Can Radio Re-Invent for Hyper-Local Web Sales?

Sebastian Bach
Sebastian Bach

Every so often, you have to re-invent yourself. When you’re a Radio DJ with a goofy mullet haircut, it’s even more important to change. (especially if you’re hanging with hair bands)

If we’re smart, we re-invent voluntarily…on our own terms. Too often though, we’re forced to.

This thing called the ‘hyperlocal web revolution’ is one such force of change that Radio execs are starting to feel the heat from. No longer can Radio comfortably think they ‘own’ the car dashboard during morning and afternoon drive. (ask anyone who has Sirius Satellite Radio or easily plugs their smart phone via blue tooth, into their car’s audio system)

What is hyperlocal? According to Wikipedia, hyperlocal is “online news or content pertaining to a town, village, single postcode or other small, geographically defined community. Oops. I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.

While that definition of hyperlocal is accurate, it’s terribly incomplete. Notice the avoidance of anything remotely connected to local business, advertising, commerce or sales. A more accurate description of hyperlocal would be: a mix of news, info and commerce related to a well-defined community or affinity group.

There. I feel much better now.

We hope broadcasters don’t make the same mistake newspapers have made. Some ink-stained publishers allowed newsroom and tech geeks to define what hyper-local was. A sales or new business development pro was never invited to those early meetings. That’s why newspaper is no longer the dominant hyper-local online destination. Instead, WordPress powered sites like AC Primetime .com have carved out the fastest growing positions in their respective markets.

Today, a hyper-local business operator; aka the local advertiser, isn’t forced to advertise in the paper, on TV, or on the radio for that matter. These mom & pop stores have choice out the wazoo. They’re quickly migrating portions of their marketing dollars to the Internet.

I spent 15 years as a Rock DJ in Philadelphia. Loved it. But then that damn inter-web thingy happened.

In the late 90’s, I had my dream job; mid-days after Howard Stern. 94 WYSP, the biggest Rock station in Philly. That gig was so cool, that I didn’t mind filtering out the static coming from my program director; Tim Sabean….and the zookeeper DJ that followed at 2pm; John DeBella.

Working in Radio was totally bad ass, but it provided little comfort about my future. The Internet was still considered a geek hobby by the Radio execs around me. A few years later, Sabean bolted for Sirius with Stern. Today, ’94 WYSP The Rock Station’…. no longer exists. (my Spidey senses served me well)

With the growth of smart phones, Pandora, voice tracking and satellite radio, being an on-air music DJ wasn’t going to cut it. I had to change if I wanted to eat. So, I begged/forced my way into a sales position at the station. I eventually crossed the street and sold for a competing Radio company.

Gasp. One day I’m cranking a Metallica mini-concert, the next day I’m in a cubicle making cold calls for a ‘Smooth Jazz’ radio station playing Kenny G.

It wasn’t easy cutting off my sweet mullet. Had to remove my earring too. Ditched the leather jacket. Bought a cheap suit. Painful as it was, it was worth it. That experience lead me to my first taste of career re-invention and hyper-local sales success. All thanks to those series of tubes, the Inter-webs.

Imagine, Mel Toxic in a polyester suit with a really bad, really short hair cut. I’m surrounded by sales reps pulling down 6 figures from transactional, agency business. Ugh. I was jealous and frustrated. I had no agency business. Only a freekin’ phone book and $25k a year….and no training to boot!

What to do? Adopt a secret weapon to make my mark. Close some new business and leave those other Radio sales reps in my digital dust.

The weapon I chose was the Internet and a PC. Remember, this is 1999; laptops were expensive, heavy and not so easy to use. Even so, I quickly dropped $3,000 for one of those bad boys. Scary? Yup. A mighty big investment. But it made so much sense that I would close many more deals by using these new digital tools…while the others scoffed.

Whoa. I could do client research BEFORE calling and visiting them. I could avoid being just another Radio sales weasel yapping about ratings, cost per point  and other nonsense. Business owners could give two bleeps about that stuff. All they care about is…HOW YA GONNA MAKE ME MONEY?

Understanding the Web and laptop computers gave me the edge. I created multi-media presentations on the fly. My client presentations were much more engaging and simple to understand. Audio spec spots were a breeze. I looked and sounded like a pro. I never used the official and quite horrifying, Radio station “media kit” ever again.

When the Internet really took off in 1999, I landed a regional sales manager job for Clear Channel Radio Interactive. Not easy to convince anyone an ex-DJ could show Radio reps how to sell web. But I never gave up. I couldn’t. I knew my future was connected to the web in some way.

I read everything I could about digital sales and hyper-local business models. Something told me that the skills I honed while being a DJ; public speaking, copy-writing, art of persuasion, etc….might come in handy one day on the Internet.

Well, how about that. They did.

1 thought on “Can Radio Re-Invent for Hyper-Local Web Sales?”

  1. Mel Toxic and Sebastian Bach. God I miss the 80’s.

    Keep up the good work Mel. Eventually corporate will wake up and understand the value of the web, just ask J. Patton or G. Borrell…

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *