FORMULA FOR KEEPING TERRESTRIAL RADIO RELEVANT IN THE NEW DIGITAL AGE…
By Christopher Joseph (The CJX) February 22nd 2012
Former jock, program producer, promotions and sales department – seeking to get back into broadcasting by programming or music director, on-air jock, or in promotions (any format!) and MAKE A DIFFERENCE!!
TERRESTRIAL RADIO has something Internet or Satellite radio will NEVER possess… the word FREE come to mind? The infrastructure of radio from the broadcasting towers, satellite relays, and the stations themselves is an asset that is not to be wasted. The freedom to broadcast is a right enjoyed by many for decades and not to be shelved to the side now that new competition is FIERCE. Let the new competition come and go, what survives? Radio is still there, utilizing the new technology and digital upgrades to make it even more a powerhouse! Like Kanye raps ‘No one man shall have all that Power’, Internet has power but so do you, don’t release it!
One thing that bugs me about all of the new services is while they are intriguing and impressive they are all PAID SERVICES – From Pandora, iTunes, Last FM, and now Spotify – they all are paid content. Most have a limited service to access songs and get teased, but ultimately you have to PAY to utilize them fully. So not only do I have to PAY for monthly Internet, then I have to PAY for a monthly music service or, like me I have iTunes, it costs me to download music. As most premium services online COST – if you have a limited budget (like me) this is not attractive. Even if you have tons of money, why would you pay for a plethora of packages? This goes into the LUXURY category of bills, if it’s not shelter, bills, car note – you DON’T NEED IT. And how many services have belly’ed up in the last 10 years? They are not secure, may have virus, shall I mention ‘buffering, buffering, buffering’ or maybe there is some type of infringement or battle in court shuts them down, they are no guarantee. Liken it to how many versions of Internet Explorer theres been in just a short time, hmmm. Who’s been here over 60 years? Radio. On-line, I end up listening to my local or a national RADIO station or music I’ve purchased. This aspect of online broadcasting is very valuable.
If anything, I see all of the new services as a challenge to physical compact discs or vinyl which is surprisingly making a comeback. Something about a physical disc in your hand makes music authentic and nostalgic but I digress, this is about the fact that you can access regular terrestrial radio EVERYWHERE. Yes new cars are having satellite services installed but a regular AM/FM is still available. With the plethora of autos already on the road this is the same scenario – an OPTION if you want to pay for it. I don’t even have On-Star or GPS – you have to PAY for them, then I don’t need them.
So please, station owners, broadcasters, don’t sell your towers out just yet. When they can duplicate the reach of airwaves WITHOUT CONSUMERS PAYING for it, (FCC would have to push this), then I can see junking them. When a natural disaster strikes such as a tornado, what are you thankful for? Your battery powered radio. What goes out first? Internet and cable.
So how do you keep listeners in tune with your hurting radio station? Basically reverse everything the big conglomerates have made standard the last 10-15 years. GO BACK TO WHAT RADIO DID BEST! Ironically the Internet is setting the new standards because its the new frontier and traditional ways of doing things DON’T WORK!
- BRING back that personal touch – funny, I’m back in school learning about Internet Marketing, Brand Imaging, Social/Viral Media Networking, Mobile Phone Apps and the first thing that the experts say is ‘Get Personal’. Successful branding is getting personalized with your audience, let them know that you care. Many companies set up websites, have a Facebook and Twitter page but then only use them to ‘sell’ to the audience or post notices. They obviously are already interested in you for them to visit your page, connect, relate to them, stations that actively interact with their listeners experience greater time spent listening. Also frequent blogs that relate to your brand and actually comment on them. Share personal antidotes over your mobile phone app, use the mobile phone app to do more than just music and contests. Static, non-feeling, ‘letter’s to the general public’ don’t work in these ages. People are too informed and too alert, if you want to keep their interest; stay relevant. In addition, take that personal touch further by actually being involved in the community like radio stations first set out to do. Some stations are reluctant to let their guard down and only do benefits because they are required too. The ones that go above and beyond, attending benefits, public service events, job fairs, college registrations, community block parties and bbq’s reap the benefits of a supportive listening audience. Move your PS show from an obscure time to a time people would actually listen.
- McDONALD’S is not a blueprint for your radio program! Billions and Billions served is not what builds your ratings up. Several huge conglomerates have set the standard with this travesty and it has hurt more than helped. Syndicated shows are good for several aspects but having your whole station either syndicated or pre-programmed is dry and a quick influence to change stations or change formats. On-line shows are popular because of a personal touch, they play what their listeners want, they are in tune with their audience. Wow, Internet had to bring this back after the droves of disgruntled listeners had to hear the same programming in Anchorage that is in Dayton, everybody is allegedly playing the same songs in your respective format. But when did music coming from New Orleans sound like New York? Cater to your audience, flip the songs often, have live dj’s that are engaging and personal. Why kill a local voice by having programmed music playing all day? If anything, a local voice gives you connection and information such as news or events. Don’t kill the DJ. If you don’t want a DJ, then thats when you play your iTunes playlist. When your station has have beat the top hit up, cut it and move on to the next one, don’t overkill, with so many options keep the listeners in tune and hungry for the next. With so many options, having stagnant, boring, cookie cutter stations guarantees listeners seeking their music elsewhere; but alas so many think its what keeps them.
- GO BACK TO MAKING HITS!!! – What’s the main way the crucial12-24 audience gets new music? All indicators have its by good ol’ fashioned word of mouth, by ‘sharing’, whether its online or in person. Their peers must have the drop on the best new product. What happened to radio being in this position? Why isn’t your station their BFF? Ask yourself what makes hits? How did Michael Jackson, Madonna, the Beatles get ingrained in your head? REPETITION, they was EVERYWHERE, videos, commercials, cars driving by, malls, elevators, you couldn’t shake it, you was mad with it! Who still has this power? RADIO does – Internet services don’t have the juice to really go all the way with break out hits. Yes, Youtube broke out Justin Bieber, Soulja Boy, Drake, but that was so last year ikr? Who took that momentum and made them household names? Radio. Now there are websites everywhere pushing wannabe artists, Reverbnation, Bandcamp, RootMusic, SoundCloud, everybody has a MP3 or Vlog to showcase talent and the search can be quite daunting but good programmers can utilize this to the fullest. They add a great dimension to the puzzle contributing a resource to make you stronger. Spotify’s success is that you can ‘Share’ peer to peer, so why can’t radio do this? Stop waiting on another station to pick up new trends, why not be the leader yourself? Why wait for labels? They actually also are waiting on artists that have this momentum to offer deals to anyways! Everybody says there won’t be other huge hitmakers this way because of the plethora of avenues to get music now, really? The whole future of music we won’t have more superstar entertainers? Make history and find the next Michael Jackson or the Beatles. Programmers in tune with their audience and community will be able to spot new hits as they come across their board. If still unsure with yourself or scared that one bad song you picked will lose a 24% share, then talk to your staff, they are probably more in touch with new trends anyways, research throughly, pay attention to what’s happening. If you have sister stations, have program meetings via Skype and go over promising new talent and decide collectively. Regional hits have more power to become national hits, you helped out new artists, built your reputation up and gained new listeners in the meantime, its a win-win situation.
- SUPPORT LOCAL – You’re a local station, why aren’t you playing local music? Seems most stations wait for acts to become national before they would even consider playing them, and they was in their backyard the entire time! I see Canadian stations fully backing hungry, worthy alternative artists in their communities, the opposite is the norm in the USA. Worthy artists can usually go on to regional and national prominence and then blow up in the USA and then the world. When you can go back and say this RADIO station took a central part in this, that is significant and these artists don’t forget the help. Many artists have local and regional followings, pay attention, sponsor a show, interview then, have your station fully represented at the live shows, broadcast fans and the artists over the air, play a radio ready song – these efforts will be appreciated and encouraged by the fanbase then spread like wildfire. How many folks share their buddies new band and so forth? This is viral networking at its core – from reality to virtuality it takes off once its online way more then before, these artists are more savvy at using the Internet to gain a buzz. This aspect falls into all the above, utilize your power for good and trust, your radio station will stay relevant and retain its power as internet services come and go.
- BE INNOVATIVE – This is not saying do something ‘wild and zany’ such as stations before, everybody has some story of DJ Uncle Bob running naked through the car wash, etc. Really, stop worrying about the competition, stop worrying about the next market, stop worrying about the advertisers, yes don’t worry about them! Advertisers want to buy into something that has an audience, therefore giving them consumers. You need listeners for them to buy into. Concentrate solely on your relationship with your audience, listeners have been begging for stuff for years about what they wanted from their stations – and what did stations do? Ignore the audience. Requests go ignored, suggestions go ignored, local anything go ignored, so they are now ignoring you and going elsewhere for their fix. Attention spans are limited, you have to win these people back and with so many options for their fix, what can you do? Fight fire with fire is an age ol’ expression and fully needed here. Beat the new competition, utilizing the same thing that makes them popular and what made radio popular in the first place.
SO KEY INGREDIENTS TO REMEMBER, your service is FREE, theirs is NOT FREE. Progressive stations have the added advantage of streaming online and/or have the mobile phone app. Explore HD stations that could add more ‘niche’ formats to your community but follow the same back to basics formula. You want good Branding? Go back to your roots, be proactive in your community via events, local bands, online and off. GO BACK TO MAKING HITS! Listen to your listeners, cater to them, build your playlists around them, they are what keeps your job going, AND don’t say the advertisers do this, they are there for the same reason! Don’t give up your power when there is no reason too! Overall, enjoy it, the competition is.