Investing In Revenue

“As opposed to trying to attract millions of eyeballs and monetize them with ads, branded social networks are less about profitability and more about creating loyal and engaged customers that will ultimately create revenue in more conventional ways.” – Adam Ostrow

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The conversation around radio stations eventually seems to wind up in a discussion of how to monitize digital media.  The answer eludes most radio people, because the idea of building loyalty and creating engagement, and then earning from that, doesn’t make sense.  Interesting, since that’s how radio was designed to be “monitized.”

Some time ago most of our efforts were to not only get people to listen, but to be as loyal as possible.  We wanted to build fans, not just listenership.  Over time, especially after the joys of consolidation, it became a battle for “ears” instead of a battle for hearts and minds.  Instead of being a way to more effectively reach people on a personal level, digital media is in danger of becomming another way to sell things to people.

This isn’t one of those, “why can’t it be like the old days” rants.  Instead, it’s a call to arms for those who still understand that the battle lies far beyond the ear.  Digital and social media don’t need to be a replacement for radio, they can actually be integrated into our plans as a compliment to radio, part of the larger media pallet we all need.  But it requires alternate thinking.

First, we have to understand that both radio and digital media are built on fans, not just listeners.  PPM results show the same thing, with the majority of listenership coming from P1’s instead of listeners.  I know there’s a school of thought that radio is simply cume based, but a radio station of a large base of listeners, without any fans, is useless when it comes to making money.  Success lies in the careful relationship between cume and P1, not just one or the other.

I’m going to step out here and suggest that, just as revenue used to be (and probably still is) a by-product of compelling programming, digital media income will be a by-product of compelling digital media.

There’s no empirical research to show this yet, but I’m willing to bet it’s the hardcore fans of a radio station that move product for the clients.  Occasional listeners, especially those we find spending one hour or less with the station, aren’t helping much at all.

How Are You Doing In RLRT?

“If a brand is to really make a connection and to spark word of mouth, they must speak to the customer like a friend.” – John Moore

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You know, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and the others can be quite seductive. You post something, get some responses, a few forwards and it feels like you’ve really accomplished something. And you probably do accomplish…something. But we don’t yet understand what a “like” means or if “thumbs up” means more listening.  At a recent radio conference Mark Ramsey reviewed a study that showed no correlation between Facebook likes and success.

In books like The Passion Conversation” and “Face To Face,” and several independent research studies, it becomes clear that over 80% of word of mouth conversations happen in RLRT, or “Real Life, Real Time.”  That should get your attention.

So instead of social media it’s digital interaction, and the smart people will be planning for the bigger picture rather than just the smaller picture one.  Effective must overcome easy.

I know online interaction is easier to do, and I know it reaches a lot of users, but it overlooks the human or people part of the equation. The more effective interactions come from people to people efforts.

When Brant Hanson of Air1 decided to have the staff and band greet the listeners as they arrived for a concert, walking down a red carpet to their seats, that was human social interaction. Those people didn’t just attend, they bonded. When country stations do backyard barbecues with artists, they’re not just getting together for food, they’re bonding in a human way.

If you haven’t read “The Passion Conversation” you need to. It’s written by an acquaintance of mine, and someone I’ve talked about in the past, John Moore, along with some really smart people from a group called Brains On Fire.  It really is about building passion, and that happens most often in RLRT.

Roads To Nowhere

“If you don’t know where you’re going you might wind up somewhere else.” – Yogi Berra

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I was cruising along the freeway on one of those amazing “sun break” Friday’s in Seattle when I saw a freeway exit that didn’t go anywhere.  It was just a blocked off dead-end exit ramp.  There was a lot of poor government planning and financial problems involved, but being a fan of metaphors I couldn’t help think about radio’s future.

I’ve been involved in a major project since January looking at Millennials, and it’s very sobering.  There are a lot of stories in the trades about the reach radio has with that generation, but you don’t see a lot of them talking about their shrinking TSL.  You don’t see any articles about their use of radio in context with their use of other media.  It’s as if we boomers don’t know any Millennials or see their actual media use.

These people are digital natives, and are in almost continual use of media, averaging around 11 hours a day.  But they are multi-media consumers, not single media consumers.  Considering radio’s financial model, that’s disconcerting.

There are plenty of off ramps on the media highway, but we’re not using them for what they are.  All of our social media, community building, video and such, is built around reinforcing radio, not complimenting it.  The answers are there, but someone needs to act on them.

The cool part about the coming convergence between digital and media is that those startup costs are much less than buying a major market signal.  Again, the answers are there, but someone needs to act on them.

Social Media & Politics

“Humans like to know about the good, the bad, and the ugly side of people, places, and situations, as well as to share this information with others, often as quickly as possible.”  – Lon Safko and David Brake in The Social Media Bible

How does the political arena see social media?  An explanation from the recent issue of Campaigns & Issues:

Down Home Digital: Minding Your Social Media

By Steve Pearson and Ford O’Connell

While everyone is trying to figure out the changing media landscape or even what to call it, we can agree that a campaign’s ability to share information online—via blogging, e-mailing, twittering, social networking, video sharing, etc.—represents a growing opportunity to shape public perception to its advantage. How much of this potential can be realized is up to the campaign. That pretty much sums up the fundamental difference between “traditional media” and “new media”—no one is waiting to receive your press release in the new media. You’re on your own.

Despite the doom and gloom headlines, the traditional media haven’t disappeared or become less important to a campaign. However, how traditional news organizations identify what to cover has changed dramatically. There are a lot fewer producers, editors, and reporters to read your press releases (if anyone was ever reading them to begin with). The new media channels available to your campaign are becoming the gateway to traditional media coverage. If reporters can see your campaign in the blogs and on social networks, it’s easier for them to believe you have a story worthy covering.

Even before the traditional media pick up your story, these new media channels have their own value— not the least important being that campaigns can more directly shape their own stories. If you’re not convinced of the value of defining the storyline, think for a moment about the scenario where your opponent uses new media to paint your campaign in an unflattering light. Without the editorial filters of traditional media, rumors and perceptions can become established “truth” and require overwhelming effort to beat them down with facts. Unlike expensive attack ads or direct mail, even the smallest campaign or interest group can create a blog or Web site to draw attention to their point of view.

The blurring of the lines between “official” news sites, established political bloggers, campaign blogs, and even individual activists with personal blogs makes it even more important for your campaign to get ahead of the 24-hour news cycle and lay the groundwork for your story in advance. When it becomes difficult for voters to distinguish between a story with fully vetted facts and a personal vendetta based on half-truths, you do not want to be playing defense. We all know how voters tend to be more receptive to news that reinforces their initial opinion. Now that the hurdle to publishing and distributing “news” has been lowered, you want to be making the first moves to lay out the path for your campaign’s story, rather than scrambling to undo a story that has already taken on a life of its own.

Unlike your personal use of blogging and social media, which for most folks just “goes with the flow,” your campaign should follow a more programmed approach. This will change over the course of the campaign as you introduce yourself, expand your network, encourage donations, and make the final push to get out the vote. Not that you need to script out every tweet from now until November, but your campaign should plan the broad themes and timing of what it wants to communicate. For example, if you are presenting the candidate as an expert on a specific issue, a regular series of blog posts supported by e-mail newsletters, Facebook posts, and Twitter alerts with links to the blog might work. If you are trying to present the candidate as connected with the everyday lives of constituents, then posting a daily photo of the candidate at breakfast or a local event with voters might be the way to go.

One thing you don’t have to worry about is repeating yourself. You see everything that goes on your Web site or Facebook page; but the voters will see only a fraction of what you publish. This isn’t television or radio where you repeat the exact same ad to hit a ratings point target, but you can come back to the same points every day. Just use different examples to illustrate the point you want to make. The easiest way to keep your message authentic and fresh is to draw from your daily campaign activities. To do this effectively, you’ll want to include your entire team in the process when thinking about how to present the candidate via social media. If the person accompanying the candidate remembers to snap the right photo, if the person organizing an event promotes it on Twitter, if the video team produces cuts for the Web, you have a better shot of pushing out information that your supporters will appreciate—and share, which, at the end of the day, is the whole point of this social media thing.

Steve Pearson is president of CivicNEXT, which provides practical networking, communications, and fundraising solutions for political campaigns and organizations. Ford O’Connell, a 2010 Rising Star, is president of ProjectVirginia, winner of the 2010 Reed Award for Best Use of Twitter and whose blog reports on “Where Politics Meets Social Media.”