Your Website Sucks

“What’s the use of running if you are not on the right road?” – German proverb

But don’t worry, so do most radio station websites

Ever spent a few hours looking at radio websites? It’s boring, mind-numbing, and depressing. It’s amazing how similar they are. Boxy, crowded and ineffective. Almost all are web 1.0, even though other media are all talking about Web 2.0. Almost none are strategic.

A web strategy means being intentional about the design. But most of us design for looks over function, and a “I want one of those” process. We want cool new widgets, and design for pretty.  What we don’t do is design for results.

The success of your web site isn’t about how pretty it is or how many flashy things it has.  It’s about how intentional you’re being with what you want people visiting your web site to be, and how they’re actually responding.  You could be surprised at where they go and how long they hang around.  Google has a full suite of free tools for helping with this, including Google Optimizer that let’s you test several versions of a web page at the same time.

You best bet is to find a web strategist.  No, that’s not me, that’s a specialist who can help you make sure you’re getting the most from your web site, and help you determine some of the metrics you need to be aware of.

In the end, though, you just need to be sure you’re being strategic about your web site, and not just focusing on pretty and “cool.”

Less Is Still More

“Simplicity means the achievement of maximum effect with minimum means.” – Albert Einstein

Everyone likes to agree with the less is more philosophy… except when it comes to their web site. Then we become Andrea True fans, and start singing, “More, More, More.”  There are so many flashing boxes and rolling texts, along with so many static elements you feel overwhelmed. People will tell you that’s because we need them for sales, but that doesn’t do much justice for the client, does it? We’ve already invented the web version of “too many commercials.” I’m so proud.

Like radio itself, we may have forgotten that the “less is more” concept has less to do with us than it does our listeners. Their lives are so busy and fast-paced that they don’t have time to pay as much attention as we think. We’re not simply battling for share of listening any more, we’re fighting for share of attention. Yes, they can be listening to you and still not be hearing you.

Jumping back to the web, most stations seem to think the over-communicating concept doesn’t need to apply to their web page. They’re so boxy and busy that it’s hard to follow even I’d you’re looking for something. But boy, are there a lot of cool widgets and effects.  Who needs strategy when you can have a talking cartoon come on when someone arrives at the site?  Bottom line is the web sites are much more about us and our needs than anything to do with a listener.

In the rush to monetize the web we’ve created sites that are so ineffective that we have to give them away as “added value.”  (That’s radiospeak for “free stuff.”)  The focus on the dollar is so strong that we don’t care what the consumer, let alone the fans, want.

That’ll work well.

The less is more application to your web is simple. Less clutter and less flasiness. More focus on your P1’s and what they want, less focus on the size of your cume.  That’s part of the new marketing philosophy people like Seth Godin are talking about.  The 20% of people who give you 80% of your success.  Find out what’s important to them, and make sure they have it.

Seeing The Future

“The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?” –  David Sarnoff’s associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s

If another radio person tells me social media and Web 2.0 have no future because they can’t be monetized, I may have this David Sarnoff quote tattooed on my forehead.  The radio industry itself began in the early 1900’s with a maverick group of people who focused on content, knowing they’d find a way to make it commercially viable.

The mistake we’ve made in the past 10 years is putting the emphasis on the commercial aspect instead of the content one.  What other industry would be so focused on making money that they’d forget the need to have consumers drawn to them.  Without compelling content you can’t have a commercial success.  I’m reminded of my friend Walter Sabo saying to a group of radio people a time back, “With consolidation the sales people all said it was their time, that sales needed to be the primary driver in radio.  How’s that working for you?”

Unfortunately, you can’t create powerful content by laying off the creative people.  All we’ve done with eliminating airstaff and PD’s is reduced the creative gene pool.  We have good, creative people left, but they’re often without the tools to be creative.  Hard to brainstorm and invent when you’re overseeing five stations and voice tracking three.

So now we turn to new technology as our saviour, a technology driven by frequently updated, compelling content.  What’s wrong with this picture?

Hey guys at the top, have you really looked at our history over the past 10 years?  Do you really understand that creativity is what drove radio to it’s success, and that your ignorance of it is what’s hurting it?  Can you finally admit that creativity can’t be programmed into a spreadsheet, and that it’s sometimes odd and messy?

Compelling radio does send a message, but instead of no one, it’s sent to millions every moment.  When we treat them right listeners do respond, and the message is relevant, relatable, and welcomed.  When we ignore them they don’t pay attention and look for alternate media to invest their time with.

Time for a choice.  Can we see the problem we now face is of our own doing, and undo it?  Or are we going to ride the entire industry into the ground?