Friday, December 05, 2008

Opportunity #3 Web and Content Distribution

Of course there's tons of opportunity in getting our content into distribution channels beyond our towers and by building a strong presence for our brands in the new web driven culture. But, these opportunities have been growing for 10 or more years and really what have we accomplished?

Most of our web sites are just afterthoughts, a small billboard on the web of the station. There's some news feeds, content usually available on any 'home' page like Yahoo, AOL, Comcast, or now even IGoogle. In Rock there's usually a babe of the day - as if you couldn't just hit 'hot girls' on a search and get way more than we'd ever own up to. The local weather is often there - as if didn't work? Sometimes there is even a few pics of the Halloween promotion even though we're into December. A few have started podcasts and download of bits from shows. Most have some loyalty database program that mostly just sends emails or awards some prizes for visiting the site. But, for the most part hardly any of the radio sites are real destinations for the listener. Once in a while they are checked out.

A lot of you have streams up now, but have you really listened to them? With all the spot substitutions and really very little content those of us who do bother with the stream have lots of cheesy instrumentals to deal with while at least the tuned in audience gets commercials. The quality on many streams is also pretty bad. The processing is often taken before it hits the real processing gear for the transmitter and levels jump all over the place.

There are lots of services that do offer decent streaming and do help you substitute commercials with some content or promos. Some stations also do little features and some even sell the streams to a few clients and bother to run extra spots for them with special copy on the streams. But, for the most part we tend to just get the feed from the board to a computer and away we go. I did drop in on a few Liquid Compass streams and was surprised at the quality and the content around spots. There are services out there, but we don't seem to care on many sites.

We have to start investing TIME, MANPOWER, CREATIVITY, and ENERGY into the sites if we expect to have anything meaningful happen here. As noted in earlier posts in this series our biggest opportunity is LOCAL. We already have a big brand on the streets of our hometowns and if we can get the eyes and ears in our area code plugged in we have plenty of audience and a sales/creative team to help the local clients diversify on both the web and radio with our big brand.

Start by looking at what you can offer:
  • Local Entertainment Guides

  • Local Restaurant Reviews - from the audience

  • Complete local bar and club listings - with maps and places for the clubs to update their info.

  • Full coverage of local events with photos, and videos.

  • Let the audience in - send your pics of your Halloween party or costumes for all to see.

  • Links - Not just text links, but how about links to the local school site, local golf courses, attractions, museums, sports teams, etc.

  • Cover Your Format - If it's rock invite the audience to comment on Guns N' Roses new cd, let them post videos of them doing Rock and Roll Train on Rock Band.

  • Video - Tape everything. The cameras are easy to use and cheap - you can get a hard drive HD video one for $300 and edit the videos right on you computer. If a band stops by tape it all for the audience to see. If you do a bar night tape the highlights and also save the still pics.

I often wonder why we don't create a real Facebook and MySpace style page for our promotions with video, music, pics and also places where the audience can chime in. There's tons of ideas that are all local and all about your station that could be on the site. We don't need another RSS feed with news that we probably saw somewhere else. You need to either build you LOCAL ADVANTAGE or BUILD YOUR STATION on the site. The other stuff is probably a waste of effort or space.

There are also new opportunities to add streams. So Metallica is coming to town - how about an all Metallica Stream for a month before the show? When Gun/Roses released how about a stream with all G/R on it all day?

Promote your station and web site all over the web. When Obama was running he had banners on tons of sites to turn out the early vote. They read your IP address and directed you to the info for your area. You could do the same for your station - you pull up a site in your market and your station's message (maybe a morning show board, music flash, web link) hits the screen. It may cost something, but I bet it's not as much as you spend in outdoor in many markets. Also look at using some Google tricks with Adwords in your market. Again we haven't used this for our marketing but it could be very effective and may cost less than we think.

We do see the big radio groups signing on with some web radio systems, others linking with streaming systems, others producing content like Stripped and the Previews on Clear Channel, but instead of building national brands we could have a lot more impact by focusing on OUR LOCAL WORLD here. In many markets the door is pretty open and we have links to talk to the whole market over our air to build the sites. We also have a local focused sales team that can pull some revenue here. We really don't need more nationally controlled sites with the same content on 100 rock stations. Developing unique local content on 100 rock stations would give our audience reasons to make a home for us on their computer.

The other opportunity is getting to cell phones. A few have started invading the I Phone apps with 'tuners to get streams' on the phones. Soon we'll see this for many cell phones beyond I Phone and we need to be there. Also working on using texting and phone messaging to integrate them to news feeds, contests, podcasts and other features to try and get to their phones. Also consider ring tones - making up morning show bits, songs, and other possibilities for ring tones could be great.

While we don't need to jump on every web idea, we do need to pick out the ones that we can exploit on a platform of building a unique spot on the web that is LOCAL , BUILT ON OUR BRAND/PRODUCT and

Investing in all of this is another issue. Everyone is tightening, but the opportunity is ripe and urgent. We have to expand our distribution or watch our world shrink every day. Yes it takes time and hard work, but the opportunity will never be better - in fact we've wasted many years already.

The key is to get organized first and see what you can accomplish with a little effort now. Many of the content issues on the list above could be just assignments that only take 15 or 20 minutes a day to accomplish when spread out over the staff. Others will take more effort - getting the stream cleaned up could be a challenge with all the production needed.

Our other advantage here is the ability to build our web world from our big reach on air. Some stations do a good job of promoting their web site and others just take an occasional punch at it. You have to make it worth going to and also make sure everyone knows. Remember that you have the audience to make sure they know - but you have to promote it.

We have all the tools to make a lot more impact on the web. It's time to start using them.

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