5 Reasons Why Radio's "Content Is King" Philosophy Is Wrong
July 22, 2014
In the online world, Content Marketing is one of today's hottest audience-building strategies. The concept is simple: people use social media and search engines a lot, so you need to be there if you want to be found.
How do you get there?
Create a lot of online content that is both search-engine friendly and easy to share over social networks. This will draw people back to your website, where you can monetize your web traffic through any number of methods.
So how can radio use Content Marketing to build its audience? To the uninitiated, Content Marketing might sound a lot like the "Content is King" philosophy that radio experts espouse.
But it's not.
Bill Gates famously wrote a famous essay called "Content is King" in 1996. In it, he wrote, "Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting." However, in the world of radio, "Content is King" has been misinterpreted to mean that whoever creates the best content will draw the biggest audience.
Unfortunately, this isn't necessarily true. Let's take a closer look at five things that the "Content is King" disciples aren't telling you:
1. Content can't solve a technology problem.
Unfortunately, the "Content is King" philosophy has put a myopic focus on great on-air content as the cure-all for radio's problems. It suggests that radio companies can overlook their aging content-delivering technology as long as they are putting quality content on the air.
But they can't.
It doesn't matter how good your movie is. If you only release it on VHS, its audience will be limited. The same can be said of your transmitter. As people begin to consume more and more audio content through internet devices like smartphones and tablets, your content alone will not be enough to build an audience -- no matter how good it is. The technology delivering that content matters.
The time for exploring new technologies as a tool for getting your content heard is now. You should have a strategy in place for -- or at least be experimenting with -- audio streaming, YouTube, Soundcloud, podcasting, Slideshare, and more.
2. The quantity of content matters as much as the quality -- maybe more
"Content is King" is often misinterpreted to mean that whichever station produces the best content will win the biggest audience. This may have been true in the past, when there were fewer media outlets. People could check out each one and decide which they liked best.
But in the internet age, there is simply too much content being produced for people to check out everything and then return to their favorite. Instead, we often gravitate to the easiest thing we can find. This usually means we will click on whatever we see in our Facebook newsfeed, or whatever shows up at the top of Google's search results.
So how do you make sure you're there?
Create a lot of online content. As a rule of thumb, I recommend that you require every full-time jock to produce one piece of content each weekday. The more content you create, the more there is for search engines to crawl, and the more likely they are to include your website in search results. By the same token, the more content you have, the more there is for people to share on social networks.
This doesn't mean that your content can be of poor quality. Search engines take notice when people leave your website immediately, and bad content won't attract clicks on social media. But it does mean that your content can be "good enough."
What does this mean?
Because radio stations have limited airtime, they usually interpret "Content is King" to mean that they should focus solely on producing a small amount of "great" content instead of a larger amount of "good" content. While your airtime is limited, the amount of content you can put on the internet is not. You may want to save the best for your airwaves, but your station should still be ramping up the amount of web-only content it produces to attract a bigger audience.
You can also use the web as a testing ground for types of content; if something performs well online, you can adapt it to put on your airwaves.
3. Simply producing great content isn't enough -- you have to promote it
A New York Times internal report titled "Innovation" leaked online recently. The purpose of the report was to examine why the paper was seeing less web traffic than sites like the Huffington Post and Buzzfeed. The Times noted that it is still putting out the best journalism in the world, but the quality of its content wasn't enough to attract the audience.
The Times noted that most of their writers and editors consider their job complete when their story is published. However, other popular websites recognize that the job has just started when the content is published. After that, they still need to promote it using channels such as social media.
The same can be said for radio. After stations air an interview or morning show bit, they tend to move on to preparing for the next piece of content. Instead, they ought to increase the amount of time they spend on post-show promotion.
4. Audio content is less effective at building an audience
The form that your content takes matters. Bill Gates recognized this in his 1996 essay, pointing out that it wasn't enough for publishers to simply post their articles online. Unfortunately for broadcasters, of the three major forms of online content -- text, audio, and video -- audio is undoubtedly the least effective in a content marketing strategy. While Google is increasingly displaying YouTube videos at the top of its top search results, it is not displaying audio files.
Moreover, audio doesn't usually spread virally on social networks because audio hosts don't have very strong social media integration. The exception to this is Soundcloud, which provides a user-friendly player for listening to audio from within your Facebook newsfeed. Think about the audio that has spread virally over the internet recently, such as Donald Sterling's phone conversation or Psy's song, "Gangham Style." Both of these spread as videos, not audio (Sterling as a TMZ clip, Psy as a music video).
To increase the chances of your content spreading online, you should routinely convert it from an audio file into text, video, or both.
5. You need to measure your content -- and Nielsen ratings aren't a useful tool for that
Of course, content is only useful insofar as it helps your station generate revenue. While Nielsen ratings are the standard means by which radio stations are measured, its methodology is too blunt an instrument to accurately measure individual pieces of content. It won't reliably tell you whether your phone scams or countdown shows are attracting listeners.
To do this, it is best to implement a more accurate measurement tool. Two that I highly recommend are Google Analytics (which can be easily installed on any website) and Hootsuite Analytics (which are available to anyone who uses Hootsuite to manage their social media presence). While these won't tell you anything about what people listen to on their radio, they will show you which content is getting a response online. Moreover, they will allow you to track individual pieces of content. Once you have a handle on which content performs the best for your station, create more like it.
Content Marketing vs. "Content is King"
Radio, like many companies today, can build an audience using an effective Content Marketing strategy. However, it's important for programmers to understand that while Content Marketing may overlap with the traditional "Content is King" philosophy, that doesn't mean it's the same thing. There are important distinctions, which represent potential pitfalls for stations to avoid. Make sure you know what they are.