past three posts, we've been looking at radio websites and how to improve them, using our local station, WJMA as a case study.
We've looked at how to build unique and compelling content, and how to monitize it. So how does WJMA get people to come to this wonderful new website when there are millions of others they could go to?
Simple. Integrate the URL into the station's branding, and integrate the site into the station's broadcast content. Let's look at those two ideas in detail.
Integrate the URL into the station's branding
WJMA has a pretty simple URL, which helps greatly -- WJMAFM.com. This URL should be on every bumpersticker, every promotional cap or T-shirt, every scrap of stationary, every business card, and anything else that bears the company logo. This form of publicity is pretty standard, but it's amazing how often businesses miss opportunities by thinking of the URL as a separate -- rather than an integral -- part of their branding.
WJMA has an additional advantage. It's a radio station. Every time an announcer opens the mike the URL should be mentioned. Now notice that I did NOT list the URL as "www.WJMAFM.com." Newcomers to the whole Interwebtubie thing carefully include the three dubs in every web address. And sometimes, bless their little hearts, they even include "http colon backslash backslash."
None of this is really necessary. Just say "WJMAFM.com" and move on. At the very least, the URL should be in every station ID and every positioning statement.
Integrate the site into the station's content
The biggest mistake many broadcasters (and other businesses) make is thinking of their website as something separate from their core business. It's not. The public doesn't think so. Increasingly, the website is a potential customer's first impression of the company.
A radio station owner may think they're a broadcaster, but that concept went out with the previous century. In the 21st century, a radio station with a website is a content provider. Some of that content are appropriate for the Internet only, some for on-air broadcast only. But the successful stations will create an increasing amount that uses both channels. Here're some specific examples.
1) Audience participation
Move call-in polls to the website. Setting up an on-line poll is pretty simple, and it's an easy way to drive traffic to the site. Ask for audience opinions. Have the listeners vote "thumbs up/thumbs down" on songs the station's considering adding to its playlist -- that's like getting focus group info for free!
"Battle of the bands" can be good, too. Have two new songs square off against each other on Monday, with listeners voting online. The winner's up against a new song on Tuesday, and that winner against another song on Wednesday, and on through the week, until the big finale on Friday. "American Idol" and similar programs have demonstrated the appeal of this kind of audience participation.
Here're some examples of how to do this on-air. Note to the webmaster -- the poll should be either on the front page or there should be a big button linking to its page. Make it easy to find!
"So what do you think about this new proposal to expand Route 29? Yea or nay? Vote and give us your opinion at WJMAFM.com."
"Who's going to take the Richmond 500 this weekend? Jeff Gordon or Jimmie Johnson? Let us know at WJMAFM.com." [For polls with a big response, the dj could report on it from time to time, keeping the interest up and web traffic brisk. "Gordon's ahead in our poll by about 2 to 1 over Johnson right now. Do you think Gordan can take the Richmond 500? Vote now at WJMAFM.com. We'll announce the final results at 8:35."]
"Got a new track from the Dixie Bee-Liners coming up next. Is it hot, or is it not? Let us know at WJMAFM.com" [Perhaps a 10-second clip could be posted with the poll so voters could listen again. This would be especially helpful if two songs are competing.]
And of course, these polls are also opportunities for sponsorship as well.
2) Additional information
Use the website to cut PSA clutter. Every station's received long-winded announcements that just make for bad radio if read in their entirety. Trim the message to the core, and put the rest online. Here's an example:
"And the FunRun to support the Red Cross happens this Saturday morning in Rapidan. See the Hardee's community bulletin board at WJMAFM.com for more information." [The website post would have the sign-up info, contacts, Red Cross URL, and all the other information provided by the organizers.]
"Orange takes on the Fluvanna Flucos in basketball action this Friday night. For game time and a complete listing of regional sports, check out the WJMA scoreboard at WJMAFM.com, sponsored by Faulconer Hardware."
"So we got an e-mail in from Patsy K. who's really hot about slow drivers. She says, "I've got to drive Rt. 231 to get to work. It's a two-lane road, with almost no opportunities to pass. Is it too much to ask drivers to at least drive five miles under the limit? C'mon, pick up the pace! Some of these geezers drive so slow I don't know if I'll even make it to work before we close!" I know how you feel, Patsy -- that's one of the nice things about getting to the station at five in the morning. I only have to worry about deer -- and at least, they move fast! Got something you want to vent about? Let us know. Go to 'Here's the beef' at WJMAFM.com and gets it off your chest. ' And if we read your beef on the air, you'll receive a gift certificate from Hardee's."
These are just a few examples, but there's many more -- as many as there are features on the site.
So will this help WJMA? I don't know. It depends on what they decide to do with the information (they may not even be aware this discussion is going on). We'll have some indication, though, when this page no longer looks like this, and (heaven help us) this page no longer looks like this (both screen shots were taken November 28, 2007).