Surrounding The Listener


(By Andy Meadows) In nearly every radio market there is a direct correlation between the amount of original, local content stations deliver across all of their platforms, and their ratings and revenue. It’s simply too hard to attract and hold the attention of today’s listeners without following them throughout the day and making it easy for them to access content and programming they care about on every platform. But, if we want to really compete in those other spaces, that content has to be tailored for each specific platform.

There are two main challenges when trying to successfully surround the listener. First, figuring out how to strike a healthy balance of creating that custom, tailored content for each platform without taking away from the main objective of creating great radio. Second, having to do that with a limited staff that is already stretched thin.

To combat those challenges, groups should analyze the strengths and weaknesses of their staff, thinking beyond traditional radio roles and job descriptions, and pairing them up with the platforms and content they’re best suited to create. Then set realistic goals, track the engagement on each of those platforms weekly, and start an incentive program to reward the creators of the content that gets the most engagement.

Despite what they might think, ALL programming employees can create some kind of digital content. They are not all writers, however, so they shouldn’t be forced to blog unless that’s their strong suit. Instead, they should be encouraged to vlog if they’re comfortable on camera, repurpose audio from their show to work well for sharing online, or just repackage and localize content from the web. Some could also be tasked with soliciting and repurposing user-generated content from listeners as well. Plus, throughout other departments, most groups will discover some hidden talent that can pitch in without taking away from their core position’s responsibilities.

Beyond that, in this gig economy, there are a whole host of services to connect to freelance content creators willing to work cheap. Some of the big ones are Fiverr, Freelancer, and Guru, but there are many others. Between out-of-market freelancers and inexpensive local part-timers, radio groups should be able to come up with a decent amount of supplemental content.

For the best results, all of that digital content should be supported by as many live and local air shifts as possible, then supplemented by voice-tracked shifts as long as they’re localized and purposeful — partly because a strategic on-air message starts to create the synergy necessary to use each platform to drive traffic to the other. But mainly because there’s simply no substitute for a well-trained on-air staff that knows how to engage and interact with listeners. As long as that staff understands that they are also responsible for regularly creating clickable, shareable digital content.

When it all starts to click, a good portion of P1s will listen terrestrially on their way to work, check the station’s social feeds when they hit that mid-morning wall, bring up the station app during their lunch break, check the website mid-afternoon when they’re trying to figure out what they’re going to do later, and finally tune back in on their way home or out on the town.

Then it’s a matter of figuring out how to bring the advertiser along for the ride without negatively impacting the experience. It’s no secret that I’m a proponent of shortening terrestrial stopsets, but long-form breaks are especially harmful on a station’s online stream that’s directly competing with Pandora and Spotify. On websites, advertorial content and banners that look more like content than ads can help to enhance a user’s experience. For social sites, as we all know, the more conversational we can be with our posts the better.

The tides are turning and it’s no longer just about who has the highest ratings, it’s about total reach within the market. So, going forward, the stations and groups who strike that healthy balance of content creation across platforms will steadily grow that total audience and end up dominating their markets.

Andy Meadows is a radio consultant with and an on-air talent coach with Tracy Johnson Media Group.


  1. Great ideas, Andy.
    However, this is also fantasizing writ large.
    Who is going to be accomplishing all this extra work and at what costs to the stations.
    That the existing staffs will be worked like rented mules is a given.
    Radio is no longer structured or staffed to accomplish such an all-encompassing chore.
    Instead, learning how to do radio properly and effectively might be an alternate approach.
    Just that alone will come with a price tag, as well.


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