By Chris Miller
Chris Miller Digital
SHAKER HEIGHTS — Saga Communications made the news this past Wednesday when they anointed their program directors as “brand managers.” Saga’s executive vice president, Steve Goldstein, issued a memo that you read in RadioInfo. It read, in part, “We’ve been thinking about how successful programmers are morphing their skills to become proficient at not just managing the on-air product, but the overall brand. And conversely, it has exposed the vulnerability of program directors who are not learning and growing as we become more digital.”
So, congratulations, brand managers! For you, and everyone who is doing that brand manager job with a program director title, come look into my crystal ball and view the future.
The New TSL
I’m convinced that before too long, you will be judged on how much time people are spending with your entire brand. Not just your broadcast, but all the platforms that you manage. Smart clients who want to talk with your target will correctly view all your pieces as one brand, of which your broadcast is still a major part … but it’s just one part.
You will come to view your job as not only managing the content on your platforms, but integrating it so that people move seamlessly from one platform to another. It’s like a three-dimensional version of recycling listeners from one day part to another. You’ll need to understand just what people are using your platforms for; they’re already not seeing them as just places to get more content. You’ll learn just what content or apps move people most effectively from one platform to another. You’ll learn how to talk to those people in the right tone (writing online is not the same as writing for on the air).
The New Ratings
Every click is trackable. There are no ratings estimates! You know exactly what your fans are doing online, and where they go. You also will know a lot more about who’s using you than you do now.
Furthermore, you own the data. You don’t buy it from a third party; you’ll see for yourself how you’re doing as a brand manager. Then, the sales department can use that same data to create new digital stories about your target, how they spend massive amounts of time with you, and how that turns into results for clients.
Remember, too, that while the number of people using our digital offerings is on the small side now, that audience is growing. Fast. Just in the last year and a half, mobile use of media has caused an explosion of stream listening. That number will keep growing. At some point in the future, the number of stream listeners will eclipse the number of broadcast listeners.
The New Competition
We’re going to look back nostalgically on the days when our competition was all the other radio stations in town. While there are only so many radio signals to go around, anyone can have a website and a Facebook page.
Already in the digital world, we’re seeing smart advertisers work to define ultra-niched targets with new definitions that make “Adults 25-54” sound like yesterday’s news. I expect to see ad agencies on top of their game want to know how we match up with a very precisely defined target of theirs, and they’ll consider not just radio stations, but all media outlets that deliver that narrow target. That will include some sites that we don’t even consider media now that have a service or a business that attracts large numbers of that target. It’s the same digital platforms, so it’s all media now.
However, radio has three good things going for it. One is that we are old hands at content creation, something many businesses are struggling with. We already have brand managers consistently delivering what our fans want. Another big advantage is our transmitters. When everyone has a website and database emails and social media feeds, we will have all that, and our broadcast. That’s always going to open doors for us.
The third is that in the new media world, our brands and industry have heritage and an existing relationship with our fans. That doesn’t mean we can rest on our laurels; but no conversation with a potential listener or client will ever start with an explanation of what radio is and why you would want to use it.
I have one final suggestion about the digital world. Fasten your seat belt, because this is one fast ride! Things change incredibly rapidly, and you can never feel confident that you know everything you need to know. So, here’s how you get past that. Commit to spending time learning the digital developments that might affect your job. Also, learn to work as collaboratively as you can, because you will need to know smart people that you trust who can fill in your knowledge gaps for you.
Chris Miller, owner of Chris Miller Digital, is a leading radio consultant specializing in research-based strategic planning and smart use of digital media. He can be phoned at 216-236-3955 or e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.