WTF is Digital to Radio?


What does ‘digital’ mean?

Make it stop!

All we hear is radio has to be digital. Our analog signal is dead – or dying rapidly and we have to make the transition to digital.

But what does that mean?

Streaming? HD radio? Banner ads on our websites? Social media interaction?

These are thoughts…

1) Radio has a long tail and will continue to develop revenue and results. The growth won’t be there but radio isn’t in a death spiral.

2) Local clients will be buying digital display and video advertising programmatically and if your radio station isn’t selling them you are not doing yourself or your clients a favor.

3) Radio has been in the content development business. So far no one has developed a very viable local model for this – streaming costs, staffing and creative development all is too expensive for small/medium markets. Maybe it’s time to rethink that process – get out of the content business on digital platforms and see #2 above. Your clients only care about getting results and reaching their customers.

4) Get used to tighter profit margins – digital is more like traditional retail. Lucky if you get 50% and 30% is more likely.

5) Number 4 above is the reason radio doesn’t do more effective digital sales – but they miss the opportunity to sell digital out-of-market (tourist boards for example), be relevant to their clients and develop cross platform marketing.

Just like newspapers put radio stations on the air early in the 20s and radio put TV stations on in the late 40s we’ve all been there on the leading edge of digital media. Now we just have to define what it means to our stations and how to best serve our clients and communities with these new products.

Isn’t it time we Made some money…?

It was an aside…but a buddy at an NBC affiliate recently told me, “Yeh…we do about 3-4% of our revenue from digital media (his phrase not mine)…but most of it is accounting.  I’m not sure how much we really sell that is pure digital media…”

Value add in hot markets

As an industry, both radio & TV stations have struggled to make money with ‘new media’ – too often it’s a value add necessary to get share or even on the buy.  Radio has had ‘promotions’ thrown in for years…and TV has had spin or trips…now it’s new media that polishes the buy. 

I don’t want to hammer the reasons or castigate anyone for narrow thinking – because in truth it’s pretty daunting. 

The list from loyalty marketing to mobile and social media could all be their own business units and no one has the time or resources to do that.  Furthermore, the business has been collapsing around our ears – and while the slide has stopped, it wasn’t new media that hit the brakes.

A couple of  thoughts…

1) Step away from the station!  Not all marketing solutions have to be portaled (newly invented verb) from your website.  Most stations have websites as cluttered as a fishing dock at an Alaskan marina on opening day.

2) If you’re going to be in the content business – better make sure it’s unique. That’s not easy – most TV stations have the same news -but, for example,  at KOMO (Seattle) and KATU (Portland)  TV they are developing local neighborhood content that is often user-generated.  That’s unique – and they are making some money from it…also unique.

3) Please keep it simple.  Most of your audience are Luddites – embarrassed they don’t know more about technology.  This is particularly true outside of the tech islands of San Jose, Austin, Chicago, Boston and Seattle.  Think about the audience in Amarillo and Evanston….

4) Whatever you do – make it work on the web before you take it mobile.

5)  Bring someone in who knows the ‘new media’  business on an interim basis…this is TOTALLY self serving , but it’s a strategy more stations are looking  at as they realize it IS time to make some money. 

Good hunting…

Love the one you’re with…

“If you can’t be with one you love, love the one you’re with…” 

OK…Stephen Stills was a little opportunistic but you can’t fault his pragamatic solution.  And advertisers fling with social and new media is fabulous, but where do they turn when then want results.  TV.

For the past few years, if it weren’t for bad news there’d be no news at all in TV and radio. Both media have been pundited (a new verb?) to the curb just under the trash hauling signs.

Mr. Stills in his youth

But the pundits don’t buy media – and TV has been back strong lately – CBS TV just reported being up 31% – and even radio ain’t doin’ badly.

So for all the new media blather – social media explosion and tombstone carving going on – a funny thing happened. The clients needed results NOW and know that TV and radio have the power to deliver.

It’s that simple.

Fast, relatively cheap and easy to implement.

Is this a dumb question…?

You’ve used Hulu – right? I admit to loving Hulu…it’s a great way to catch up on past episodes of Lost or (yes, I admit it) Glee and also discovering gem shows like Damages (AMC) with Glen Close and Ted Danson .

So when the occasional ad pops up, what’s with the question in the upper right hand corner “Is this Ad Relevant?”.

Relevant? What does that mean?

Relevant, as in I want to go out and buy the new Buick LaCrosse in the ad?

Relevant, as in I liked what I learned about the Buick LaCrosse in the ad?

Relevant, as in I understand that ads pay for the service.

Why would they ask such a stupid, meaningless, irrelevant question….and how would they ever make any use of the resultant data?

Apparently, even the smartest guys in the room can ask dumb questions.

My personal HITS and MISSES (more of the latter…) …

Was the '60 Buick a HIT or a MISS?

The Zino Society, a Seattle based angel investment group holds a monthly meeting where new businesses in search of early round funding have a chance to pitch investors. These companies last night ranged from a Wine Superstore to an eHarmony service for real estate buyers.

It got me thinking about how often I’ve totally MISSED predicting the success of businesses:

MISS: Cell phones? Who needs a cell phone for $500 per month when there’s a phone booth on every street corner?

HIT: But I got cable correct when in the early ‘70s I realized it could dominate the business when it got to a reasonable level of penetration.

MISS: Porsche Cayenne. Who needs a 5,600 pound Porsche? I guess a lot of people.

MISS: Fast Forward, the TV show. This show was strong enough I even got my wife to skip The Bachelor. Love(d) it…but NBC has cancelled.

MISS: The Deepwater Gulf explosion – I thought that would be a short-lived crisis.

HIT: FM – even listening on my folks old Magnavox with the Tuning-Eye oscilloscope I could tell the fidelity was fabulous and stereo would be the killer app for the music crazy boomers.

HIT: World Wraps – couldn’t see that as a viable long term business. I was partly right.

MISS: Edward Bear – the song was “Down in Mexico’ and I hyped it to Number One at the station I was working (no payola, sorry) – it never made it past #68 on Billboard…but did get to #3 in Canada…so – ehh…I wasn’t too far off.

The point of this…? Keep swinging.

Mobile TV – DOA or did I not get the memo…?

Mobile TV - DOA?

I must have missed something. Maybe it was a memo. More likely an email or SMS.

One of our local broadcast groups…Fisher Communications was excited the other day about their mobile digital TV signal…or more clearly, TV on your phone (now being re-branded as your mobile device). Seems that they had been running some tests broadcasting their signal and were quite please with themselves.

Mobile Digital TV is really just another TV channel (or set of them in this case) that utilizes some of the spectrum that the TV stations were recently moved to at great cost and to very little benefit.

A group of almost 800 TV stations, loosely organized as the Open Mobile Video Coalition (OMVC) are now in a frenzy extolling the advantages of mobile TV…talking about instant access to weather, breaking news and education (we’re all suckers for that one) on these mobile channels.

I’m sure I’m just confused – but it seems to me that any NEW media delivery that is not browser based is,….well, let me be careful and considerate here…NUTS!

OMVC is going to ask OEM phone companies to cram a new TV tuner into their mobile devices (right next to the Starbucks espresso circuit), get them to work on multiple operating systems, across half-a-dozen carriers (some 3G some 4G) and create a competitor to the carriers own mobile video strategies (such as V-Cast).

Yeh. Right. That’s going to work real well, real fast.

But maybe I just didn’t get the memo.

Come Together, Right Now….

Jackson Weaver & Eric Rhoads

The plane was full and it seemed half the passengers were Seattle radio folks heading to Radio Ink magazine’s first Convergence Conference in the Bay Area. What a buzz there was on that plane. The entire opportunity of the Internet was exploding and we were so cool to be riding the crest. It was 2000 – and the bubble was still inflating like a helium balloon at Puyallup. We were going to invent the future of media…and we did and didn’t.

Few would argue the promise has largely passed traditional media – search, SEO, social media, Craigslist and blogs all exploded and largely left radio and TV playing catch up.

So here we are a decade later…and again, I’m heading to join Eric Rhoads and his team at Radio Ink’s annual event in SJO…to a much more pragmatic, business based conference. The conference is to share new revenue producing ideas for radio stations.

Hoping for 3-5% of their revenue from new media – many stations still struggle to build a viable model. There will be ton of good ideas again this year at the Radio Ink Convergence during the week.  I’ll post some of the ideas as I can.   Always welcome your feedback.