Adapting radio to a digital era

By Steve LaBeau

As the amount of time adults spend listening to over-the-air radio continues to slip, broadcasters will have to embrace the medium causing so much change in the first place: the internet.

As the amount of time adults spend listening to over-the-air radio continues to slip, broadcasters will have to embrace the medium causing so much change in the first place: the internet.

Average digital radio consumption is expected to increase to 54 minutes per day this year, according to eMarketer, and longer listening time leads to additional advertising revenue.

But with 75 percent of digital consumption occurring on mobile devices, radio stations shouldn’t rely only on audio ads to grow their bottom line. Images and videos provide extra income and allow broadcasters to capitalize on our visual society.

Here are three things to keep in mind when adding them to websites and other digital properties:

Visuals increase engagement

We live in a visual, mobile society. Audiences on the go are looking for good stories, but their attention spans don’t last quite as long when they’re scrolling through a social media feed or a particular article.

Images and videos are more stimulating to look at and convey information more quickly than a block of text. One website that does an excellent job of incorporating images onto its home page and videos into its articles is MyNorthwest.com – rarely will its visitors read a story without an accompanying visual.

And no secret here: Photo galleries added to stories can boost the time readers spend on each page, increasing the quality of each impression delivered to advertisers. Or use videos, which command ever-higher CPMs and boost revenue while providing an additional story format for audiences.

For those stations that may not know where to start, I’d recommend looking for visuals that relate to both your own programming and to national and international stories of interest. In choosing these, you not only engage individuals searching for those stories through Google and elsewhere, but you also engage listeners looking for more information on the stories they hear on air.

Use a variety of fully licensed visuals

It’s easy to imagine a scenario where a well-intentioned morning show producer tries to capture the essence of a breaking news story and grabs pictures online without realizing what he or she is taking.

But nothing can be reproduced without permission from the owner of the image or video. Even Creative Commons licenses do not apply, because radio stations’ websites are commercial operations. The resulting fines can amount to many thousands of dollars, money that simply isn’t available in today’s economic climate.

Because most broadcasters only have one or two staffers who are posting to their websites, it’s quicker and easier to search for visuals that are already rights-cleared for editorial use. Looking for these types of images and videos, rather than chasing down individual owners, also allows stations to scale their digital operations much more efficiently and attract new users.

Look for alternative forms of payment

While premium visuals can attract and engage larger audiences, help avoid fines and ultimately grow a radio station’s bottom line, they have a price, whether they come from a third party or a staff photographer.

Whereas cash is low for many, airtime may not be. AP allows radio stations to barter advertising time for content, including images and videos, as a cost-saving alternative.


Steve LaBeau

Steve is a regional radio representative for The Associated Press, based in Phoenix.

Tags:
images, video, insights, multimedia