Monday, March 23, 2009

The WJMA Website – 344 Days Later

Longtime blog readers know that we’ve been keeping watch for the return of the WJMA radio website. The earlier version of the site was something of a textbook case of how one can miss the mark moving from one medium to another. And now, after a significant redesign, the site has been relaunched.

So how is it? On the whole, a major improvement.

The Home Page
The home page should make a good first impression -- and it does. All the important information is there – weather, cancellations, music news and an engaging poll question. All pluses. And there’s a calendar with regional events tied to it. Nice!

Across the top, there’s a scrolling picture display, interspersing country artist headshots with photos from the WJMA coverage area. It’s an effective way to tie the station into the locality. My only complaint is the scrolling, which very quickly started to annoy me. And that header is there on every single page. After a while, I had to fight the urge to bail on the site just to make the *#($&@ scrolling stop. I ended up pulling the window down so the header wasn’t visible. Not sure if that’s the solution the station hoped for.

WJMA Country Club
There’s now something for the listeners. WJMA now has a County Club which, in exchange for registration (read: valuable marketing info for the station) you can become eligible for exclusive offers, contests, etc. Very smart.

Disc Jockey Pages
The air-talent page has a little bit of misstep – the main page has the schedule, but no links to the individual bios. That’s about a five-minute fix. The jocks’ bio pages look good. There’s a way on JD’s page to submit birthday notices (gathering more marketing data, very smart). Unfortunately, the “E-Mail J.D. here” text is just that. There’s no link (that’s another five-minute fix).

The news tab has some good features. In addition to the bio of newscaster Phil Goodwin, there’s also a place to submit story ideas. Good interactivity.

The sports page is just a collection of links to the sports team websites of the various schools (the Orange County High School link is currently broken – another five-minute fix). It would be nice if there was a scoreboard with all the local scores aggregated, but this is a good start.

And it looks like they’ll be podcasting their news. I’ll definitely check that out and report on them in another post.

Local Photos
There’s a photo section – another great opportunity for local content. It’s not clear where the images are coming from, though. And there doesn’t appear to be a way for listeners to submit images (which I would recommend reviewing before publication). Another suggestion – how about some picture captions and tagging? Get some SEO going here!

The Community Section
The community pages look good. There’s info on local events, ways for organizations to submit announcements, and a list (with links) of area charities, schools and organizations.

There’s also additional content for country music fans, such as artist links and music news.

And the new website makes it easy to contact account representatives for advertising (they even have e-mail addresses now).

At the bottom of the page, there are logos for Piedmont Communication’s other radio stations, SAM 105.5 and AM1340 WCVA. Don’t bother clicking on them, though – they just go to the WJMA homepage.

All in all, a very nice, professional-looking website. I’m not sure if it was worth a year’s wait, especially as it appears to be somewhat an off-the-shelf solution. But for new listeners and potential advertisers, it presents WJMA in a very good light – and that’s really what counts.

The only thing I find surprising is the lack of ads. Hopefully, they won’t eventually clutter it up like a NASCAR driver’s jumpsuit, but a few well-placed ads should generate a decent amount of traffic. I’ll check in from time to time and see how it develops.

And that’s the end of the WJMA web watch.

- Ralph

You know, I outlined a lot of this back in 2007 "Creating Compelling Content," "Ted Mack's Original Website," "Radio Websites -- Odds and Ends" et al. Wonder if I should submit a bill for consulting?

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