stations to Pandora, Stitcher, Beats Audio, and a plethora of other streaming services. And to be clear, if it’s sound coming our of a speaker, it’s radio. Period. After having spent more than three decades programming radio stations, it’s hard not to have sound in the background. I also spend a lot of time on the Internet, sometimes looking at stations’ websites and Social Media outposts. What I see online frightens me because most of the terrestrial radio stations, and even some of the streaming services, have a disconnect between their audio product and their online presence, what I call THE MISSING LINK.
In other words, most audio content providers don’t think about how people USE their product, what else they’re doing when they’re listening, or most importantly, how they can take the product that comes out of the speakers to a computer or smartphone screen. Because every day there are less audio delivery devices like the one above and more like this.
Of course, there are still a lot of audio delivery devices that aren’t smartphones, but mobile is becoming king and smartphones are the King of Mobile, so let’s think of the smartphone as the new radio. And that includes phones with the FM chip that many broadcasters think is their ticket to mobile parity. Which it isn’t. Not because having an FM radio in a phone isn’t good for free listening or emergencies, but because if there’s THE MISSING LINK between the audio and the online component of the radio station, there a decent chance listeners will figure out that the radio station, any radio station, isn’t talking to them and doesn’t know what their life is all about.
I’m not going to share some of the most glaring examples of THE MISSING LINK, but I’ve got some great ones saved. There is no shortage of posts that are meaningless, wacky DJ jokes online that don’t work if you’re reading them and not hearing them, or tweets that are too long, posted by some kind of automation, and either cut off in the middle or edited to being unreadable without a secret decoder ring.
So what’s a content creator to do? First, stop thinking that the only way people can hear your content other from your bone crushing transmitter is with one of these in an office. It isn’t 2003. Yes, there is still listening on computers, but remember, the world is going mobile and the smartphone is the King of Mobile. Second, start thinking about how your online activities can compliment, contribute to, and complete whatever comes out of the speakers. Have talent and promos send listeners to someplace online and get more information about an important local event. Use your online assets to drive listeners to the station at a certain time for something really special, not just the “Top 9 At 9”. Talk to the people who aren’t in the programming or marketing departments and find out how they use the audio you put out. You’d be surprised. And probably a little sickened, because in the world of the Millennials and younger people, you’re not doing it the way they want it.
And here’s the one thing you can do that will improve your online reputation, and therefore your “cred” with your listeners, no matter what format you are, terrestrial or online, and what market size you’re in. Look like you care about your online presence. That means update your Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest pages regularly, use only good pictures, not some bad, blurry phone photo just to slap something up online, and write different posts for different platforms. Anyone with a shred of knowledge about Social Media knows when they’re seeing a tweet with lots of @’s and #’s simply reposted on Facebook and they know the person who posted is either unaware of how to tailor posts for each platform, letting automation run wild, or just plain ignorant. Each platform online now demands a unique voice, and you need to take the time to create posts in all the right voices and post them when people might actually see them, not when it’s convenient for the intern to put them up.
There’s one last thing to think about when it comes to relating to your listeners. Your website is the only piece of the Interwebz you completely control.
Don’t force your listeners to look at something like this, it only makes you look foolish. Listeners know what today’s great websites look like, and far too many radio station websites are mired in the past because of benign neglect, not enough updates in the onerous barter contract you signed for “website development” or the fact that someone thinks neon colors and DJ pictures are what people come to your site to see. Guess what, that’s not the case. You can fix the ugly, uninformative website, and sometimes it’s the biggest MISSING LINK.
If you’re creating content, any content for that matter, are you providing the full 360 degree experience to your users or is there a MISSING LINK?