The rise of digital content in radio is growing day by day, along with the people listening via digital platforms growing year on year.
So what is digital content?
Well, anything that you can view online, basically. Radio stations are now able to provide the listener with a much more rounded experience by giving them ‘extras’ through their websites. This could be anything ranging from extended interviews with guests at the stations, behind the scenes information, live video sessions or ways to get involved in competitions.
Radio is constantly adapting to changes in the industry, and the digital age has provided new challenges to the standard, old fashioned listening. Listeners now not only want more, they expect it. It has become the norm for stations to provide digital content. It is not just important to have a digital presence anymore, it is vital because people listen to radio via all sorts of platforms, not just their car radio. RAJAR figures show that radio listening via all digital platforms is up from 29.1% in December 2011 to 29.2% in March 2012, a small increase, but it has been a slow process from the outset. The point is that digital listening IS increasing; with mobile apps becoming more popular as people get busier, it is vital that stations are able to target people on the move.
My point is not based around what figures are increasing or decreasing, but more the fact that digital content is now here is a positive, and the industry should do everything they can to enhance their digital presence of their station as it is only going to be good for their listener’s experience, and in commercial cases, their business.
BBC vs COMMERCIAL
Both the BBC and commercial sectors of radio have embraced digital content, and both use similar content on their websites (with obvious exceptions of advertising).
If we look at BBC Radio 1’s digital presence, there is a lot to consume as a listener. Not only do they have an extremely impressive website offering the listener live updates of what is happening on-air, but they also have presence across the most popular social media platforms, Facebook and Twitter. Their target audience for that station is between 15 and 24, with the average listener being outside of that at 29. These numbers fall neatly into the generation of the ‘millenials’ – those born between 1978 and 1996, currently between the ages of 16 and 32 – the first generation to be ‘raised’ on the internet. The millenials are those who interact and use social media the most so it makes sense that the BBC utilises these platforms to get interaction from their listeners. BBC Radio 1’s website is very interactive, allowing users to ‘love’ their favourite pieces of content, and a ‘most loved’ tab then allows other users to see what everyone is watching. They also offer Video, Audio, Highlights and Picture pages where fans can go to catch up on what they might have missed, or see extra content that is only available online, directing listeners on-air to go and see more online. The website allows people to listen through it, but more importantly to the BBC fits their ethos of ‘inform, educate and entertain’ justifying the license fee and offering interaction between other BBC Radio stations and across the BBC as a whole.
So if the commercial sector doesn’t have a license fee to justify, why would they want to spend money on digital content? Simple, it’s a business and this is a great way to gain more money alongside providing their listeners with more content that they want to see, hear or watch. Real Radio, owned by GMG, also have an impressive digital presence, with an accomplished website for their audience to listen, but also social interactions on Facebook and Twitter across several different shows on the station, allowing their locally focussed listeners to know their presenters even more. Sending listeners to their website means advertisers are going to be more than happy to put their brand on it. Their content includes videos, pictures and audio, as well as locally focussed competitions relevant specifically to their listenership, sounds like a match made in heaven for a business doesn’t it? Locally focussed and highly targeted advertising, plus knowing more or less exactly what demographic is going to be accessing the website. This is just one reason why digital content and a digital presence is so important in both sectors, but definitely more potential benefits in the commercial one.
Using it effectively
It is all well and good for a station to have online presence, but as I have learnt, if it is not used correctly then it can often be less effective than having nothing at all. For stations to know how to use different platforms correctly, they must first understand how users interact on them. A simple example: A given presenter on a given station flooding followers Twitter feeds with updates every other second about anything they think is great. This approach will have the opposite effect to the desired intention, it is likely that followers will become bored and annoyed by constant inane and un-engaging updates, this may lead to a decrease in followers and an overall contempt towards the station. Stations must use appropriate platforms to engage with their listeners, so where debate is preferred, a platform where long responses and group discussion is a better fit, i.e. Facebook over Twitter, but where breaking news is being broadcast Twitter fits the bill.
On-air and online coherence
Most importantly, stations must be able to relate their on-air content to their online presence. Finding links between the two will drive traffic towards their website and make listeners engage with their station more. Getting this right is beneficial for all involved, the stations gains a bigger volume of more loyal listeners, the listeners themselves get more entertaining content, and the advertisers get more people viewing their brand.
Digital content is here to stay, and even though the on-air part of any radio station should be the most important, backing it up on the digital side is only going to be a benefit.