focused on song and artist data – BigChampagne does not provide info that compares services to anyone – so there’s no info on how MySpace Music compares to other services or how iTunes is doing versus Amazon. But make no mistake, they’re watching…

How To Connect With Your Audience

I read a great article about branding on Chris Brogan’s blog the other day which emphasized that branding is not just about how you market your brand, product or service, but also about how you distribute it. Very successful product/brands have established successful channels of distribution for those products/brands.

Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, social media sites in general are channels of distribution for your messages. Ways that you, your brand or product can connect directly with your audience. Get it?

amanda palmerHere’s a real life great example. Amanda Palmer is a musician. Singer, songwriter, pianist, formerly of a band called The Dresden Dolls and more recently a solo performer. Amanda Palmer is also a masterful promoter of her personal brand. Which is the part I want to tell you about.

Amanda Palmer has over 38000 followers on Twitter. According to a post she wrote recently here, she loves Twitter and tweets whenever she can because it allows her to connect directly with her fans. (She gets it.) So she wrote a post called “How an Indie Musician can make $19000 in 10 Hours using Twitter” in which she describes how she was “hanging out on Twitter” on a friday night with her network of followers, mainly cracking jokes and complaining about losers who have nothing better to do than hang out on Twitter on a friday night. This turned into the number one topic on Twitter, which meant the popularity of the group increased even more.

So Amanda and her friend/web guy put together a quick website and started selling tshirts, then had a webcast auction for which she performed live and sold other stuff signed by her. After that, she offered a Twitter Donation-Only Gig and got donations for that. As she puts it in her post,“TOTAL MADE THIS MONTH USING TWITTER = $19,000 TOTAL MADE FROM 30,000 RECORD SALES = ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.”

The post is worth reading (expletives alert) – she’s quite a character. The point is, Amanda Palmer is a masterful marketer of her brand. Her distribution channels allow her to connect with her audience and sell her product – which is her music and her personality.

Standard distribution channels for the music industry are dying. Both the radio industry and record companies are struggling to find new business models. Solutions are found in stories like Amanda Palmer’s. Put the focus on your distribution channels. Give your listeners lots of access to your brand. Love your audience and connect with them often.

The Revolution May Not Be Televised – Broadcasters and New Media

By David Oxenford

OxenfordDavidOn my blog, I usually write about the legal issues for broadcasters, both the usual FCC issues and those that arise in connection with the convergence of new media and traditional operations.  I thank Jennifer for giving me the opportunity to fill in for her, and to have an opportunity to go beyond a discussion of legal issues, to express my concerns about broadcasters and the future as they attempt to figure out how to handle the challenges and opportunities of the new media.  With the current economy, many broadcasters are naturally focused on what they perceive as their core business, while that core business may be changing under their feet.

I recently attended the BIAfn Winning Media Strategies Conference in Washington, where speaker after speaker talked about the need for broadcasters to embrace the new media to provide content that their audiences were seeking when and where their audience wanted it.  One of the most impressive presentations was by Greenspun Media from Las Vegas, which has reinvented a secondary newspaper and a Low Power TV station as an on-line powerhouse, uncovering the aspects of the community that would draw the largest on-line audience and providing that content in great detail.  The Las Vegas Sun site not only covers hard news, but also the gaming industry, University of Las Vegas sports and even state government issues in a way that its audience seems to find interesting.  The site even features an interactive history of Las Vegas, in great detail, that’s lots of fun to play with for anyone who has ever spent time in the city.  And video plays a big part of the site, with the company in development of a hip news and events program, 702.tv, that will soon be a daily program on the television station as well as an online feature (including having local “celebrities” doing the weather, including strippers and Neil Diamond sound-alikes).

While this display of the power of the use of online media was very impressive, I was disturbed that many of the broadcasters in attendance dismissed the Greenspun presentation, submitting that Las Vegas presented unique opportunities that are not available in all communities.  In fact, in reaction to calls in Audio4cast and other blogs, urging broadcasters to adopt and exploit the new media, I have seen reactions claiming that, in most markets audiences don’t want or need content delivered on the Internet or through mobile devices.  Their audiences don’t care, say some, about online video, and they don’t use Twitter or Facebook, or other new technologies.  Instead, some claim that all their audiences want is what they have “always” wanted, good broadcast products. Others worry about legal issues, like the royalties for Internet radio operations, or just worry about how they can use new media that they don’t fully understand.

I fear that some are underestimating their audiences and their use of new media, whether it be online audio or video or some form of social networking. Being a relatively new adopter of both Twitter and Facebook, I’ve been amazed to find how many people of my baby boomer generation have adopted, accepted and revel in these services, spending far more time than they should reviewing their profiles and keeping track of the lives of their acquaintances (or the lives of strangers).  The new media is incredibly relevant and engrossing – apparently even more so to those of younger generations.  My 20-something kids rarely watch the TV or listen to music (or do much else for that matter) without having their laptops open, checking their Facebook pages regularly to see if any friend has posted anything new, or surfing their favorite websites, fan pages, blogs or video aggregators to make sure that there is nothing that they are missing.

And this is a worldwide phenomenon. Twitter and Facebook are clearly enhancing their images in the revolution in Iran, where few media reports mention radio or television except to dismiss the state-run broadcast services, but all talk about the role of the new media.  I recently visited India on vacation, and was struck to see the ubiquity of the cell phone, being sold and used in even the tiniest villages, with 3G wireless services available in the remote countryside, far from the major cities.  And people were not just talking, but texting and using other online services everywhere.  And while there is commercial radio, I almost never heard it being played.  When I asked one of our guides about whether the typical resident of India listens to the radio, he said, yes, many of the older people still listen.

The new media is not a fad.  It is not going to fade away. Its adoption in remote towns in America or elsewhere in the world cannot be wished away.  Broadcasters now have the opportunity, when they still have the brands that many still find relevant, to stake out positions on the new media frontier, and to drive traffic to their sites. I know that other companies that do not have broadcast stations are already trying to grab that territory, so it won’t be there for long.  Now is not the time for broadcasters to be timid.  Grab the revolution, become part of it.  Don’t let the inevitable march of technology leave you as an historical relic.

David Oxenford is a partner in the law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine in its offices in Washington DC.  David represents broadcasters, webcasters and other digital media companies on FCC regulatory matters, in transactions and in connection with music rights issues.  He writes about these issues on his blog: www.broadcastlawblog.com

Internet Radio: What Do Younger Listeners Want?

By Michael Schmitt

In reading and covering radio and Internet news for RAIN: The Radio and Internet Newsletter, I’ve come across a lot of frustration over my generation. Generation Y, The Millenials, the Echo Boomers, whatever you want to call us, we’re radio-less, meaning, we never grew up with a cherished radio station, never rushed home from school to hear a radio program or hear what new hits are playing. But as I have a foot in both camps, and spend my days writing about radio’s transition into the digital medium, maybe I can offer some youthful perspective on how to best target the new generation. Here’s how one new 20-something sees it:

– We know what we want

Whether it’s through the Internet, friends, magazines, or whatever, we’ve discovered what genres and artists we like. Music discovery  has shifted from radio to the Internet. I can find new artists on my own online. I know when new albums are coming out and I know what songs I like on that album. I don’t need singles to tell me what songs to like and I don’t need radio to inform me about new music. Perhaps most importantly, I’ll take music advice from my friend Elizabeth (or even from Twitter pal @christinajacobs) over some DJ any day, thank you very much.

— We know where to find better jukeboxes

If all a radio station offers is a continuous line of songs, broken here and there by commercial breaks or DJ chatter, I’m not interested. I have at least half a dozen other choices for jukebox-like playback, all of which cater specifically to me. I’m referring of course to Pandora, Last.fm, Imeem, iTunes’ Genius playlist creator and more. Heck, there’s even just the “Random” button on my iPod. Many of these allow me to continually shape my radio station as well, helping it adapt to my ever-changing likes and dislikes.

— We want more, please

This doesn’t mean that all we want out of music is a jukebox though. Far from it. Frankly, I’m tired of my Pandora channels. I want more. Remember how I said we know what we want? We also want more of it. Satisfy us. Give us something we can’t get from our iPods, our Torrent sites, our Pandora jukeboxes.

Here’s what radio can offer

Use your contacts and talent to create content I can’t get elsewhere. Interviews, in-studio performances, unreleased B-sides. Anything that goes beyond the album and gives fans of artists more of what they crave. I’ll tune in. And if you do it well, I’ll come back for more.

I was driving home late one night and — as I had forgotten to bring a CD along — was seeing what the radio had to offer. I came across an interesting interview with an artist, discussing how she had customized her Gibson guitar since getting it ten years ago. I was hooked. She turned out to be a blues artist – a genre I frankly can’t stand – but I listened to the whole interview and her in-studio performance. I actually sat in the car in my driveway until the segment concluded. Content like that is unique, interesting and attractive to music fans—no matter what generation they belong to.

Michael Schmitt  is Associate Editor of RAIN: The Radio and Internet Newsletter and Music Programmer for FuturePerfectRadio.

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