Radio Websites, a Hyper Local Opportunity?

Warning: If you have responsibility of managing the station website and you think web sales is un-appealing, or just not worth the time and effort……you may not want the big boss to read this!

Can Radio get into the hyper-local, and online news business? That all depends if they run their online assets as a business, rather than a hobby. Can they move from old school tactics like mascots and remotes, to offering local business owners a portfolio of online solutions they are clamoring for?

Radio remote, cat country, atlantic city
What's Better for Radio; Silly Remotes or Web ?

Radio purists, Broadcast vets, Wall Street and even hardcore music geeks agree on one simple fact: without profit to pay the bills, there’s no programming excellence. So when it comes to the Radio station website and the hyper local opportunities it provides, why aren’t they run in the same financially disciplined way?

When a Radio GM wakes up each morning, what’s likely on their mind? What new Lady Gaga song should be added to the playlist? A morning show bit to post on the station site? While these play a role in the overall success of a station, it’s really not the stuff that keeps the GM up at night. Rather, it’s the sales and profitability issue that makes them toss and turn.

For Radio’s digital initiatives to dramatically drive more cash to the bottom line, they simply need to be operated under the same strict financial, programming and operational pressures of their on-air brethren. It’s really that simple, and there’s no two ways about it.

TIP  #1: Web-training for upper management: Understanding new competition, compensation/hiring issues, rate card, forecasting/inventory yield management, overcoming common objections, managers lead by example (not from behind desk), leverage web to increase overall Radio share, take share from TV, Newspaper, and direct marketing budgets.

TIP  #2: Beware of web sales trainers that haven’t sold web in years. Would you ever hire an overweight, personal trainer to get in shape? Are you following consultants that sound really smart, ‘wow’ you with gee-wiz technology and talk of ‘extending your brand’ online? Ask them to help you craft a pitch, overcome some objections and close a deal. See how they do with that one.

TIP  #3: While research, analysis and classroom lecture is helpful, you need to put money on the books NOW. Be wary of those who will have you believe that expensive data & training will lead you to web profits. The smartest ideas & concepts are worthless, until they are successfully implemented in the field.

Internet business 101 for programming & marketing. When PD’s, DJ’s, marketing execs, & webmasters understand basic online sales models, they create more advertiser-friendly digital opportunities, while developing greater loyalty with listeners. Just as sellers are trained, these non-sales departments need to also be well-versed in digital media & online revenue models. Programming knows how we make money with on-air, now they need the same understanding of our online revenue strategy.

Let me tread here cautiously, since as a former on-air and programming guy, I understand that I could ruffle a few feathers with the following. There’s too much, inherent risk when programming and marketing departments have virtual free reign in managing the online effort. Understandably and with all due respect, sales and revenue isn’t the top priority at this point, for Radio’s creative crew. Their job is all about audience, and they execute on this with great skill. That being said……just as a GM wouldn’t allow DJ talent to pick their own music, or allow the PD to push all the stop sets till after midnight, the GM needs to ensure that business-focused web rules and standards are properly set and adhered to.

TIP: Provide non-sellers with relevant background and regular training in how local businesses are spending their web dollars, the emerging online competition to Radio, and what issues the station sales reps are encountering in the field.

Manage your online inventory like on-air Nobody sells your product & audience better than your own team. Like on-air, local and direct selling of web is preferred over allowing outside middlemen to re-sell or commoditize your unsold inventory. [Read more...]

Web Revenue 101 for Weekly Newspapers

Below is my latest presentation from the New York Press Association’s Spring Conference. This well-attended event was held in beautiful Saratoga, NY on March 27, 2010.  It was great to see the room filled with many publishers & editorial staff…and not just sellers. 

As we strongly urge: when your newsroom, programming & marketing folk understand basic online business models……they’re more likely to help create profitable websites.

Web Revenue for Weekly Newspapers 2010

CUNY Hyper-Local Online Revenue

Jeff Jarvis held a hyper-local, mini-camp at the Graduate School of Journalism in NYC on Nov. 11, 2009.

It was called: The  New Business Models for News  conference.

I was invited to do a session focused on helping hyper-local web publishers, build realistic business models in order to grow revenue. Here’s the actual presentation:

cuny preso 1.10FINAL

Local Dilemma: Integrate or Separate?

Your print & web folks…side by side…in the newsroom; the integrated newsroom.

Forward thinking newspapers are evolving into multi-media news organizations; where print employees are mandated to see web as equally important as print…..and in some cases, MORE important than print.

Does the print ad director sit next to the web sales manager? What is the bonus/commission structure like? How many reps sell web only? How many sell both print and web? How do they avoid sales cannibalization and in-fighting? How do they push more than just convergence up-sell packages? This is the stuff that can get really hairy at local media companies; building new revenue and sales models.

Experts suggest that media companies MUST turn their web efforts into separate businesses, complete with stand alone sales forces, offices, etc……and for the most part… we agree. Yet with that strategy comes a few near term landmines. The biggest hurdle I believe, will be to find strong online sellers/managers to staff these online-only efforts, especially within the confines of a bootstrap budget. This will not be easy.

A big can of worms.These newly hired web-only sellers could then be calling on the very same agencies and major advertisers that the traditional reps already have relationships with. Unless the financial motivation/bonus structures are adjusted, this will just cause an awful lot of in-fighting amongst reps. In addition, the media buyer would prefer just ONE point of contact with your company. These overworked agency types would HATE to carve out more meetings to learn about your company’s web packages, especially from eager green horns who hammer them all day with cold calls and email.

I’ve seen this firsthand: traditional reps selling against web reps; literally bad-mouthing the online offerings of the parent company. This happened because the commission structure and job description needed a refresh. The traditional manager offered up a measly 2% commission for each web sale. Behind closed doors, traditional reps would lament; “2% was not worth their time”. They also knew they would NOT catch heat, for NOT hitting their web budget.

Solution: Adopt a hybrid approach for the near term. Train and financially motivate traditional sales staff, while you build a separate web sales force to go after businesses that has been, for the most part, ignored. Maybe most importantly, make sure that the upper level managers get trained in all things web. How can they manage a web sales force, if they barely have a grasp of the online marketing space themselves?

Here’s a quick test to determine if you are managing and maximizing your web sales efforts properly. In regards to traditional sales staff, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does each seller have a mandatory web budget to hit? How did you arrive at that number?
  • Is the commission structure similar or better to what your NEW BIZ commission is?
  • Are there penalties in place if the rep DOES NOT hit their web budget?
  • Do you have senior reps that reluctantly sell web? Do they know their clients online strategy?
  • What is the total local online spend in your market? What is your share?
  • Does top management have strong grasp of web marketing? If not, how will they effectively manage the effort?