Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Communications Community

Day two of the Public Radio Development and Marketing Conference, and again important concepts are being discussed that are relevant to other businesses that rely on an Internet component.

Today the big recurring theme was community. Public radio has been generally more adept at creating a community of supporters out of their audience than commercial radio. Part of it's the nature of the media. Commercial radio derives income from advertisers -- the audience is only important because the bigger the audience, the higher the ad rates.

Since public radio relies on direct contributions from its audience for part of its funding, its had to develop a closer relationship with its listeners so they feel invested in the station so they can, well, invest in the station through their donations.

Social communities are becoming increasingly important in growing web traffic, as recommendations from friends weigh heavier than promotional pieces. Because public radio's dealt with community building for some time, the big question is how to translate that skill to Internet community building.

For many commercial stations, the concept of community building is a foreign one (and it's more than just a radio "listener's club").

Getting Internet coupons is groovy, but that doesn't build a community. A business can develop an Internet community around it by delivering valuable content to its members. The actual content can be anything -- online flash games, blogs, video clips, even Internet coupons. Huh? But didn't I just say...?

I did. But here's the critical piece that pubcasters are getting sooner than most. Whatever content is offered, whatever additional benefits the business offers, they have to reflect the values of the community it's trying to serve. The businesses that can do that will develop a loyal community of listeners/customers because their actions say they "get it." They understand what that community is all about.

Public radio development directors are getting it down here in Orlando. How about the businesses where you are?

- Ralph

Day 33 of the WJMA Web Watch.

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