lack-luster website of our local radio station WJMA, I outlined three ways for a radio station to build a strong Internet presence and start generating revenue from it. As promised, here's a closer look at the first point -- creating compelling content.
To generate traffic, there has to be a reason to come to the site, and there has to be a fresh reason to come every day. There are two basic ways to do this:
1. Re-purpose the station's existing content
2. Create new web-only content
Neither of these is especially difficult, especially if there's someone on staff who's primary purpose is updating and maintaining the site content.
Re-purpose the station's existing content
PSAs (Public Service Announcements)
Radio stations receive a steady stream of PSAs from local charities, community music groups, high school organizations, churches, and various other groups. All these groups want to get the word out about their event.
Every single one of these announcements should go to the radio station website in a community bulletin board. It can be a straightforward listing, one after the other in chronological order, updated daily by the webmaster. A calendar in a sidebar would be very helpful, too. Just click on a date a see what's happening that day. And of course, any web address given should be a live link to the organization's site.
A properly maintained online community bulletin board can be a useful asset.
News and Information
Not everyone has a news department, but WJMA does. Why not recycle the broadcast news on the web? I'm not talking about streaming -- I mean really repurposing the content for a different media.
The national and state news Goodwin reads from various news agencies have no value online -- one can get that information straight from the source. What is of interest is the unique content Goodwin provides.
For example, Goodwin reports on an Orange County Board of Supervisor's meeting and uses some actualities (soundbites) during the newscast. That segment should be posted to the WJMA news page on the website as an MP3. It should also be carefully tagged, with the date, the subject, the names of everyone used in the actualities, and the name of the reporter.
Right now those reports are heard once and forgotten. Posting them online just adds value to the station's website.
J.D. Slade now does the morning show on WJMA. And if it's anything like his last stint at the station, the show should be funny and entertaining. I'm assuming the station can do airchecks (that is, have a setup that automatically records when the mike gets turned on, and stops when the mike turns off).
So take the best bits and post them to the site as MP3s. Even if there are only a couple of segments a week worth posting, it won't be long before the station's website has a nice collection of J.D.'s funniest moments.
Bits from other announcers can be posted as well. It can be very effective if there's an in-studio guest. Although listeners might miss the interview when it's broadcast, they can always revisit it online. And once WJMA has several of those posted, they'll have an impressive roster of names that show how important the station really is.
Create new web-only contentThis does not have to be a daunting task. Here're some suggestions.
Start a station blog
Give the webmaster authority to crack the whip, and open it to everyone at the station. So what should go in this blog?
1. Best bits from the shows (see above). The DJ should set up the sound clip, which would be inserted into the blog entry.
Ex. "Something totally unexpected happened this morning when I was talking to a caller. I know what she meant to say, but what she said was something else! [insert mp3 link here]."
2. New music/features. The program director/music director could talk about new music or a new feature. Again, it can be short but it will help promote the station.
Ex. "Next week we start a new program "Nashville Now" on Sunday mornings. The show will keep you up to date on what's happening in country music. Listen for it 10:00 every Sunday beginning this weekend."
Ex. "WJMA just added the new song by Kenny Chesney. It's the first tune off his new album and represents a return to his country music roots. Listen for the debut of "Walk Away, Rene" on J.D. Slade's show during the 9:00 hour tomorrow morning."
Any time the station does a live remote, or a charity event, someone should be taking as many digital pictures as possible. Use the best two in a blog post, and create a page for the rest of them.
Ex. "FunRun 07 was a huge success! WJMA was there in force, and over $10,000 was raised to fight cancer. Here's the WJMA crew hamming it up after the race [insert picture here]. Joe Smith was the winner, with an impressive time of 1:05:02 [insert picture here]. Check out our events page for all the fun! [link to the appropriate events page here].
Aggregation and Conversation
A simple way to have fresh content is to employ an aggregator on the station website. If you look over at the right sidebar of this blog, you'll see the latest tech news headlines, courtesy of Digg.com. Some of these services (like Digg.com) are free, and some are available for a fee. Either way, once the aggregator's in place, the site will have up to date headlines without any work from the station staff. And you avoid embarrassing things like having a blank headlines page with a date two weeks out of date.
Sean Tubbs of the Charlottesville Podcasting Network posted some excellent suggestions about getting content from outside providers. That's another great source, and Sean's post demonstrated another effective -- and important -- way to generate fresh content.
Radio broadcasts are one-way transmissions: I send, you receive. A website, however, can provide two-way conversations: I post, you comment, I respond, others chime in. And when folks post comments, they're showing that they're interested in your content.
Many old media websites offer free content but require a sign-in process to collect demographic data. This slows the conversation to a trickle. While you need to have some kind of simple screening process to prevent spam in your comment fields, the conversation should be open to all.
There's plenty of programs (some free) that provide data about your website's traffic (we use Statcounter.com). That's the information you should be concerned about.
When I wrote about the recent Board of Supervisors race, local traffic shot way up. Within two posts I knew what keywords would bring in Orange County readers. I also knew where they were coming from -- several came from the public school system's server, suggesting school board related topics might increase that traffic. I also knew what time of day they were reading, and how long they were spending on the site, suggesting the optimal post time as well as best text length. In other words, everything I needed to know to grow that segment of our readership.
Almost every page should have room for comments. And these should be read carefully. They'll suggest directions the site should grow in. Several posts on this blog were directly inspired by comments from readers.
Everything posted should be available forever (with the exception of old PSAs). The more content a station has, the more it appears to be a going concern. Plus, the more chances people will find something they're looking for.
Here's a real-life example. On this blog, I talked about HD Radio on QVC back in early September. Last week I started seeing an upswing in traffic. The post showed on a site collecting stories about HD Radio on November 21. So something I wrote two months ago is now driving traffic to our site.
If that post wasn't still available, it wouldn't have happened. So keep that content available. You don't know when someone will be looking for that Board of Supervisors meeting actuality, or something about FunRun 07 or that crazy thing that happened on the morning show a few weeks back.
OK, so say WJMA has their site packed with all this valuable and unique content. How do they make it pay?