In a world of social, visual and personalized radio and ‘cloudcasting’, radio stations need to build their own multimedia assets (not just rely on existing platforms).
Decades before Facebook arrived, there was already a social network – and it goes by the name of radio! Broadcasters now see radio & social media’s combined power en masse, but there’s already a new shift going on. We’re moving towards multimedia franchises and online audio streaming platforms. What does it mean for radio?
Connect radio listeners together
We have always been looking for ways to shape communities. It’s not even that long ago that technology made it possible to talk over a long distance. Radio is definitely one of the wonders of the last century. Around 1900, inventors like Guglielmo Marconi worked on conquering the airwaves. He and others that built on the ground work of Heinrich Hertz ultimately were able to transform sounds into electronic pulses that could be decoded thousands of miles further away – the principle of sender and receiver. Really magic, when you think of it!
Become people’s social network
Radio amateurs in different parts of the world were able to communicate with each other and form a community – just like all listeners of a radio station can be seen as a group as well. I guess you could say that radio has been the world’s first social medium (along with the telegraph and telephone, but these are not typical mass media). Therefore, adding modern social media such as Twitter and Facebook to radio is a logical extension of the medium.
Develop compelling radio formats
If you aim to combine social events, social media and broadcast media into mass-appeal formats for your radio station, you might be interested in what 3FM in Holland has been doing successfully for a couple of years now. 3FM Serious Request is a multimedia charity radio marathon in the week before Christmas. Three jocks are being locked up for one week in a glass house, built in a Dutch city – like John de Mol‘s television format Big Brother on the radio. The 3FM-team plays request songs in exchange for listener donations on behalf of a Red Cross project. The whole event is covered 24/7 on-air and online.
Create mass-appeal audience involvement
When we talk about major promotions in radio, then this one hits a home run. Because for a full week, 3FM unites the country in the spirit of helping other people in the world. From a multinational that donates 100.000 Euros, to a 6-year-old girl that gives away her self-collected 10 Euros – all parts of society contribute to the good cause. In 2011, 3FM Serious Request reached 12 million people (82% of the population) while collecting 8,6 million Euros for the Red Cross – 1,5 million more than in the year before. Stations all over Europe and even in Africa have been adapting the social- and visual radio based format.
Build listener goodwill & commitment
The massive audience involvement during charity events like this one is a proof of radio’s social bonding power. It’s evident that radio is a companion, bringing people together by connecting with them. Successful stations use the power of radio to build a tribe. It’s amazing how loyal your core listeners are. They show their commitment when anyone touches their radio station. Just answer the phones after a format change!
Create interactive radio experiences
So we can say that radio is part of people’s (social) lives because our unique medium communicates directly on the personal and emotional level. Smart program directors and media companies understand that their radio station is a two-way street where you have traffic in both directions. Since the introduction of phone-ins (like in morning shows and on Talk radio stations) but especially since the rise of the Internet and social media, radio not only sends; it also receives – audiences not just listen, they also speak. Nowadays, something else is happening: the medium is becoming a part of a much larger platform than just ‘radio’.
Consider social media partnerships
America’s biggest radio owner Clear Channel seems to anticipate on the future at hand. Signals are the re-launch of the iHeart Radio player and recent rebrand of its Radio division into Media and Entertainment. CEO Bob Pittman explained at the D: Dive Into Media conference that Clear Channel teams up with social media like Facebook because their cultures match: radio is a party [article] of social interaction. In order to be social, you need human interaction and interesting content in between the songs and commercials. It’s what sets radio apart from non-stop music services such as Pandora, Spotify and iTunes.
Support audience driving personalities
This might be the reason why the media company secures long-term partnerships with audience magnetic personalities – embedding them in their talent portfolio for years to come. Indications are the creation of a Talent Development section within Clear Channel’s National Programming Platforms, and the investment in content development by TV and (nationally syndicated) radio host Ryan Seacrest, as announced at the end of January 2012.
Produce multi platform content
Bob Pittman thinks that radio is now a much broader service than it used to be. He says that his company aims to build media franchises instead of single brands or shows. In his opinion the consumer rules, and therefore content should be delivered to people in a way that they choose to consume it. In this respect it doesn’t matter whether people turn on their radio, television, computer or mobile device to access content.
Develop mobile & online concepts
It looks like today’s consumers love handy, mobile devices. During iMMovator’s Cross Media Café back in October 2010, we learned that in the Netherlands 50% of all devices that can be used to consume radio with are cell phones. The Dutch are well-connected: 90% of all households is using broadband Internet. About 50% of entertainment content is being sold online, and smart phones, tablets, laptops and mp3 players, as well as set-top boxes and television sets, show high numbers of sales.
Make radio always available
Many new communication devices are ready to stream cloud-based (not just playback locally stored) media content. In the wake of this, radio might evolve into a multimedia platform in addition to its terrestrial (analog and digital) broadcast model. And while immediacy will always be one of radio’s USPs, its content archive could be made available inside a web-based ‘radio cloud’ and start a second life there.
Start digital distribution partnerships
Online music stream services are in a way competing with radio, but why not make them an ally? Just like iTunes makes it possible to subscribe to podcasts, Spotify (and similar services) could distribute your station’s radio program as well – from archived content to live simulcasting. This is a great platform for radio to distribute additional stations apart from the main terrestrial broadcast channel. I see online music services like Spotify grow into modern stereo sets; giving us access to all kinds of audio content.
Extend on-air content online
Is there a shift going on from on-air to online? Young people are increasingly consuming audio & video through online platforms (especially social media) instead of traditional broadcast media. Inspired by the BBC iPlayer, Dutch public broadcaster NPO developed a media player that integrates text, audio, video, images and social network feeds. The 3FM Social Radio app is a great cross-promotion tool as well. It allows them to post links to related content and channels.
Keep radio apps free
Privately owned Radio 538 focuses on making money with music and entertainment. Online activities become increasingly important for the leading Dutch CHR station. Its web streams are doing well and the interest for their webstream channels and mobile apps is growing. Lesson learned: people expect that apps are free – 90% of the 538-audience downloads the standard free (instead of the premium paid) station’s app.
Give individuals specific content
The hit music station knows many things about core listeners and turns that into profitable concepts. Their 538 VIP panel (230.000 user profiles in October 2010) allows them to target very specific audiences with individual content and advertising. Individual users receive CD, concert ticket, clothing and other product offers that match with their personal lifestyle and interests. The next step is ‘My 538’, a personal, interactive radio station based on people’s personal profile.
Offer sponsors tailor-made solutions
Social radio, visual radio, personalized radio, multimedia platforms and digital distribution are today’s buzzwords. Now that the crowd is moving to the cloud, radio should create its own environment there. Building loyal communities and serving individual members is a big challenge, but necessary to take action upon today – as tomorrow’s listeners (and advertisers) want more from radio than just generic content (or a standard 30-second spot) on the broadcast channel that is aimed at everyone.
Make narrowcasting & tracking possible
For the radio industry (and advertisers) it seems that Internet Protocol based, digital platforms are the way to go. Because unlike terrestrial broadcasting, a online distribution offers two important possibilities: narrowcasting and tracking. IP based radio not only allows us to target spots towards an exactly defined audience (based on their similar user profiles) but also to measure the impact of commercials much more precisely.
Distribute content (also) independently
We radio people are specialists in creating audio content – and adding emotional value to it. So what should we do with all of the above? I would say: start partnerships with social media and music services, but: don’t become fully dependent on the Facebooks and Spotifys of this world. Instead, as a radio station (or as a radio industry) you may want to start your own social networks and your own platforms for content distribution as soon as possible!
- “Radio Future Is Multi Platform”
- Social Media Run The Radio Show
- “FM Radio Is Dead, Social Media First”
- Visual Radio: On The Wall (Not Wallpaper)
- Radio & Social Media: Postings Replace Postcards
- Facebook & Twitter For Radio Audience Interaction
- Clear Channel CEO Bob Pittman: “Radio Is A Party”
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