We’ve reached a critical time for our industry. It’s painfully obvious that things are changing rapidly all around us and the path forward is less certain than it’s ever been. We all know that taking the same exact approach next year as we did this year, and previous years, will not lead to continued success. But, economic uncertainty coupled with employees demanding higher compensation and more competitive benefits can make it feel like we’re running out of options to try. The truth is, there’s no simple answer to the challenges the radio industry is facing. However, I believe the solution lies in developing a strategy that allows us to merge the best parts of our traditional radio model with the types of new media that we’re best suited to find success with. Here are a few steps and recommendations for making that happen.
Identify the employees within our organizations that contribute the most to our operations and compensate them fairly with financial incentives to over-perform. But, at the same time, eliminate any and all waste, services we no longer or rarely use, employees that don’t add value because they’re doing the bare minimum or refusing to grow, office space that’s become unnecessary, and outdated equipment that we’re paying to maintain and replace instead of updating to equipment that’s more efficient, remotely accessible, cheaper to operate and takes up less space. Get creative with how we recruit and the kind of people we’re trying to recruit. Look for self-sufficient content creators who are finding inventive ways to create and monetize their own digital content and hire or partner with them.
Invest in the growth side of our industry, digital. I’ve seen multiple groups spend millions of dollars on studio rebuilds and refuse to spend a few thousand to make those studios more than just audio friendly. The equipment required to record and live stream video is nowhere near as expensive as it was just a couple of years ago. Hence why thousands upon thousands of content creators have MUCH nicer home setups, video-wise, than professional radio groups in major markets. We can close that gap by investing just a little more in the equipment, software and hardware necessary to regularly create digital content, ten-year-old computers will not cut it and nor will lighting that leaves talent mostly in the dark. Then, take it to the next level by bringing in some outside training (like myself), offering to pay for additional training and classes and sending any employee who wants to go to at least one or two conventions per year.
Learn from the successes and failures of others. Not everything the large groups are doing now is misguided. The approach of using our terrestrial platforms to consistently push our digital assets and platforms is a smart one. Stripping out most or all of their local footprint and staff so they can no longer do that at a local level, is not a smart move. If it were we’d be better off migrating to digital only companies that bought promotional time on old media. There are still unavoidable costs to running a terrestrial radio station, like utilities and someone to keep everything running and legal. But, more importantly, radio is well positioned to soak up TONS of local digital dollars, while maintaining most of our local terrestrial revenue, provided we keep a local staff and presence in place in all of our markets.
Leveraging our content creators across all platforms. I’ve said it before and I will continue to do so. Every good on-air personality is capable of creating some kind of digital content that’s clickable and shareable. I used to say that not everyone’s a writer so instead of forcing non-writers to blog on the station website, find their strengths and encourage those. However, that was before AI leveled the playing field. Now, anyone can blog and everyone should. Plus, employees who are writers can use AI to write ten blogs in the time they would’ve normally written one. All on-air personalities can also create some sort of video content, either in front of or behind the camera. Plus, anyone that’s good at audio editing can be taught to video edit enough to crank out the types of video content stations should already be doing for web and social. Of course, they should ALL be podcasting as well. Podcasts aren’t going anywhere as listening continues to grow. New research from Edison, published in Westwood One’s blog noted that podcasts are now “reaching one out of three Americans daily.” To make cranking out all of this digital content possible, it helps if we train our on-air staffs to incorporate digital into the prep process so they’re thinking about how to promote and leverage their on-air content to digital during the planning phase.
Develop a digital content strategy that’s ambitious but executable with our current staffs. It does no good to write a bunch of requirements down if we don’t have the staff capable of fulfilling or enforcing those requirements. We should start with a lofty content strategy that’s based on the amount of digital content we can realistically create each week and build from there. Starting with the platforms where we already have a presence as we slowly begin adding content to our dormant, or new, platforms.
Merging old media with new media may sound a bit overwhelming, but it is manageable and we can help. Call or email me at Andy@RadioStationConsultant.com or comment below.
Pic designed by www.freepik.com.