(By Renee Cassis) “If you had asked me five years ago if we were still talking about transitioning to digital, I would have said ‘no way.’” That statement came from Beasley Media Group CEO Caroline Beasley, who was part of a panel at the Local Online Advertising Conference, taking place in New York City Monday and Tuesday. Yet finding a path to digital success remains a huge challenge for local radio and other local media.
A recent survey by the Local Media Association revealed some harsh truths. Only 1 percent of local media leaders agreed that their sales reps did a good job in digital and only 24 percent think they are adequately staffed to meet digital goals. VPs of Digital believe their CEOs don’t understand the profit margins associated with digital, and CEOs are frustrated that a path to digital success has not yet been identified. Even more alarming, the employee net promoter score was only 3 (ENPS allows employers to measure and get a snapshot of employee loyalty and engagement.)
The survey’s findings were the focus of Beasley’s panel, titled “CEO Weigh-In: Should Digital Be Front & Center,” which included Nancy Lane, President of LMA, Peter Newton, CRO of GateHouse Media, and Robert Brown, President of Swift Communications.
“It’s a wake-up call,” said Brown. “We need better collaboration and communication,” Beasley offered. Her company has seen improvement through a weekly conference call with executives across digital, sales, and content. GateHouse has hired digital-only sellers, but had them reporting to multi-platform leaders. Since then, they have set up a dedicated digital sales reporting structure, which has seen more success. According to Brown, Swift has seen double growth at properties where there is dedicated digital sales.
All agreed that more education and support is needed for digital to grow. “We’re throwing a lot of things at them,” Beasley observed.
“It’s incredibly difficult to get through the hurdles we unintentionally put up,” Brown noted. “Digital is not integrated enough. They’ll sell it; we have to help them get through the process. We’re at a crossroad of how we’re going to move forward.”
“We’re just beginning to wake up on the value of consumer data,” said Newton. “It’s something that we’re investing heavily in. That is our competitive advantage. All of the knowledge that we have about individual consumers in our markets, yet we’re data ignorant of how to leverage that. We are building a consumer data warehouse.” Newton explained that they even capture that data at live events, which is a mainstay for local radio. How to leverage that data is still a question, but when asked by Beasley if GateHouse had a data scientist on board, he stated that they did. For radio, listener profile and behavior data could propel revenue growth because of listener loyalty and connections with the station and its air personalities. For years, radio has told that story, and data may provide the proof.
Renee Cassis is Owner of RC Communications Marketing, a PR and marketing consultancy for broadcast and entertainment companies and can be reached at [email protected]