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Thursday, May 21, 2015

How To Solidify Your Digital Future

If creating unique content for the Web is a marathon, most radio personalities are still tying their shoes at the starting line. But consistent online content creators can be fascinating, and we found three who are making a nice living from their unique creations. We spoke to Phil Hendrie, Craig Benzine, and Professor Dick Taylor, who have different perspectives on one very important question (The video version of my interviews can be viewed HERE): What are so many radio personalities missing today in regard to content creation?

Phil Hendrie is a radio legend who left terrestrial broadcasting in favor of audio and video podcasting; he also has television and film credits. Craig Benzine, an early adopter of YouTube, currently has over 575,000 subscribers and nearly 100 million views on his WheezyWaiter channel. And Dick Taylor is a professor at Western Kentucky University; he teaches broadcasting and in 2009, before leaving the business, was named one of Radio Ink?s Best Managers.

Because people are always looking for entertainment, there is an audience for the content you produce every day at your station. Here are some of the key points made by Hendrie, Benzine, and Taylor.

According to Hendrie, ?Any time you offer the audience something new, and you don?t drown them in it ... You?re going to see subscription momentum. Commercial radio has made a horrific error, not only in the survivability of the industry, but also the viability of the talent that?s being developed. And the reason for that is because there are two mindsets: the new digital mindset and the old school radio mindset.?

According to Edison Research, 46 million people listen to at least one podcast a month, and that listening is driven by quality content ? like the content Hendrie offers. He says, ?They go to Netflix, they go to Hulu, they go to Amazon. They go to all kinds of paid platforms. People don?t have a problem paying for content if they want it. Particularly, entertaining audio content is in demand. I make more money today than I made in the past six years in radio.?

So who holds the title for the most popular podcasts? NPR. This American Life, Freakonomics, Radiolab, and NPR News are four of the top five podcasts in the country at the moment. So what does NPR understand that the rest of radio doesn?t? NPR meets its audience?s needs by making its content accessible, on top of creating new and exclusive Web content. It?s that simple.

?The advantage that radio and TV have is ... you have an audience right off the bat,? Benzine pointed out. ?You?re starting with a pretty big platform. If you?re doing radio or news, there?s a standard the medium is used to. I have the freedom to do whatever I want. In some ways it?s great, in other ways it?s confusing.? That new platform represents a huge opportunity ? and as an air personality, you should be concerned that there?s a whole new generation of broadcasters that?s being trained to do more than you?ve been willing to do. As Taylor noted, ?This is a chance for each air personality to really create and own their brand. That will probably scare the corporate broadcaster and the owner.

Now the brand can follow you anywhere. You have to stop thinking it?s just radio ... It?s your brand, and it?s beyond a single channel.? There are four key things radio talent can do today to create a worthwhile digital footprint and solidify their brand in the digital realm:  Start posting immediately. Identify the most sought-after content of your show and immediately start offering it digitally, for free. If you don?t already have a website, create one for your brand and host the audio clips there. If you don?t know if you have
control of your content, check your agreement with the station and make sure ahead of time.

Plan to create and distribute additional content for a premium. Spend time research-ing current online talent and absorb their style ? get to what?s working and what?s not working for them. Use your training as a personality to craft an original and entertaining message.

Implement your premium content platform. Determine how you plan to distribute your premium content. (And again, host it all on your website, where you control the subscriptions.) At this point, you should limit the availability of your free content to a set amount of time. Think about a week?s worth of free clips, but a full archive of clips ? on top of premium content ? offered just to paid subscribers.

Publicize your upload schedule. This is crucial. Much as appointment- based recall works with contesting, a consistent upload schedule for premium content will keep existing users coming back and attract new ones. You don?t have to offer premium content every day; you could, for example, promote new premium content every Tuesday and Friday. You just have to be consistent. It will take time to draw listeners to your content, but there will be a snowball effect. Don?t underestimate the fact that your listeners are already searching for quality content to entertain them, and they?re finding it.

The huge advantage you have is that they?re already listening to your show, they?re familiar with your brand, and they?re actively seeking what you have to offer by tuning in to your show. You just have supply it for them. Personalities need to treat their brands like a business, and you should run your business with the intent of making money. Know who your customers are, market to them, give them what they want, and find ways to provide more to them at a premium.

The old proverb is right: ?The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.? In our case, the best time to create unique Web content is right now.

Ryan Reker is the program director for Marconi Award-winning WOWO in Fort Wayne, IN.

Reach him at

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