We could see the huge
digital wave forming in the distance several years ago. The new
study “Here She Comes 2012” just released from Alan Burns
brings a clear picture of where we are in relation to this powerful
wave. He offers numbers, confirming the inevitable. Radio’s share of
listener attention is shrinking, while new media usage is rapidly
growing. The digital wave is here.
Burns studied media
consumption behavior of more than 2,000 women 15-54, evenly
distributed for regional balance. Here’s what the digital wave
currently looks like:
Women listening to an online stream of a
radio station represented 33.9% of those sampled in 2011. Online
listening is now 42.7%. And online TSL grew from :30 to 1:30.
In 2011, 94.6% listened to radio—on a
radio. That figure is now 86.9%, with TSL declining from 2:00 to
With the strength of these trends and
with all the buzz about the digital dashboard, the force of
the wave will only become stronger.
Rick Warren opened his
classic book, Purpose-Driven Church, encouraging pastors to
learn to recognize waves and ride them. He observed, “When surfers
see a good wave, they make the most of it, even if that means
surfing in the middle of a storm.*” For some in radio, the digital
wave will mean a season of tremendous opportunity. For some, it will
mean wipeout. For all of us in radio, it means change.
The intention of this
article is not to offer tips for understanding the fine points of
Google Analytics or Facebook Edgerank. It’s to get the view from
40,000 feet. Like so many stations, WCIC is doing our best to work
through this stuff. I’ll share our story along with managerial
musings. We’ll walk through some ideas that have come from an honest
look at the trending. How can we get “positioned” for an incredible
I hate to admit it, but for
years, we tacked on web and other new media responsibilities for the
PD to oversee, with help from the promotions director and the real
experts: our interns. This approach of “divide and conquer” seemed
to work. We were busy doing what we already knew how to do. We
didn’t have time to give new media the attention it really deserved.
We’re radio people.
Vital signs were healthy but
I was growing uneasy. We couldn’t continue to grow in new media
without doing something to blow the lid off. We had to find a way to
allocate more time, energy and resources. Early this year we made a
commitment. We decided, we absolutely must staff, structure, and
budget to ride the wave of platform migration. What matters most to
us is our relationship with our listener—not whether she listens on
a radio or interacts through mobile/web.
Over the next several
months, our leadership team hammered out what this commitment will
look like for WCIC. Here’s what we came up with:·
We’d split the PD’s responsibilities and
make it two positions. We’ll view radio and digital as two
departments, each with a department leader, and lots of crosstalk.
Our On-Air PD will handle the radio
side, the traditional PD responsibilities.
We’ll create a new position,
He’ll oversee web, mobile/app, video, texting, and social media with
the same disciplines a good PD would bring to radio. ·
In addition, we’ll change the assignment
of the Production Director to include video and social media
support. The new title for the role will be Audio/New Media
We’ve made the structural
changes. We’ve hired or re-classified roles. We’ve updated every job
description in the building. The team is energized. Still, there are
tough questions we’ll need to sort through.
How can we make sure our new media content
and radio content maintain alignment?
With two people in charge of two
departments, can we still speak with one organizational voice?
The org chart with clear lines is out the
window. Since she works in both departments of the station, will the
promotions director’s head spin now with two direct supervisors?
It’s helped in a huge way,
just to frame the questions. Our PD’s recognize the potential for
their areas to become silos. They know station life is going to be
inefficient at first, as we tool out new meeting rhythms. We’re
adopting a matrix structure, where the emphasis is more on the
communication path and what we’re trying to accomplish than
From the beginning, our
Program Director seemed like the ideal person to become DPD. In my
view, the right person to drive digital strategy must have a deep
understanding of our target audience and embody our mission.
Technical wizardry can be learned or out-sourced. Our DPD has found
valuable resources for learning through webinars (Alan Burns, Jacobs
Media), Radio Ink’s Convergence conference, and dialogue with
other digital professionals. There’s a small, but rich community
sharing ideas through the New Media Forum, as a part of pdforum.net.
At a conference several
years ago, Silicon Valley venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki walked the
audience through the history of the ice industry. In the late 1800’s
ice companies in the Northeast would cut many tons of ice from
frozen lakes and sell them around the world. Business was thriving.
A few years later, ice harvesters were put out of business by ice
factories. Then it happened again. The ice factories were put out of
business by refrigerator companies. You’d think the ice harvesters
would have seen the opportunity to embrace the new technology and
maintain market dominance. But all they could think about was what
they already knew: better saws, better storage, and better
transportation. Ice makers made the same blunder. Kawasaki says,
“One of the biggest mistakes we can make is to accept the known and
resist the unknown.” He counsels us to do the opposite. “Challenge
the known and embrace the unknown.”
The trends are clear. We’re
no longer speculating about when the wave is coming. We’re already
wet. Now’s the time to decide how serious we are about riding the
wave. If we’re in the radio business, it’s going to be rough waters.
If we’re in the business of spreading hope, we’re entering days of
unprecedented opportunity. All we have to do is keep our radio core
strong and figure out how to get on top of the new media wave
without getting whacked in the head - by our control room sound board.
Digital Role Definitions
Oversee the way the station is represented in the
digital space. Set vision, innovate, coach team.
Work with manager & team in constructing & scheduling
eBlasts, texts, blogs, videos & other social media content; digital
content posting assignments will be rotated among staff, optimized
for scheduling balance & impac
Ensure continuity of station voice across all
distribution platforms: audio, visual, print, & digital. Manage
tone, balance, accessibility, & substance
Oversee writing of station promo summaries
Collaborate with On-Air PD in building promo
calendar, supervision of staff, maintaining alignment of digital
voice with on-air voice
Serve, support & coach new media/audio producer
Create culture of digital alertness. Challenge team to always look
for ways to provide a deeper, richer experience for listeners
through new media
Audio/New Media Producer
Produce station videos & still photos to tell our story
Help DPD equip team to take great photos at every event
Video coverage or photography for station representation in
Assist in digital strategy formation as requested
Develop volunteer pool for voice work & video acting
Recruit listeners and talent for “listener story” production—audio &
*Rick Warren, Purpose-Driven
Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995), p.13
Part of New Life Media
(Carlinville, IL), in August, Dave will celebrate his 25th
year as station manager of WCIC, Peoria. Dave Brroks can be contacted at