Should you focus on delighting your audiences, rather than monetisation?

Sunday 14 May, 2017
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Radio Tomorrow with James Cridland

I spent last week, partially, at the Worldwide Radio Summit in Los Angeles. This is the most interesting US broadcast radio conference I’ve been to - focusing much more on music programming than on business, sales and technology. My congratulations to the AllAccess team who put this together.

Seeing and hearing the assault of commercial messages when I landed in Los Angeles reminded me of the massive difference in cultures between Europe and the US: particularly in my up-bringing.

When I grew up, in the 1970s and early 1980s, we had only three television channels. Two of which were from the BBC, and contained no advertising at all. Our family were one of those who found the programs on ITV - the only commercial channel - held little interest and we rarely watched it.

I lived in the West Country of England at the time, in Somerset. The only radio stations were the four national BBC services, and no local BBC radio station that was aimed at us (I think BBC Radio Bristol might have been available, but Bristol was an hour’s drive away and was mostly irrelevant). Commercial radio in the UK only started in 1973, and we didn’t yet have a commercial station in our area.

I was driven to school listening to Terry Wogan on BBC Radio 2 - a station that played much more soporific music than it does now. The kitchen radio was permanently tuned to BBC Radio 4, the BBC’s speech station containing news and current affairs, comedy and drama. I occasionally discovered BBC Radio 1 on my own transistor radio; the first songs I remember hearing from the radio being Kate Bush and the Boomtown Rats. I was a bit too young for Radio Luxembourg, which must have been commercially-funded (though I don’t remember hearing any ads on it other than for Ayds diet pills - if you wanted to lose weight, you should get Ayds apparently, advice I doubt would work today).

In rural Somerset, I don’t remember a single advertising billboard.

This all sounds quaint and old-fashioned: but it wasn’t, really, that long ago. Many countries and cultures are similar, even now.

In New Zealand, all commercial advertising is banned over Easter weekend, I discovered the other week: spots, sponsorship and even mentions of TV shows and brands are not allowed. Ads in and around children’s programming is banned in many countries, including Belgium. In many parts of Scandinavia, public service commercial-free radio has over 75% market share. Europeans are subject to far fewer commercial messages overall than the US.

So perhaps this is why, when I hear about another tool to help you cram commercial messages onto RDS, or hear people proudly talking about selling ads in radio station Facebook pages, my natural inclination is to want to avoid adding yet more cacophony of commercial messages into listeners’ lives.

Radio is best at monetising its on-air audience. The effect of raising your station’s market share, and thus your ad revenue, delivers real benefit to the bottom line: your station carries a ton of fixed costs that don’t change no matter how many listeners you have, so a 20% increase in audience might mean a doubling in profits. Futzing around with Facebook isn’t going to ever do that.

So, I’d use social media, RDS and other platforms and tools to delight and attract your audience, and monetise your radio station’s output. That is where your uniqueness, focus and expertise is. Turning an occasional listener into a regular listener is the easiest and fastest way to achieve uplift in your audience figures, and social media can really help. Anything that gets in the way of delighting and attracting audience is the wrong thing to do, in my opinion.

But then, given my upbringing, I would say that, wouldn’t I?
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PS: If I can attempt to delight you for a second - I have a weekly newsletter containing trends from radio across the world. I’d love for you to get it: it’s free, and if you’re a regular reader of my column here, you should be a regular reader there, too. You can sign up at http://james.crid.land

 

About The Author

James Cridland is a radio futurologist: a writer, speaker and consultant on the effect that new platforms and technology are having on the radio business across the world.

A former radio presenter, James has worked for stations and companies across the world, including the original Virgin Radio in London, the BBC, Futuri Media, Imagination Technologies and Seven Network. He has judged many industry awards, including the CBAA, ABC Local Radio, RAIN and the UK's ARIAS.

He writes for publications across the world, and runs media.info the worldwide media information website. He also runs a free weekly newsletter with news of radio's future.  

British by birth, James lives in Brisbane, QLD and is a fan of craft beer.

 

 

 

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