All posts by Seth Resler

5 Browser Extensions to Boost Your Productivity

Seth Resler

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

By: Seth Resler
Jacobs Media Strategies

I spend hours on my web browser each day. In fact, without a browser, I would be unable to do my job. Over the years, I’ve incorporated a number of browser extensions (Mozilla calls them “Add-Ons”) into my daily routine. Extensions are third party plugins that add extra functionality to a web browser. When you install a browser extension, they usually add an extra button to the toolbar.

Here are some of my favorites that you may want to use:

1. Hootsuite’s Hootlet
I work with a ton of social media accounts. In addition to running my personal Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram accounts, I handle accounts for Jacobs Media, my podcast The D Brief, and various other side projects. I find that the easiest way to manage all of these accounts is to use a social media management tool. While I know a lot of people who are fans of TweetDeck, I have always been partial to Hootsuite. Hootsuite allows you to manage all of your social media accounts from a single place.

One of my favorite features of Hootsuite is a browser extension called the Hootlet. The Hootlet allows you to quickly and easily share the webpage you are on to your social media accounts. Whenever I come across an article that I think will interest Jacobs Media followers, I press the Hootlet button and a pop-up window appears. I write a quick post and share the webpage on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn in one fell swoop.

Get the Hootsuite Hootlet for Chrome or Firefox. TweetDeck has a similar browser extension called Tweetdeck Launcher for Chrome.

2. Pushbullet
I use many different devices, and they don’t always use the same operating system. For example, I have an Android phone, but an iPad and an iMac. Sometimes I want to share something between these different devices. For example, I often begin writing my blogposts in an app called Drafts on my iPad before moving it to my desktop so I can import the text into WordPress and format it. Other times, I’ll take photos on my phone at an event like CES and then want to share them with my iMac to use them in a blogpost.

I have found the Pushbullet app to be incredibly useful for pushing content from one device to another. It’s often faster and easier than using a thumb drive or even a filesharing service like Dropbox. And, of course, Pushbullet offers a browser extension. This allows me to push content to or from a browser to one of my other devices. You can get it for Chrome or Firefox.

3. Priceblink
Priceblink is one of several browser extensions that comes in handy when looking to buy something online. When you go to a product page on a website like Amazon, Priceblink will check other sites to see if any of them are selling the same product for less. It will also let you know if there are any coupon codes for that product floating around the web. I frequently find myself saving money with the Proceblink extension, which you can get for Chrome or Firefox.

4. Bulk URL Opener
I am known for having an absurd number of browser tabs open at all times. For example, I will open dozens of URLs at once when doing show prep for my weekly podcast, The D Brief. To do this, I use an extension called the Bulk URL Opener. It allows me to paste a list of URLs into a pop-up window and open them all at once. If you have a list of websites that you want to check quickly, such as a list of concert venues in your market, this extension comes in quite handy. You can get it for Chrome, or a similar extension for Firefox.

5. MightyText
Like many people, I find text messaging to be an incredibly convenient form of communication. But when I’m working on the computer, I find it annoying to constantly have to pick up my phone to respond to people. That’s why I use MightyText, an app that allows me to send and receive text messages on my computer. Like these other apps, MightyText has a browser extension that allows you to easily correspond with people from within Chrome.

Do you have a web browser extension that you recommend? Tell us about it in the comments.

For more assistance on digital or social media, contact MAB Member Services at mab@michmab.com or 1-800-968-7622.

20 Digital New Year’s Resolutions for Your Radio Station

Seth Resler

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

By: Seth Resler
Jacobs Media Strategies

It’s that time of year when we set goals for ourselves and our radio stations. What will your 2018 digital strategy resolutions be? If you need some inspiration, here are some ideas:

Website

Blog

Email Marketing

Podcasts

Other Departments

Interfaces

This is the year to take your radio station’s digital strategy to the next level. Let me know if I can help.

For more assistance on digital or social media, contact MAB Member Services at mab@michmab.com or 1-800-968-7622.

Apple’s Podcast Analytics (Beta) Has Been Released. Here’s How to Access It.

Seth Resler

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

By: Seth Resler
Jacobs Media Strategies

For years, podcast analytics have been lacking. Podcasts are measured in terms of “downloads” — the number of times an audio file is downloaded from the podcast hosting service to a device. Of course, just because somebody has downloaded an episode, that doesn’t mean that they actually listened to it — or how much of the episode they listened to. While more downloads is obviously better, the podcasting world has been missing the metric that we in the radio industry call “Time Spent Listening.”

The reason for the missing TSL measurement is because podcasters get their stats from their hosting companies, not podcatchers. A hosting company, like Libsyn, Blubrry, Spreaker, Audioboom, et al., is the place where the podcast audio files live, much in the same way that GoDaddy is the place where website files live. But people don’t go to GoDaddy to access websites — they use a browser like Chrome, Firefox, or Safari. In the same way, people don’t go to the podcast host to access podcasts; they use a podcatcher — an app that pulls the audio files from the host through an RSS feed. There are a number of podcatchers out there, such as Stitcher, Downcast, and Pocketcasts. But the big dog in this space is the Apple Podcasts app. In fact, roughly two thirds of all podcast listening happens through the Apple Podcasts app and iTunes. By comparison, the other podcatchers each capture a very small percentage of podcast listening.

For a hosting company like Libsyn or Blubrry to report to a TSL metric back to its clients, it needs to get that data back from the podcatchers. Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t share its data. Without data from the biggest player in the space, there’s not much podcasters can do.

That’s why it was such a big deal when Apple announced at its Worldwide Developer Conference this summer that it would would introduce Podcast Analytics before the end of the year. Podcasters have been salivating at the idea of logging into their Apple Connect account and being able to see how long people are listening and when listenership drops off, allowing them to improve their podcasts.

Just in time for Christmas, Apple has now rolled out the Beta version of Podcast Analytics. If your radio station has submitted a podcast to Apple’s directory, you can now log in and see the stats:

  1. Log in at https://podcastsconnect.apple.com/.
  2. At the top, click on “My Podcasts,” and select “Podcast Analytics” from the dropdown menu.
  3. Explore.

Apple doesn’t use the term “Time Spent Listening.” Instead, it provides Total Time Listened (an aggregate number of all listening expressed in hours and minutes), Time Per Device (the average amount of time listened to per episode expressed in minutes), and Average Consumption (expressed as a percentage of the episode).

It also allows you to look at individual episodes as a graph to see where listeners are dropping off.

These new metrics could be a gamechanger for podcasting, providing potential advertisers with the information they want to see before sponsoring a podcast. Dive in!

Read more Apple’s New Podcast Analytics: First Impressions here.

Podcasting Guide
We’ve created a Podcasting Guide for Radio Stations to help your station launch its first podcast.  Get the guide here.

For more assistance on digital or social media, contact MAB Member Services at mab@michmab.com or 1-800-968-7622.

Creating Personas: Envision the Audience for Your Radio Station’s Blog or Podcast

Seth Resler

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

By: Seth Resler
Jacobs Media Strategies

When I was the Program Director of WBRU in Providence, we often talked about “Mr. BRU,” a fictional character that represented our audience. Mr. BRU was 25 years old, single, lived in the Providence suburbs, and liked to drink beer and go to Newport in the summer. Mr. BRU helped the programming staff at the radio station think of the audience in concrete terms. Before putting a promotion on the air or creating a morning show bit, we would ask ourselves, “What would Mr. BRU think of this?”

Mr. BRU is the result of an exercise that is common not just in broadcasting, but in marketing circles as well. Mr. BRU is a persona — a personification that helps people get a handle on their audience. Gathering the staff together to create personas — it’s useful to create a few — that represent your audience helps to ensure that everybody is on the same page when it comes to creating compelling content.

The technique is useful not only for a radio station’s on-air programming, but also for a station’s blog or podcast. If you haven’t gone through this exercise with your team before (or in a long time), the launch of a station blog or podcast is a great opportunity to do so.

In all likelihood, the personas you create for your radio station’s on-air programming will be identical to those that you create for your radio station’s blog. However, because podcasts typically focus on a narrower niche that the radio station as a whole, they may require fewer, more specific personas. One Mr. BRU may drink Budweiser while a second Mr. BRU may be a beer snob; only the latter will listen to the radio station’s craft beer podcast.

Once you’ve gathered the appropriate members of your team together, give your first persona a name and brainstorm their characteristics, including:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Where they live
  • Marital status
  • Number of children
  • Type of job
  • Income level
  • Education level
  • Hobbies
  • Annual income
  • Musical tastes
  • Allegiance to sports teams
  • Political leanings
  • Other interests

Create as many personas as you need to adequately represent a wide swath of your audience (4 to 6 for your on-air programming or blog, perhaps fewer for a podcast). When you’re done, you may even want to find a place to post bios for these personas for everybody in the station to see.

Personas can help your radio station’s staff members focus on creating the most compelling content for the audience, whether on the air, on the blog or in podcasts. Carve out some time to help them envision the audience together.

For more assistance on digital or social media, contact MAB Member Services at mab@michmab.com or 1-800-968-7622.

How to Add Calls to Action to Your Radio Station’s YouTube Videos

Seth Resler

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

By: Seth Resler
Jacobs Media Strategies

As mobile phones become an increasingly important channel to engage fans, YouTube has been making changes to help content creators. This involves both phasing out old features and introducing new ones. For example, on May 2nd of 2017, YouTube officially replaced its Annotations feature, which did not work on mobile devices, with the previously unveiled Cards and End Screens, which do.

YouTube will remove another feature on December 14th, when the Featured Video functionality will be removed. Featured Videos allowed content creators to designate a particular video to pop up whenever somebody watched another video by that creator. For example, I could create a short Jacobs Media Strategies promotional video, and set it to appear as a link in the lower left corner whenever people watched one of our other videos.

The problem? It turns out that very few people were clicking on these Featured Videos. YouTube rightly concluded that most people view Featured Videos as spam, so they’re eliminating the feature.

If your station has been using Featured Videos to try to engage fans (and even if it hasn’t), now would be a good time to get diligent about using YouTube’s Cards and End Screen features.

Cards and End Screens
With Cards and End Screens, YouTube made it easy to create calls to actions that appear in videos as linkable buttons. Cards go in the middle of videos, while End Screens appear during the last 20 seconds.

With Cards, you can add several calls to action inside your video, including:

  • A link to a YouTube video or playlist
  • A link to another YouTube channel
  • A “Donation” link to a non-profit organization
  • A poll
  • A link to an external website (this feature is only available to YouTube creators participating in the YouTube Partner Program)

With End Screens, you can add these calls to action:

  • A link to a YouTube video or playlist
  • A “Subscribe” link to your YouTube channel
  • A link to another YouTube channel
  • A link to an external website (this feature is only available to YouTube creators participating in the YouTube Partner Program)

To add Cards or End Screens to your video, follow these steps:

  1. Login to your radio station’s YouTube account.
  2. In the top right corner, click on your station’s icon; in the menu that pops open, click the “Creator Studio” button.
  3. In the left menu, click on “Video Manager.”
  4. Click on the title of the video that you want to add a call to action to.
  5. Above the video, you will see a horizontal menu that includes “End Screen and Annotations” and “Cards.” Select the one that you want.
  6. Use the blue “Add Element” button to add Cards or End Screens to your video.

YouTube has included a number of features to make it easier to consistently add Cards and End Screens to your videos, including Templates and the ability to copy settings from one video to another. Plus, YouTube offers reports so you can see how well they’re performing.

Of course, to use these features effectively, you’ll want to take them into consideration when creating your videos. For example, you’ll want to leave 20 seconds of black or a background image at the end of your video over which the End Screens will appear.

To learn more, check out the YouTube Creators Academy’s lesson on Cards and End Screens.

If your radio station is regularly posting videos to YouTube, taking a few extra moments to add Cards or End Screens to them can help you grow your online audience. Turn your one-time viewers into repeat customers — especially on their mobile devices.

For more assistance on digital or social media, contact MAB Member Services at mab@michmab.com or 1-800-968-7622.

How to Get Your Listeners to Write Your Radio Station’s Blog

Seth Resler

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

By: Seth Resler
Jacobs Media Strategies

I am a huge believer in using a Content Marketing strategy to grow your radio station’s audience. The basics are simple: Create a lot of compelling content on your website. Make that content easy to find in search engines and easy to share over social media. Once you draw visitors back to your website with that content, encourage them to take specific actions, such as signing up for your email list, streaming your station or clicking on an ad.

The challenge with a Content Marketing strategy is that you have to create a lot of content. As a general rule of thumb, I’d like to see radio stations create at least three original blogposts or content modules (at least 300 words long) each day. But that’s a lot for radio stations with staff members already pulling double-duty. Am I really suggesting that your midday jock/production director needs to write several posts a week on top of everything else?

Yes. But…

There is a way to implement a successful Content Marketing strategy without overtaxing your staff. It’s called “crowdsourcing.” In other words, encourage members of your audience to create content for your website.

Here’s the basic process: On the air, your station recruits people to submit guest content through the website. When listeners go to the website, they submit their content through an online form. This content is then reviewed, edited and published by a station staff member.

In this post, I’ll show you how to do all of this.

To Curate or Not to Curate?
Some online businesses allow anybody to create content and, barring anything that violates the basic guidelines, they publish it all. Think YouTube, Yelp!, etc.

Other businesses crowdsource content, but they are more selective about who they choose and pickier about what they publish. In other words, they curate the content. Think The Huffington Post.

Radio stations will want to implement the latter strategy to varying degrees. You certainly won’t want to publish everything that’s submitted to you without looking at it first. But you may only allow a few regular guest bloggers to submit articles, while you allow anybody to submit a photo as part of a contest.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1. A Content Management System (CMS) Website
Your radio station needs a website that is set up to handle lots of content. This means not just that the content can be published, but also easily organized so that your visitors can easily search and find what they want. My website platform of choice — whether you are stand-alone small market station or a multi-billion dollar media conglomerate — is WordPress. Over 60 million websites are built in WordPress (including this one) precisely because it was designed with content creation in mind.

But WordPress is not the only suitable Content Management System will do. Here’s more info.

2. Forms
The last thing you want is for listeners to email you Word documents that you then need to paste into your website and format. If you get to the point where you are creating large amounts of content — and that is the point that you want to get to — this will become a huge time-suck. Instead, create a form on the front-end of your website that allows people to submit their content and automatically formats it appropriately. If your station’s site is built in WordPress, I highly recommend the Gravity Forms premium plugin for precisely this reason.

3. Custom Fields and Taxonomies
When you publish content on your website, it’s important you categorize it appropriately so people can easily search for it. Radio stations will want to “tag” their content with certain pieces of information (or taxonomies), such as:

  • Type of Content: Interview, Morning Show Bit, Live Performance, etc.
  • Artist: Beyonce, Tim McGraw, Passion Pit, etc.
  • Air Talent: DJ No Name, J-Squizzles, Dr. Metal, etc.

While WordPress allows you to create Categories and Tags out of the box, I don’t think the default functionality is enough for radio stations. Consider using a premium plugin to allow you to add more taxonomies to your content.

4. An Editorial Calendar and Review Process
As I said earlier, radio stations will want to review and edit most listener-generated content before publishing it to their website. This means you’ll have to map out an actionable review process. Who reviews the content? How often do they review it? What kinds of things are they editing for? How often do they publish the content?

By default, WordPress offers a lot of tools to make this process easier. Posts can be saved with different statuses: Draft, Pending, or Published. For example, posts can be submitted through the form as drafts. The webmaster can review them and upgrade them to pending status. Then the Program Director can review and publish them. WordPress also allows you to schedule posts to be published in the future.

If you find that you need more sophisticated tools to control the editorial process, there are a host of WordPress plugins designed for crowdsourced blogs, such as Edit Flow.

In addition to a process, you’ll also want a calendar so you can see what’s coming up when. I have designed a GoogleDoc template that you can use.

5. A Notification Process
You’re going to want the appropriate staff member to be alerted when a listener submits a new piece of content. And you’re going to want to let that same listener know when their content has been published so that they can share it on social media. The hard way to do this is to write all of those emails yourself. But — you guessed it! — there are also plugins for this. I use Post Status Notifier.

6. Recruitment
Once you’ve got the system in place, it’s time to go find some content creators in your audience. If you are curating carefully, you may want to conduct a search. For example, find a local blogger who writes movie reviews and set him up with concert tickets in exchange for a weekly blogpost.

At other times, you may want to use your airwaves to cast a wider net. For example, you could create a contest encouraging people to snap a selfie showing how big of an AC/DC fan they are to win tickets. Use recorded promos and live reads to send people to a specific page on your website with an entry form (WKRP.com/ACDC).

An Example
So here’s what the final process might look like:

    1. You find a local blogger to write concert reviews in exchange for tickets.
    2. After each concert, she submits a review through an online form. Even though the form is on the front-end of the website, it is password protected so that only she can access it.
    3. Once she submits a review, the webmaster is automatically notified by email. He edits the review and upgrades the blogpost’s status to ‘pending.’
    4. When the blogpost’s status is upgraded, the Assistant Program Director is automatically notified by email. He reviews the post, makes a few more edits, and schedules it to publish tomorrow.
    5. When the blogpost is published, the author is automatically notified by email. Both the author and the radio station share the concert review over social media.

Ta-da! You’re regularly producing new content, and you didn’t have to put another task on your overworked midday jock’s plate!

For more assistance on digital or social media, contact MAB Member Services at mab@michmab.com or 1-800-968-7622.

How Landing Pages Can Help Your Radio Station Accomplish Its Digital Goals

Seth Resler

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

By: Seth Resler
Jacobs Media Strategies

The first step in any radio station’s digital strategy is to define the station’s goals. In short, what do you want listeners to do when they come to your radio station’s website? You can read more about setting digital goals here.

Once you’ve decided what your station’s digital goals are, the next questions is: How do we get listeners to do what we want them to do? When a website visitor completes a goal, such as signing up for the station’s email newsletter, it is called a “conversion.” So if ten people sign up for the newsletter today, you have “ten conversions on the email newsletter goal.”

How can you increase the number of conversions on your goals?

There are two general steps that will go a long way towards making that happen: Make the call to action really obvious. Remove the other options.

This is what a website landing page does. A landing page is a webpage that drives a visitor towards a specific action, such as signing up for an email newsletter. They are sometimes called “squeeze pages” because they remove other options and push the visitor in a specific direction.

On the Jacobs Media website, the main goal of our website is to drive registrations for our email list. We frequently use landing pages to do this. For example, here’s what a typical blogpost on the Jacobs Media website looks like:

This is not a landing page. From here, a visitor can easily browse the site. But if you were to click on a link to one of our upcoming webinars, you would see a page that is formatted like this:

This is a landing page. Notice the key differences from our other webpages:

  • The links in the header, including the main navigation and the search bar, have been removed.
  • The sidebar is gone.
  • The footer, along with all of its links, is gone.
  • The call to action is emphasized with a headline and a big orange button.

Once you get to this page, your options are limited: Register for the webinar or click your browser’s back button. We’ve removed all other distractions to encourage people to take the action that we want them to take — register for our webinar and, in the process, sign up for our email list.

If your radio station’s website is built in WordPress, you can design a landing page template that drives people towards your goals. In the WordPress backend, it is easy to select a template for pages (not posts) with a dropdown menu:

You may also want to look into landing page software such as Leadpages.

Where to Use Landing Page Templates
Most of the pages on your website will not use a landing page template. Save it for when your listeners navigate to a page that leads directly to a goal. You want to use landing pages to tip the ball into the basket. Here are the webpages you may want to use a landing page template on:

  • The email newsletter signup page
  • Contest entry forms
  • Station event pages where the goal is to sell tickets
  • Station merchandise pages where the goal is to sell stuff
  • Advertising info pages where the goal is to capture sales leads

By strategically using landing page templates, you can significantly increase your radio station’s website goal conversions.

For more assistance on digital or social media, contact MAB Member Services at mab@michmab.com or 1-800-968-7622.

Why Our Guest List Blogpost Formula Works — And How Your Radio Station Can Steal It

Seth Resler

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

By: Seth Resler
Jacobs Media Strategies

In 2015, we added a new feature to our radio industry blog called The Guest List. The concept is simple: We invite a notable person in radio (or a related industry) to write a “Top 5 List” for us. We launched it in part to take some of the workload off of Fred Jacobs, who has been blogging daily for over a decade. The feature turned out to be very popular, with many of our lists going viral on social media or attracting a steady stream of search engine traffic. Here’s a look at why this blogging strategy worked, and why radio stations should consider seeking similar blogposts from influencers in their markets.

1. It’s an easy ask for the guest authors.
You never know what kind of reaction you’re going to get when you ask people to write a guest blogpost. Some people have a lot of confidence in their writing ability, others don’t. If people don’t know what to write about, thinking of a topic can be a big hurdle. For these reasons, I have found that people are much more receptive to being a guest on a podcast than being a guest on a blog.

Fortunately, the Guest List format makes things a lot easier on our authors. We suggest a topic (though we allow them to choose their own if they want) and spell out the simple five-item list format. For most people, this makes the process of writing a blogpost much less intimidating than starting from scratch.

2. It allows us to cover topics that we wouldn’t normally cover.
With more than three decades of experience, Fred has a vast knowledge of the radio industry. Still, no one person can know everything, and inviting guests to join us on the blog allows us to talk about topics or from points of view that we might not be able to otherwise. For example, we’ve invited attorney David Oxenford to write about legal issues and Professor David Whitt to talk about teaching music history.

At times, we’ve invited guest authors to write about a subject that we see mentioned on social media. I frequently see radio production directors grumble about salespeople on Facebook, so we asked Rob Naughton to write about the pet peeves of production directors. His post went viral.

Inviting guests to write has added breadth to our blog with positive results.

3. The headlines attract readers.
Deride it as “click bait” if you want, but the truth is, the “Top 5 _______” headline is a surefire formula for drawing traffic to your website. It works for a few reasons: First, it tells you exactly what the blogpost is about without giving away so much information that you don’t feel like you need to actually read it. It piques readers’ curiosity by making them wonder, “What are the five ______s?” They can only get the answer by clicking on the link.

Finally, it implicitly guarantees to the reader that they can scan the blogpost before they have to commit to reading the entire thing. When I conduct website usability tests, I see that nothing scares people off like dense blocks of text on a website. The advantage of lists is that the reader can scan the subheadings and then, if they like what they see, go back to the beginning and read the post more carefully.

4. It gives our guests a reason to share our blog with their followers.
Web content goes viral when influencers — people with lots of online fans or followers — share their content with those fans. Our guest authors are usually influencers with a slightly different following than our own. For example, when Mignon Fogarty shares her guest blogpost, it reaches a lot of podcasters. When Luke Bourma shares his, it reaches a lot of cord cutters. This has enabled our blog to reach beyond just radio broadcasters and find new fans in other arenas.

5. The format is search engine friendly.
One advantage of the Top 5 List format is that it forces you to include keywords in your blogpost title and throughout the post itself. Even if you don’t know anything about search engine optimization, you’re likely to write a search engine-friendly post with this format. It’s hard not to.

That’s why we’ve seen consistent traffic to Sheri Lynch’s guest post, “The Top 5 Radio Topics That Get Phones Ringing.” It turns out that lots of people are asking Google for hot phone topics, and Google keeps sending them to Sheri’s post.

Radio stations can use Guest Lists to enlist influencers in their market to contribute posts to their blogs the same way that we do. Find some experts in areas that interest your listeners — food, local music, sports, beer, etc. — and ask them if they would like to write a post. Many will jump at the opportunity.

For more assistance on digital or social media, contact MAB Member Services at mab@michmab.com or 1-800-968-7622.

7 Ways to Reduce the Stress of Your Radio Station’s Podcast Launch

Seth Resler

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

By: Seth Resler
Jacobs Media Strategies

Podcasts have become a hot topic in the radio industry. Everybody’s buzzing about the need for broadcasters to embrace the medium, but there’s a side to it that also makes a lot of radio programmers apprehensive. For starters, most station staffers in the country are already stretched pretty thin.

But there’s more than just the workload causing concern among radio programmers. Many of them may quietly be thinking to themselves, “What if we’re not good at podcasting?” After all, we claim to be professionals in the audio content space. What if our podcasts suck?

I just launched a new podcast series, and trust me, I feel the same apprehension that you do. It’s a normal reaction to have when you take on something new. With podcasts, the stakes seem higher than radio shows. Bad radio shows can only be heard locally before they disappear into the ether. But bad podcast episodes can be heard around the world, and downloaded long after they were originally recorded.

This pressure can be intimidating. But the worst thing you can do is allow it to delay your radio station’s entry into the space. Here are some things you can do to lower the stakes and relieve some of the pressure:

1. Produce a pilot season.
When I first started podcasting, I assumed they were like The Tonight Show or The Today Show. That is, that new episodes came out on a regular basis from now until the end of time, and that if I wasn’t still producing the podcast in 20 years, it was a failure.

It was not until I listened to Serial I realized how wrong-headed this notion was. Serial was the first podcast that I encountered to produce a season with a limited number of episodes. This is a brilliant strategy. If the first season goes well, you can always come back for more. If it doesn’t, you aren’t committed to producing a failing show in perpetuity – or even a second season. It also give podcasters a natural break point at which they can stop, review, and tweak the show if necessary.

Instead of starting a podcast with an open-ended commitment, I strongly encourage radio stations launch with a “pilot season” consisting of a finite number of episodes (say, 6-12). Moreover, don’t call it “season one,” as that implicitly sets expectations there will be a “season two.” Instead, call it a “10-episode podcast series” and see how it goes. This will give you some breathing room and options.

2. Think of your station as a movie studio.
Not every movie is a hit. Some are huge flops. Movie studios realize this, and they build that expectation into their business model. Your radio station should do the same. Don’t bank everything on a single podcast. Instead, build a framework that allows you to launch multiple podcasts, and then run with the ones that gain traction, and drop the ones that don’t. Accept the idea that not every podcast is going to be a hit, and plan accordingly.

3. Pick a feasible show format.
My first podcast involved me going to protest sites, recording a series of interviews, editing those interviews, and compiling them into episodes. It could easily take 15 hours to produce a single episode. Not surprisingly, I was koverwhelmed by the workload, and that show “podfaded” after only a dozen episodes.

When I set out to launch my second podcast series, I gave a lot more thought to feasibility of the format. I wanted to focus on something I could realistically produce on a continual basis, so I settled on a show that involved one-on-one phone interviews. It began as a biweekly show, and I didn’t turn it into a weekly show until I was confident that I could keep up with the pace.

When you set out to create your first podcast, be realistic. Use a format that you know you can realistically produce given your limited resources.

4. Know your skills.
My first few podcast series involved one-on-one interviews. After a while, I wanted to move on to something more complex. Many of the podcasts I was a fan of come out of the Ira Glass This American Life storytelling journalism mold. So I set out to do something similar. The problem? As a commercial radio broadcaster, I have no experience with storytelling journalism. I quickly discovered that creating this type of podcast is not my forté.

When you set out to launch your radio station’s first podcast, take stock of which skills your staff possesses and which skills they don’t. You’re much more likely to succeed if you build a podcast on the foundation that’s already there instead of trying to emulate somebody else’s podcasting style.

5. Pick a passion topic.
On the radio, we try to talk about pop culture topics with broad appeal. Podcasts, on the other hand, often work best when they cover specific niches. But what niche should your podcast cover?

I’m going to recommend something that runs counter to everything we’ve learned as radio broadcasters: Pick a topic based on what the host wants, not necessarily what the audience wants. (I know, I know. As a radio programmer who begrudgingly played a lot of Nickelback in heavy rotation, I’m surprised to hear me say it, too.)

Down the road, of course, you may want to launch podcasts based around the audience’s interests. But in the beginning, when we’re all still learning, the stakes are still low, and there isn’t extra money for extra work, so let the host develop a podcast around something she is passionate about.

Talk to your staff. If you’ve got somebody who’s excited about craft beer, parenting, pets, wrestling, or science fiction, let them run with it and see what happens. It will make the experience more enjoyable for everyone.

6. Don’t sell it.
Too often, as radio broadcasters, we don’t do anything new unless we think we can monetize it. One of the first questions I often get about podcasting is, “How do we sell it?”

Here’s my answer: “Don’t. Yet.”

I realize a lot of managers may scoff at this, but for now, treat your podcasts as an R&D project: there’s not a ton of money to be made in the space right now anyway, but there will be in the future, so develop the skills and expertise to make a great product. If you launch your first podcast by making promises to clients that you can’t deliver on, you run the risk of killing the goose that will one day lay golden eggs.

Don’t sell a sponsorship around your first podcast.

7. Make the goal to learn.
Instead of quantifying a goal for your first podcast in terms of dollars or downloads, articulate a goal more like this:

“We want to learn how to produce a high-quality podcast.”

Trust me, after your first 10 episodes, you’re going to know a whole lot more than you did at the beginning. There is a lot of value in gaining this experience. It will allow you to produce better podcasts that earn more popularity and profit down the road.

Yes, the podcasting space can be intimidating at first, and it’s natural for radio broadcasters to feel reluctance. By adopting the right attitude and planning correctly, you can reduce the pressure and make podcasting fun and rewarding.

Guide to Podcasting
Looking to launch your radio station’s first podcast? Download our Podcasting Guide for Radio Stations: here.

For more assistance on digital or social media, contact MAB Member Services at mab@michmab.com or 1-800-968-7622.

Here’s What I Look for When I First Look at a Radio Station’s Website

Seth Resler

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

By: Seth Resler
Jacobs Media Strategies

From time to time, Fred Jacobs pops into my office and asks me to take a quick look at a radio station’s website to see what I think. When I’m doing a five-minute diagnosis of a website, here’s what I look for:

1. Is it built in WordPress?
I always start by pulling up the station’s website and taking a look under the hood. In my Google Chrome browser, I go to View > Developer > View Source. This allows me to see the HTML code for the website. I search the page for “wp-.” If the site is built in WordPress, there will be multiple instances of “wp-.”

A radio station website doesn’t need to be built in the WordPress platform to succeed, but it does need to be built in a Content Management System (CMS) platform. A CMS makes it easy for radio stations to consistently publish new content. WordPress just happens to be the most popular CMS platform.

2. Does it have Google Analytics installed?
While I’m poking around the HTML, I also search the page for “ua-.” If I come across some code that looks like this…

<!– Global site tag (gtag.js) – Google Analytics –>
<script async src=”https://www.googletagmanager.com/gtag/js?id=UA-XXXXXXX-X”></script>
<script>
window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || [];
function gtag(){dataLayer.push(arguments);}
gtag(‘js’, new Date());

gtag(‘config’, ‘UA-XXXXXXX-X’);
</script>

… then I know that the site has Google Analytics installed on it. This is a good sign — it means that the station has the ability to collect data about how visitors are using the website. Of course, whether anybody is actually looking at that data or not is a separate question.

3. Do they publish original content on a regular basis?
Next, is the radio station creating original content on a regular basis? Sometimes, the homepage will have a blog or news section on it; sometimes, I’ll have to search through the main menu to find it. If I find a blog or news section, I check to see whether they are creating original content on a local level or simply importing it from a national service. I also check to see how often new posts are published. And I take a quick look to see how good the content is: Are the headlines well written? Is there just an embedded video or audio file with no text description?

4. Is it obvious where this radio station is and what they play?
One of the best ways to see how good your station’s website performs is to run a usability test on it. At this point, I’ve run usability tests on enough radio station websites that I know some common issues to look out for.

One common issue is that the website does not make it clear where the radio station is, what type of programming the station airs, or even that it’s a radio station at all. When somebody tunes in to your station on the radio, of course they know what city it’s in — they’re in the same city!

But website visitors can come to your website from anywhere in the world. Often, they come by clicking on a link found on social media or in search engine results. So don’t assume that people who come to your website know what the radio station is all about. The homepage — especially the header — needs to make it very clear.

5. Is the language in the menu clear?
Another common issue that shows up in website usability tests is vague or confusing language in the main menu. For example, some stations will use the term “On Air” when they should use “DJs” (after all, aren’t the commercials and the music also “on air”?). Others will have a link for “Concerts” and another link for “Events” (aren’t concerts also events?).

Here are some common menu mistakes that I look for.

6. Are there clear calls to action?
The most important question you can ask when it comes to your radio station’s digital strategy is this: “When people come to our website, what do we want them to do?” I can usually tell if a station has asked this question just by looking at the site. Sometimes, they will be driving me to clear call to action, such as a big red “Listen Now” button or an email newsletter registration form.

Unfortunately, most radio station websites don’t steer me towards a few clear actions. Instead, they are cluttered with too much content, too many links, and too many choices. This is a sign that even if a radio station’s website is good at attracting visitors, it’s not very good at converting them. The station needs to set clear website goals.

By asking these questions, I can usually get a good sense of how a radio station’s website is performing. Yes, I always want to spend more time diving deeper into analytics before making a complete diagnosis, but this will do in a pinch.

For more assistance on digital or social media, contact MAB Member Services at mab@michmab.com or 1-800-968-7622.