Help! Digital Growth Is Eating My Ratings
by Tracy Johnson
Good news! Radio stations are doing a better job of engaging listeners online and in social media. And there’s more and more content available to consume online. This is fantastic. But at the same time, many programmers are worrying that digital strategies are eating my ratings.
If you’re making your show readily available on demand, could it be cannibalizing your on-air product?
What Is Eating My Ratings? Not Digital
There’s no definitive study that I know of that’s examined this question, but there’s evidence that supports the idea that the more your content is exposed on all platforms the more popular it becomes on each individual platform.
In other words, as one goes up, the others also rise.
This may seem counter-intuitive, but it really does make sense. As your content is made available online, it’s exposed to a broader audience. As they are exposed to more content, your brand becomes more significant, increasing the urgency to listen to the live show.
That’s why television networks are making their best moments available in bite-size chunks on YouTube. If you missed SNL, you can still get the best moments on Sunday morning with a couple of clicks. No DVR, no commercials. Easy!
That convenience may not help the live Saturday night ratings for that one segment, but there’s a marketing value gained. The more people who watch and talk about highlights, the greater the brand value. And that tends to lift the top of mind awareness of the show. And in turn, higher tune in.
How Much Is Too Much?
Of course, there are many variables that affect online success. In some cases, stations are promoting content that should never be promoted. If you’re putting out weak material, you’re concern that “digital is eating my ratings” is more about serving weak content.
Only expose your very best material. Promote the hits. Many radio shows upload everything online. This is too much to consume. Who wants to sit through your whole show? There’s a reason SNL uploads their highlights in short segments. And there’s a reason their best moments are more prominent. Get the hint?
When you load your whole show, it exposes everything, including your weaker material, and why would you want that?
Plus, it’s not nearly as promotable. Which is a more powerful message:
Listen to our whole show from Tuesday
The funniest moment from Tuesday morning: the 7:20 Phone Scam
Did you answer #2? Good. Choose only your best moments. And you probably only have one or two real highlights each day.
Make it Easy to Find And Share
The next important consideration is making your contest easy to access. Some stations bury the audio deep in their site. If I have to click on the menu for Shows, Then for Morning Show, then Today’s Show, and then find the segment, it’s too much work.
Even if I’m looking for it, I often give up before I find it.
Since it’s your best content, promote it. Make it prominent with a link on your home page that goes right to the landing page for that “Best Moment” audio. Follow that up with posts, tweets, instant messages, notifications and email alerts.
It’s not enough just to put it out there and hope listeners find it. You have to promote it!
Build in sharing tools so listeners can spread the word to their friends and social networks. This exposes your very best material to a new audience and could lead to a new tune in occasion.
If it’s truly great content, boosting a Facebook post is a great tactic. That can enhance traffic and, with proper targeting, steal a few listeners from a close competitor. It only costs a few dollars to drive more sampling of your show.
Promote Tune in
At the end of the online audio, add a short promo to drive tune in to your on-the-air show. If the audio is part of a feature, promote the specific times it airs. This helps build the mini-brand and could convert some of those hearing you for the first time into fans.
Still not convinced? Set an expiration date on all digital audio and video. Some personalities fear that if they make too much content available, the incentive to listen live is lowered. And it could hurt ratings.
This is a valid concern. Let’s say you run a daily feature like Tough Love With Siri. It’s a big hit, but if you keep adding episodes online, eventually the archives on your site become so deep that online listeners can be satisfied just by listening to your archives.
That’s why it’s important to set a time limit for listening to on-demand content. In PPM markets, online listening counts as ratings credit if it’s within 24 hours of the original airing.
This is a great ratings hack.
But after 24 hours, you get no credit. So take the audio down and replace it with new material. Yes, it’s a couple of extra steps each day, but isn’t that worth it to drive ratings, increase immediacy of your brand and limit over-exposure?
Add a Pay Wall
Maybe you want to make your best content available to your biggest fans forever. That makes sense. It’s part of how you build a fan base. But you should get some value in return.
If your content is strong and the listener base is large, consider limiting your archives, making only the most recent show available for free. But all of your archives can be accessed behind a pay wall.
This is similar to a VIP club created by personalities like Rush Limbaugh, Free Beer & Hot Wings and Phil Hendrie. They have developed a successful revenue stream from previous audio archives.
This can be a great strategy for shows with a large and passionate fan base. If you fit this description and would like to discuss the potential, contact me. I can hook you up with the folks that will make it happen for no out-of-pocket costs.
There are ndications that making your audio more accessible builds momentum for your content, best features and brand. Engagement in online content is often a leading indicator for increased over-the-air listening.
There’s certainly the risk that some will listen less to your on-air radio show, but if managed well and promoted aggressively, there is far more to gain than lose. If you’re one of those that’s worried about digital eating my ratings, stop. Be proactive and use it to your advantage.
Tracy Johnson specializes in radio talent coaching, radio consulting for programming and promotions and developing digital strategies for brands.