Category Archives: Digital/Social/Web

Digital Gifts for the Radio Broadcaster Who Has Everything

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

Looking for a last-minute stocking-stuffer for your Secret Santa? Here are some gift ideas for every colleague in your radio station. Best of all, they’re free!

For DJs

For the Program Director

For the Digital Team

For the Promotions Director

For the Sales Team

For Management

I hope you find these tips useful. Happy holidays!

For more assistance on digital or social media, contact MAB Member Services at [email protected] or 1-800-968-7622.

Use These Digital Calls to Action at Your Radio Station’s On-Site Promotions

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

Street teams have been a crucial component of radio stations’ marketing strategies for decades. On the programming side, we frequently deploy them to engage with listeners at concerts and festivals. On the sales side, promotional appearances are often an important part of closing deals companies like car dealerships and beer distributors.

When the street team rolls out to these events, they invite listeners to play games, from spinning the age-old prize wheel to more modern fare like Dropmix. In that moment before our promo staffer allows a listener to partake, we have an opportunity to ask them to do something: “You wanna win a t-shirt? To play, you first have to ________.”

Years ago, we might ask people to fill out a slip of paper with a golf pencil and stuff it into a cardboard ballot box. But then some poor intern has to decipher the handwriting on those slips of paper and enter them into a database. In the digital age, there are more effective uses of your promo staffers’ time. So what should you be asking listeners to do at on-site promotions? Here are some possibilities:

1. Download the station’s mobile app.
“Wanna play our game? Download the WKRP mobile app and then show me your phone.” This doesn’t require a lot of explanation, making it a great call to action in loud, crowded environments like concerts. Plus, every time people look at their phones, they’ll be reminded of your station. Sure, some percentage of them might uninstall your station’s app later, but not all of them, so you’ll move the needle over time.

2. Sign up for the station’s email list.
The worst way to collect email addresses is to have people write them down by hand. The best way is to have people type them directly into your email database program. To do this, you’ll want a tablet, such as an iPad, and a hard case that allows you to lock that tablet down to prevent it from getting stolen. Many email service providers have a tablet app that serves as a dedicated registration form for on-site appearances. For example, Mailchimp, which we use here at Jacobs Media, has an app called “Mailchimp Subscribe.” Set your locked iPad out on a table and require people to sign up before playing a game.

3. Text in a keyword.
Just about everybody has the ability to send a text message on their phone — even if they don’t own a smartphone! Yet text messaging has been perilous for radio broadcasters, who have sometimes run afoul of text message spamming laws and been ordered to pay hefty fines. That’s why I like to use text messaging strictly as a registration tool. (Of course, you should always check with your station’s legal team to make sure that they agree.)

Set up a keyword with a service like Textiful or Join By Text. When people text that word into a dedicated number, they will receive an automatic reply asking them for an email address. For example, texting “WKRP” to 55555 would generate a response that says, “Reply with your email address to join our email list. You could win cool stuff.”

When people respond with an email address, it will automatically be sent to your email marketing platform. Once people join your email list by text, don’t send them any more messages to avoid violating spam laws.

4. Dial **Keyword.
Although they’ve been around for a while, StarStar Mobile phone numbers haven’t yet penetrated the mainstream. They work in a manner that’s similar to a text message keyword, except they’re easier because they use your phone as a phone. For example, somebody might dial **WKRP. This will connect them to a customized voicemail greeting where they can use voice commands, and will also send them an SMS message with links to various destinations that you set. At the moment, only a handful of radio stations are beginning to experiment with this technology, but it offers a lot of potential for broadcasters.

By employing clear, concise calls to action at on-site promotions, your street team can offer a big boost to the station’s digital strategy. Gather your team and figure out which of these calls to action make the most sense under different circumstances.

For more assistance on digital or social media, contact MAB Member Services at [email protected] or 1-800-968-7622.

7 Ways to Clean Your Radio Station’s Digital House During Downtime

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 we head into the holidays, this is typically a slower time of year for radio stations. When I was a radio programmer, I used this time to clean my office: throw away anything I didn’t need anymore and file away anything that I still did. It’s also wise to take this time to do the digital equivalent of cleaning house. Here are some things to check on during the holiday lull:

1. Clean up your passwords and logins.
Hopefully, you have the login information for all of your different digital tools compiled into a single master list. Take time to review that list and make sure that it’s up to date. If you have any employees who have moved on during the year, you will want to change passwords or remove their user accounts as appropriate.

2. Figure out what you’re paying for.
Many “software as a service” tools charge a monthly or annual fee. Sometimes, we’ve subscribed to something we no longer need, and we forget about it until the charge shows up on the corporate credit card statement. Look back at the statements for the year and make sure that you’re only paying for the things you really need.

3. Review your social media policy.
Does your radio station have a social media policy? If not, write one. If it does, when is the last time you looked at it? The social media space moves quickly. Review your policy to make sure that it’s up to date.

4. Review the copy on your static website pages.
Many radio stations have website pages that rarely change, such as an “About” page or an “Advertise” page. Peruse these pages to make sure that nothing in the text needs to be updated.

5. Revise your automatic email campaigns.
I am a big proponent of setting up automatic email campaigns to engage with listeners. While this can save your staff a lot of time, there is also a tendency to “set it and forget it.” If you have drip campaigns set up to automatically send out evergreen content, this is a good time to make sure that the content is really as evergreen as you think it is. It may be time to retire that interview with Limp Bizkit or Psy.

6. Check anything that automatically posts to social media.
By the same token, tools that automatically repost content to social media can be a blessing, but you need to keep an eye on them. Take stock of these types of tools. Make sure you understand what they are doing and how you to make any changes if necessary.

7. Update your WordPress plugins.
If your radio station’s website is built on WordPress, any plugins you are using may become outdated over time. The holidays are a good time to update these plugins, but you’ll want to monitor your site carefully to make sure that the updated plugins don’t have any conflicts that can break your site. First, back up your site. Then, copy the live site to a staging area where you can update the plugins safely. Once you’ve updated all of the plugins, spend some time with the staging site looking for any issues. When you’re sure everything is working properly, deploy the staging site to replace the live site. Never update plugins on the live site; you’re asking for trouble if you do.

During the year, we often get so busy that we don’t have the bandwidth to perform maintenance on our digital tools. Take advantage of the downtime to keep things running smoothly at your radio station.

For more assistance on digital or social media, contact MAB Member Services at [email protected] or 1-800-968-7622.

How to Use the Holidays to Crowdsource Blogposts 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

Can you feel it? We’re in the home stretch before the holidays. Pretty soon, the snow will start falling, the record label reps will stop calling and we’ll all get more than our fill of Adam Sandler’s “Chanukah Song.”

One of the fun things about the holiday season is that it provides an opportunity to seek out content from local community members. I’ve written about how to ask guests to contribute to your radio station in the past, and usually this involves asking one person to write a single blogpost. But there’s another way to do it: You can ask multiple people to contribute to a single blogpost. To do this, pose a question that different people will answer differently. Then, compile their answers into a blogpost. For example, here’s a blogpost in which I asked contributors how they would spend $100,000 to market a podcast.

To create a blogpost like this, first identify the people in your local community that you want to pose your question to. These can be a variety of influencers in your market, including athletes, local band members, journalists, chefs, religious leaders, comedians, etc. You want to target people who have their own following in your market because you want them to share your blogpost with their fanbase.

Once you have your list, find their email addresses online and craft a short email that explains what you are doing and what question you’d like them to answer. For the podcasting blogpost above, I sent out this solicitation email:

Our founder, Fred Jacobs, has a blog that is widely read by the radio broadcasting industry. We’re working on a podcast that gathers together the input from a dozen experts about podcast marketing. We’d love to include you. Would you be willing to write a paragraph or two in response to this question:

“If you were launching a brand new podcast and you had $100,000 to spend on marketing it, how would you spend the money?”

Don’t forget to ask people for their job title, headshot, and a link to their website so that you can include these in the post.

Not everybody will respond, so it’s a good idea to ask for more answers than you need. Also, you may want to aim for a diverse group of respondents. This might mean a mixture of people with different jobs, genders, ages, ethnicities and physical locations.

Of course, the big question is, “What should we ask them?” Here are some idea starters for the holidays:

  1. What’s your favorite holiday song?
  2. What’s a great local gift to give somebody this holiday season?
  3. What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
  4. What’s the worst gift you’ve ever received?
  5. What’s your favorite holiday recipe?
  6. What’s your favorite holiday cocktail? Provide the recipe.
  7. What’s your favorite holiday movie or TV special? Why?
  8. What’s your favorite thing about [your city] during the holidays?
  9. Tell us about a holiday tradition that you have.
  10. What do you want for Christmas this year?

Once you’ve gotten enough responses, publish your blogpost and share it on social media. Be sure to tag all of the contributors in your social media post. Also, email them the link to the published post and invite them to share it on social media as well. If they do, the post may go viral.

Because it’s easier to write a single paragraph than an entire blogpost, inviting multiple contributors is often a more effective way to crowdsource content. If your station has never enlisted local community members to be a part of its blog, give it a try this holiday season.

For more assistance on digital or social media, contact MAB Member Services at [email protected] or 1-800-968-7622.

Behind the Scenes of “The KSHE Tapes” Podcast with The U-Man and Favazz

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 working in the programming department of WBCN in Boston back at the beginning of this century, we had a closet full of recordings that had accumulated over the years. These include several decades’ worth of performances by and interviews with bands like The Ramones, Pearl Jam and Linkin Park. I have often wondered what happened to that treasure trove of music history. As I’ve watched the internet grow over the years, I’ve frequently thought about how many people would love to listen to those recordings online.

As it turns out, I’m not the only person who had that thought. Morning host John “The U-Man” Ulett and afternoon drive jock Guy “Favazz” Favazza of KSHE 95 in St. Louis, another legendary rock station with decades of heritage to mine, have launched a new podcast called “The KSHE Tapes” which features interviews from the station’s past. They’ve dug up old conversations with some of rock’s biggest names, including Paul McCartney, Slash, Alice Cooper, and Sammy Hagar. I asked them to tell me more about the podcast… –Seth

1. Tell us about The KSHE Tapes.
We host the show together, and between the two of us, we have plenty of interviews to choose from. We take one each week, set it up, and play it back. However, we pause the interview at times to ask questions of each other or make comments. It makes for good banter.

John “The U-Man” Ulett

2. John, how did the show come about?
For a while, we were mulling over what to do with a room full of tapes filled with KSHE history — not all of which are interviews. We’ve also been thinking about what would make a good KSHE podcast. Someone from one of our Hubbard stations in Cincinnati suggested that we do something with past interviews. So Favazz and I decided to use them in a podcast, but not just play them back; we comment throughout the playback and inject ourselves into the interviews to update things, or highlight something important, or even make light of something.

3. Describe the process of making the show.
We decide by Monday of each week which interview we will do. We text one another ideas and go from there. We record on Wednesday and post the episode on Friday. We might listen to parts of the interview beforehand to get an idea of what we might ask each other during recording. The biggest challenge — but not that big — was getting our engineering staff to bring a minidisc player and a DAT player into the production studio so we could use them for the show. Some of the interviews are even archived on reel to reel tape, but we have that covered too. We even play the parts of the interviews that never made it onto the air like the mic checks.

4. As you listen back to the archive of interviews, have you found any favorite moments?
We’re still mining the vault, so who knows what we’ll find, but at this point: Paul McCartney came across as so warm and friendly that we grew to admire him even more after hearing the interview.


5. Favazz, what have you learned in the course of making this podcast?
I think we’ve both learned that making a podcast is kinda fun. Listening back to old interviews is painful at times, but the content is what we enjoy the most. I have the easy part, as John does any editing the show might need. And I’m pretty sure we enjoy working with each other. John’s been doing mornings forever and I’m in my 20th year of afternoon drive. While we aren’t in the air studio at the same time, we’re golfing partners, so we knew our chemistry would work.

6. How are you promoting the podcast?
We’re promoting it on social media outlets and on the air. A recorded promo spot is being formulated. Word of mouth has also been strong.

7. Based on your experience so far, what advice would you give to other radio stations looking to turn their archived interviews into a podcast? Any surprises?
Dig up the interviews no matter what form they’re in and have fun with them. This week, we’ll be doing an interview that’s on cassette. Who knows when we’ll do one on reel to reel? You need a cooperative engineering staff to make all that happen. We are in the early stages, and while we wouldn’t change anything right now, it will evolve.

We’ve been most surprised at the number of downloads already. After two weeks and three episodes, we’ve already had almost 4,500 downloads. That’s pretty good. We are both proud that we host the first podcast ever for KSHE. That’s no small thing after 51 years in existence!

Any final thoughts?
We would like to thank Chris Files from Hubbard for his help in getting this thing off the ground. Also, Drew Patterson for producing the podcast’s open and close, and our boss, Rick Balis.

Listen to “The KSHE Tapes”

For more assistance on digital or social media, contact MAB Member Services at [email protected] or 1-800-968-7622.

How Radio Commercials Are Different From Podcast Sponsorships

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 represent a great opportunity for radio stations to add to their sellable inventory without driving ratings down or program directors crazy. But before your radio station’s sales team starts pitching podcasts to clients, they should understand the differences between podcast ads and radio commercials. Here are some of the key differences:

1. Podcasts use host-read ads, not produced spots.
Podcasting is a more intimate medium than radio listening. People often listen to radio in the background, so commercials have to grab listeners’ attention to cut through. With podcasts, people listen more actively. That’s why podcasts are often described as a “lean in” medium. Blaring commercials with music, sound effects and cheesy announcers are too jarring for podcasts. Instead, most podcast commercials are copy points read by the host, sometimes with a fair amount of improvisation.

2. Podcasts are not as strict about commercial length.
On our airwaves, we adhere to strict clocks. With podcasts, things are much looser. Podcasts ads don’t have strict 30 or 60-second time limits. This is good for creative on-air talents, but bad for long-winded ones.

3. Podcast spotloads are much lighter.
Podcasts do not run 6 spots in a single break, or 12-15 minutes of commercials in an hour. Depending on their length, podcast episodes often have a pre-roll break, one or two midroll breaks, and a post-roll break. At most, I’ve heard three different sponsors in a single break, and that is rare.

4. Podcasts often contain direct response ads.
Many podcast ads feature a host directing listeners to a custom URL (such as “Acme-dot-com-slash-Awesomecast”) or asking listeners to type in a custom discount code. These podcasters get paid every time a sale is attributed to their ads through these URLs or codes. Some companies, such as Audible, set up turn-key advertising programs so that any podcaster can run direct response ads for them without requiring prior approval.

5. Podcast ads can be dynamically inserted.
Many podcast hosting companies now offer the ability to dynamically insert ads. “Baked in” ads are ads that are recorded at the same time that the rest of an episode is recorded; the baked in ad is permanently part of the episode, so everybody who downloads the episode hears the same ad. Dynamically inserted ads, on the other hand, are not included in the original episode recording, but inserted when a listener downloads the episode. For example, if I download a five-year-old episode of Hardcore History today, I may hear a different ad than somebody who downloaded the same episode when it was first published.

Ads can be dynamically inserted by time or by geography. Somebody in Los Angeles might hear a different ad than somebody in Topeka. This allows national podcasters to sell to local advertisers.

Before your sales team starts selling podcasts, make sure they understand these key differences. You may want to gather them in a room and listen to a range of different ones, from entertainment shows like comedian Joe Rogan’s to public radio shows like Invisibilia, to hear how different podcasts are handling advertisements. Using these as a starting point, decide what makes the most sense for your station’s shows.

For more assistance on digital or social media, contact MAB Member Services at [email protected] or 1-800-968-7622.

Facebook Now Lets You Add Music to Your Page’s Facebook Stories

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 Facebook has tweaked its algorithm in response to outside pressure, radio stations — as well as businesses generally — have reported a significant decline in engagement. One hope for stations looking to stem the tide has been to try and use Facebook’s Stories feature, which allows users to publish videos or photo collections that only last for 24 hours. Business pages, such as those used by radio stations and radio personalities, can publish stories from the Facebook mobile app.

Facebook has announced that those stories can now include short music clips.  Here’s how to do it:

1) On your phone, open the Facebook app.

2) Navigate to your Facebook page (usually by searching for it then clicking on it in the results).

3) Scroll down until you see the “Your Page’s Story” section. Click on “Create a Story.”

4) At the bottom of the screen, select either “Boomerang” (for a series of quick shots) or “Video.”

5) Click the big round white button and record. (You may want to switch cameras for a selfie shot.)

6) When you’ve stopped recording, click the sticker icon at the top of the screen.

7) Push the “Music” button.

8) Search for a song and click the blue “Add” button.

9) Select the portion of the song you want to use by scrolling left or right.

10) In the top right corner, click “Done.”

11) In the lower right corner, click the “Next” button.

12) Decide if you want to share this to Your Story (it will last for 24 hours and anybody can see it), as a Post (it will stay up unless you remove it, but you can select the audience), or both. Then click the blue button in the lower right corner.

Your Story will now appear at the top of the feed for fans of your page.

The hope is that by creating Stories, owners of Facebook Pages will have an easier time reaching their fans. For posts that will age quickly then become irrelevant to your fans, consider posting to your Stories instead of clogging up your feed. For example, you may want to post videos of contest winners or street team stops to your Stories so these posts will disappear after 24 hours.

For more assistance on digital or social media, contact MAB Member Services at [email protected] or 1-800-968-7622.

How to Use RSS Feeds to Keep Up on Radio Industry News

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 big fan of using RSS feeds to pull news from all of your favorite websites into a single place where it’s easy to skim. In the past, I have written about how radio DJs can use RSS feeds to build their own custom show prep service. Other folks in the radio industry can also use the same technique to keep up on what’s happening in their profession.

I like to think of RSS feeds as pipes for information. If a website has an RSS feed — and most news sites and blogs do; some offer several feeds — then you can subscribe to it and import that information into another location. The most common place to import this information is into an RSS reader. An RSS reader allows you to subscribe to multiple RSS feeds where you can easily scan the imported information to find the stuff you want to read. It’s like a build-your-own newspaper!

There are a number of RSS readers out there. I use Feedly. In my Feedly account, I have subscribed to the RSS feeds of numerous websites and organized them into different folders. For example, I have a folder for radio industry websites like Radio Ink, Radio World, and All Access. I have a folder for online marketing websites like Social Media Examiner, the Content Marketing Institute, and Hubspot. Different types of radio employees will obviously want to keep up on different sources; what interests an engineer might not interest a promotions director. But, of course, everybody will want to subscribe to the Jacobs Media blog. Here’s the RSS feed:

I also include RSS feeds from Google Alerts in my RSS Reader.

A peak at my Feedly RSS reader account.

Every morning, I take a few minutes to open up my RSS reader and scan through the day’s news. I also have my RSS reader’s mobile app installed on my phone so I can keep up with what’s going on when I’m standing in line at Starbucks or I’m stuck in the waiting room at my dentist’s office.|

In addition to making it easy to keep up with the latest news, my RSS reader also makes it easy for me to find stories to share on social media. If you’re required to post to your station’s social media accounts frequently, combining an RSS reader with a social media management tool — I use Hootsuite’s Hootlet — can make your job a lot easier. (Here’s more information on the type of information on the type of content you’ll want to share.)

RSS feeds are a great way to pull information from multiple sources into a single location, and they can help you stay informed.

For more assistance on digital or social media, contact MAB Member Services at [email protected] or 1-800-968-7622.

Apple is Cracking Down on Podcasts. How to Avoid Getting Pulled From iTunes

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 recent weeks, there have been increasing reports of podcasters waking up to find that Apple has removed their shows from iTunes/ Apple Podcasts. Given that Apple Podcasts is far and away the biggest podcast directory, and that many other “podcatchers” (podcast listening apps) pull their data from iTunes, it goes without saying that you don’t want to lose your spot in Apple’s directory.

Apple is removing podcasts for “keyword stuffing.” In addition to being a directory, Apple Podcasts is also a search engine. Many podcasters know that one of the best ways to get new listeners to discover their shows is to ensure that they come up in the directory’s search results when people look for certain terms. Because Apple reportedly does not index show descriptions — only the show title, author, and episode titles — podcasters shove keywords into these indexed tags to increase the likelihood that listeners will find their shows.

One popular way to do this is to use a semi-colon in the show’s title followed by a brief description. For example: “Yummy In My Tummy: Homemade Soup Recipes.” This allows the podcaster to include the keyword “soup” in the show title, which is what a fan of this show is likely to search for. This podcast might also include the author tag, “Sara Jones of the Chicago Soup Store,” in case anybody searches for the name of her employer. Until now, I encouraged podcasters to use these techniques to help them find relevant audiences. However, Apple is now cracking down on this type of keyword stuffing.

How do you avoid having your podcast removed? I asked a few experts for their advice. Here’s what they said:

Todd Cochrane

1. Stick to your show title.
“Podcasters can avoid being de-listed by keeping their show titles titles, not extended descriptions,” says Raw Voice / Blubrry CEO Todd Cochrane. “If you have a dash or semicolon in your show’s title, you’re likely to be examined.”

Rob Walch, VP of Podcaster Relations at Libsyn, agrees. “Stop putting in dashes and colons followed by keywords; that is a huge red flag,” says Walch. “Be direct with your title. Don’t get cute or clever. Cute and clever are horrible for search in Apple Podcasts.” (Unfortunately, this doesn’t bode well for my podcast about Detroit, The D Brief. While it routinely gets compliments for having a clever name, it doesn’t perform well when searching for “Detroit” in Apple Podcasts.)

Some podcasters have taken keyword stuffing to a whole other level by name-checking famous people in their podcasts’ titles even though these people are never actually interviewed. For example, a title might be “Fantastic Leaders: Conversations with People Like Tim Ferris, Seth Godin, and Zig Ziglar.” This is an obvious attempt to leverage the names of these famous people to drive downloads, and it’s precisely the type of spammy technique that Apple is trying to reign in. If your podcast title contains words like “covering,” “including,” or “similar to” followed by a laundry list of keywords, your show is at risk. “That just screams, ‘Kick me out!’” says Walch.

Rob Walch

2. Use only a first name and last name for the Author.
“Companies putting their names in the Author area will likely need to reconsider this practice,” says Cochrane. For example, in my podcast featuring interviews from the Worldwide Radio Summit, I listed the Author as “Seth Resler of All Access.” This way, if anybody searched for the name of the popular radio industry website, they would find my podcast. However, in the wake of Apple’s crackdown, I have changed the Author tag to simply, “Seth Resler.”

Elsie Escobar

3. Use common sense.
“Not everything is black and white, so just use common sense,” says Cochrane. As an enormous company, Apple is not particularly responsive to the individual needs of podcasters who are receiving the benefits of its popular directory for free — there’s just too many of them; if you try to skirt the rules, you’re at your own risk. “Stop asking when Apple is going to fix this or what Apple can do to help you. It’s a waste of your time, energy, and resources,” says Elsie Escobar, Co-Founder of the She Podcasts community. “Create a strategy for marketing your show that transcends specific platforms but respects the desired practices for each platform.”

It’s a good time to review your podcast’s tags and make adjustments. As Escobar points out, this type of housekeeping “is part of our daily responsibility as podcasters. You either take it on or you don’t.”

For more assistance on digital or social media, contact MAB Member Services at [email protected] or 1-800-968-7622.

Four Questions to Ask About Your Website (and the Answers You Want to Hear)

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 radio, we conduct all sorts of research: call-out research, library tests, perceptual studies, etc. Yet too few of us regularly test our websites to see how listeners are interacting with them.

I am a big proponent of running Website Usability Tests — tests designed to see how real people interact with your website. When I conduct these tests on radio station websites, I follow the methodology described by Steve Krug in his book, Rocket Surgery Made Easy. I find three people on Craigslist who are willing to give up an hour of their time for $40 apiece. I prefer to use people who are not in the same market as the radio station that runs the website we are testing. That’s because I want our testers to give us feedback based solely on the website itself, not on any other information they may have gleaned from listening to the radio.

I sit each person in front of a computer with the radio station website on it. I ask them to perform a series of tasks and to think out loud as they do them. I am looking for tasks that they have trouble completing. This tells me that we need to tweak some things to make the site easier to use. But before I start doling out tasks, I will ask them a few general questions. Here are those questions, along with the answers I hope to hear:

1. “What does the organization that runs this website do?”
In my recruitment for these tests, I am very careful never to give any hint as to what the website might be about. I never tell people that I am testing a “radio station’s website,” just a “client’s website.” That’s because I know that I am purposely asking a very broad question to open the test. Of course, the answer we’re looking for here is, “It’s a radio station.” You’d be surprised how long it sometimes takes people to figure out that they’re looking at a radio station website. I once had a tester take 10 minutes to figure it out!

Of course, some stations have signals on their site that makes it more obvious: If the station logo features a frequency followed by “AM” or “FM,” testers tend to figure it out pretty quickly. On the other hand, stations with generic names like “Arrow,” “Mix” or “Hawk” don’t usually fare as well.

2. “What city is this radio station in?”
My best guess is that 90% of all radio station website fail this question. On the air, we don’t need to identify our location consistently because everybody who can hear us is in the same place. On the web, however, that’s not the case. People can visit us from across the world. As broadcasters, we often neglect to tell people where we are on our website, but it’s not safe to assume that people know.

3. “If you tuned into this radio station, what would you expect to hear?”
Ideally, the testers will identify the musical genres a station plays or its format. (Testers are more likely to answer with the name of some formats than others; they might say “Top 40″ but they’re unlikely to respond with “Triple A.”) Hopefully, you’ve placed a musical positioning statement right beneath your station’s logo that tells people what type of music your station plays. Again, some positioning statements are going to be clearer than others: “Today’s Hot Country,” “Hip Hop and R&B,” and “Classic Rock” conjure up a more specific music selection in the minds of testers than a vague phrase like, “A Wider Variety.” That’s why I usually follow up this question by asking…

4. “Which artists would you expect to hear if you tuned in to this station?”
We’re hoping that the testers are able to namecheck your biggest artists in response to this question: “Kanye West, Beyonce and Rihanna,” or “Green Day, Sublime and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.” The best way to ensure that you get this type of answer is to have artwork that features these artists on the homepage. This could be labeled photos of bands, a collection of logos or a collage of album covers.

Unfortunately, too often, radio station homepages are dominated by a rotating slideshow. This slideshow usually doesn’t showcase the station’s core artists. Instead, it might feature a Dunkin’ Donuts promotion or whatever C-level band is playing the 300-seat club in town this weekend. Rotating slideshows detract from the message you want to send with your homepage, which is why I recommend removing it and replacing it with a static image featuring core artists.

If you’re reluctant to remove the slideshow, I have seen some radio stations successfully include the images of core artists in the website’s header.

After that, I’ll ask the testers to perform specific tasks. Here’s a full sample list of questions. I’ll also spend time examining the verbiage in main navigation, which often reveals these common mistakes. Based on what I learn from this usability test, we’ll implement changes that can improve the user experience. I recommend running a website usability test at least twice a year, before the launch of a new website or when adding a page for a key component of the station, such as a new morning show or an annual concert event.

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