"Digital" Is Not "Streaming" (But "Streaming" Is "Digital")
December 2, 2014
There's been a lot of talk about radio's digital strategy lately, especially in the wake of the recent article by BIA/Kelsey's VP/Strategic Sales Consulting Stacey Sedbrook warning that "for radio, digital resistance is the biggest threat." But when I hear radio folks use the word "digital," they often talk exclusively about streaming audio.
Digital strategy goes way beyond just streaming.
In fact, I'd argue that streaming isn't even the most important component of a radio station's digital strategy (yet). At the moment, a website, social media, email marketing, a text message database, and online analytics are all far more important digital tools for radio when it comes to both building an audience and generating revenue.
And while many radio stations are already using these tools, that doesn't mean that they have organized them into a coherent overall strategy. Too often, for example, radio stations are posting to social media with no idea how or why this affects the station's bottom line.
The reason that your radio station should have a website or an email database or an Instagram account is not just "because everybody else does." You need to have these things because they impact your revenue generation. You need to know how and why they impact it. You need to be measuring this impact so you can make adjustments to your strategy. And if they're not positively impacting your revenue, you should stop wasting time with these things.
Be wary of anybody who tells you that the value of digital tools like social media, websites, and email are about "branding." "Branding" is often code for "I don't know how to measure the impact this is having." The best part of these new digital tools is that you can measure just about everything. You can easily see how much web traffic your social media posts are driving back to your website, or which headlines in your emails are receiving the most clicks. Is there also some branding involved? Sure. But the primary value of digital tools is not in branding. It's in dollars.
The only thing you can't accurately measure is how these digital tools are impacting people when they go listen to their radio. That's because when they do this, they are switching devices — from their computer or smartphone to their radio — and the analytic trail doesn't carry over. This is a limitation of Nielsen's ratings system and radio's technology, not the digital tools. It's also a very good argument for transitioning broadcasting over to streaming in the long run, instead of keeping radio completely separate with transmitters and tuners. When people interact with radio through an internet connection, like they do with everything else, we'll be able to track the impact of our digital tools on listening with far greater accuracy.
But you don't need to wait for an industry-wide technological shift to implement a comprehensive digital strategy for your radio station. You can do it now. You can use the same digital tools that every other business uses: a website, email and text messaging, social media, and analytics. You don't even need a big budget. If you are a stand-alone station in a tiny market, there are plenty of small business digital tools that will work: Wordpress, Mailchimp, Hootsuite, Google Analytics, Call Loop, etc. But you need to understand how they are connected to one another. You need to have an overall gameplan.
Then you can worry about streaming.
NEXT STEP: Watch this Video: