Earlier this month I wrote an opinion and titled it "A Muffled Megaphone for Radio Industry."
It's main point is that a radio station's web site will not generate enough revenue if all that it does is sell advertising.
It wasn't long before an independent pureplay web site operator wrote back making the point that "...a radio station and online ads do not mix, and until some one is willing to build an on air marketing site for internet only radio station[s] - internet radio stations will continue to draw in low amounts of web hits and profit margins...."
"What I received read like it was put together by fifth graders, with one owner mailing me a sheet that was completed in pencil!"
There's the broadcast radio industry, and there's the online radio industry. The article on June 6th concerned the former. Today let me address the latter, and why independent online radio stations continue to have a large problem in selling advertising. As a by-the-way, this report is based on personal experience.
Between 2001 and 2006, I built and ran a web site where the sole intent was to sell advertising for independent online radio stations. RRadio Network is still in operation, but today its stations serve surveys to online radio's audience - the reason being that selling advertising for independent internet radio stations proved as difficult as herding cats. "Why" follows.
There are different mindsets for the broadcast radio industry and the online radio industry. Owners of the former run stations as a business;
owners of the latter run stations the way they think a radio station should be run. I refer to the majority of independently-owned online radio station owners as "enthusiatic amateurs." I know there are exceptions to this;
from my experience, they are few.
I gave up trying to sell advertising on indepenently-run online radio stations because the owners didn't feel an urgency to learn about what they were selling, how it was sold, and what was expected from them by the selling company (me) or the advertiser. I could bore you with multiple examples, but let's give a few that get right to the problems.
1) One advertiser wanted to place a $25,000 buy of "pre-rolls" only, so I sent an email about this to the nearly 100 radio stations in RRadio Network at the time. (They were to let me know if they were capable of running pre-roll advertising.) At the top of the contact was a request to reply within 48 hours.
Only about 30% of the stations responded within that time frame. By week 4 when all had responded, 65% of them were asking what a "pre-roll" is.
Obviously, a lag-time in response is not acceptable when you have someone waving advertising dollars. But what left me aghast was the number of station owners who had not done research to explore what they were capable of selling. (Pre-rolls were not new at this time.)
2) After one advertiser spent nearly $5,000 on about a dozen stations within RRadio Network, I requested what is known in the broadcast world as an "affidavit of performance." Keeping it simple, all I asked for was a copy of times and dates that the commercials aired on each station. There was no need to have it notarized.
What I received read like it was put together by fifth graders, with one owner mailing me a sheet that was completed in pencil!
3) In the signup process, when stations were solicited to join RRadio Network - and they responded affirmatively - I cannot count the number of station owners who replied that their name was "DJ Bob," "The Radio Man," or used just their first name. Nor was it helpful that some responded with "my station plays the best music on the internet" when asked what format their station was.
The vast, vast majority of these independent internet-only station owners just didn't get that they were asking ad buyers for money and that they needed to put a "business face" on. Only a couple acted in what I consider to be a professional manner.
For them, it was all about playing the music in what they perceived is a better way than the broadcast radio industry is doing.
There are many services that offer people an ability to build a radio station online. But there are no classes given on how to make that station a business.
I'm one who believes that even if there were programs that taught a person how to be a successful radio operator, very few indie station owners would participate. The reason? Since everything that deals with programming is subjective, these independent station owners somehow feel they already know what they are doing;
and you can extend that feeling to their definition of a "professional approach."
When an agency or advertiser buys a radio campaign, they are looking for results delivered within a standardized system of reporting. Nobody wants to have to deal with dozens of different invoicing systems, ad-submission routines, or affidavits of performance that read like they were written by a child. Unfortunately, that seems to be what the majority of internet radio stations are delivering today.
Can an independent online station build a business? Yes, through discipline, hard work, and by contacting buyers and uncovering exactly what it is that the agency or advertiser is used to dealing with in a radio industry run by professionals.
But to string together a group of songs and call yourself a radio station in hopes of scoring advertising dollars while putting forth no effort to understand competitive radio is futile. It won't/can't work.
For the small internet radio operator, consider what you do a hobby.
If you want to make money selling advertising or merchandise, comprehend what it is that you have to sell and how "professional" stations approach the sales process. Also, realize that a selling party (agency or rep firm) is not there to do all the work. It can only bring interested parties to your station. You must extend the effort expected from any radio station operator, online or off, to show that you are worthy of the advertiser handing you money.
To sit and wish that someone will put together a system to sell advertising for the online radio industry is pointless.
There are just too many station owners who are not willing to do the work that makes the buying process efficient for everyone involved. Rephrased:
There are too few station owners willing to work hard enough, and be professional enough, to make it worthwhile for the advertiser or rep firm.