New Tools For Doing Great Radio in the Digital Age

Last year many media buyers were instructed by their clients to spend one-third of their radio budgets on digital – whatever that is.

You see, radio puts out the “Mission Accomplished” banner when as an industry it hired about 1,000 new digital people (or transferred them) according to recent research. (Why don’t I believe these reports?)

That’s not going to get it done.

No radio group today spends even 1% of its operating budget on digital initiatives and that’s letting them do the counting and reporting.

But the question is still real – where should a radio station look to secure its future?

More radio or more digital?

My view is that radio should focus on two things and do both well:

  • The best on-air radio it can do (most stations are not doing that)
  • A separate revenue stream from digital projects and at the top of that list would be short-form video. Not as an add-on to radio but an entire new business.

But the most important thing is to do the best on-air radio possible and because of tough times, consolidation and competition from digital that is confusing many radio execs, we should focus on tools for making what’s on-air better.


Even great radio stations sound like they are talking at, or down to listeners. Radio doesn’t sound like an on-air representation of the target audience.

But that can be done with a few strategic steps that must morph over the entire radio station day and night.

I’m going to start this discussion at my Philly conference in one week.


Most stations sound like the dj is about to get fired, lose hours or have to pay more of their health care.  As if Lew Dickey or Bob Pittman was standing over them with the mike open.

And almost all stations have picked up this “May Day” type on-air sound.

Best way to change is to focus on the things today’s listeners want most from radio and I’ve got a list of them for you to consider. Then you can ask how these things can practically get integrated on-air.

I have evidence I will share that young men especially think it important to be seen as fun to be with. Don’t discount it.

But radio has some adjusting to do because radio stations are the ones who want to sound like they are having the fun – when they actually try.

This is a nuance that is very important and it can mean the world to your station.


You can’t win with 16 minutes of commercials an hour in this digital, attention deficit age. But steps can be taken. Change the scheduling and presentation of commercial breaks and then start cutting.


Most good PDs know you play the hits and play as few as possible over and over again. That’s what brought me ratings success as a PD. But, things have changed and program directors die hard on this issue.

I will identify a group of stations that absolutely have it right – the right mix of repetitive hits and music discovery and how to do it.

Listeners today deserve the great radio experience Baby Boomers and Gen Xers once had. Not changing is not an option so if you’re open to new strategies, you’re going to like this session.

Here’s the revised agenda as of yesterday:

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


8:00 am         Registration / Complimentary Breakfast

9:00 am         Current State of the Radio Industry
                      Short Attention Spans & Radio
                      Solutions to Commercial Clutter
                      Listen Longer Strategies
                      Eliminating Radio’s 3 Biggest Objections
                      Selling Against Competitors Who Cut Rates

10:30 am       Break

10:45 am      Ways To Compete with Online Content
                      What Millennials Want From Radio
                      8 Millennial Mistakes You Don’t Want To Make
                      Available Radio Listeners

12 Noon        Complimentary Lunch

1:00 pm        How To Attract Millions To Your Website (Laurie Cantillo interview)

2:15 pm         Break

2:30 pm         Innovative Sources of New Radio Revenue
                      Telling Stories – the New Spoken Word
                      Why You Should Pass On Podcasting
                      Radio’s Potent New Competitor
                      Listener Engagement More Than Ratings

3:30 pm        Audience Q & A

4:00 pm       Conference Concludes

Here’s the rest of the program content:

  1. Attracting More Website Visits. WTOP in DC does 2 million every month and 31.8 million page views. So we’re bringing PD Laurie Cantillo in to sit with us and discuss. We can question here together.
  2. Solutions to Commercial Clutter. Look, running 8-minutes of unlistenable commercials every hour is a suicide wish.  I know, they pay the bills. I’m going to present you with 11 ways to make this problem get better.
  3. How Much Radio, How Much Digital. I can tell you right now I am going to show you the digital initiatives that have no payoff. But you’ll be impressed by the few that do and you’re going to want to jump on them. One costs under $1,000 and is pretty impressive.
  4. Listen Longer Strategies. Radio TSL has been dropping every year since the early 1990s. This calls for disrupting the way we build our hot clocks. I’m going to show you how to throw that hourly clock out and replace it with something better.
  5. Eliminating 2015’s 3 Biggest Listener Objections. Outdated morning shows, too many commercials and repetitious music. Do even one thing on these three listener objections and you’re ahead of the market.
  6. Effective Ways To Compete With On-Demand Content. I am going to play dirty with Millennials developing content they cannot possibly resist about employment, college loans, themselves. We can do this – as you will see.
  7. What Millennials Want From Radio. This list has seven things on it and I can tell you I live by this list every day whether I am talking to Millennials or not.
  8. Selling Against Programmatic Buying. This is essentially bidding down rates so its time to have an action plan to combat it. How to walk from a deal that media buyers ruined by bidding down the rate on a competitor. The secret to getting longer term contracts. A few very smart stations are way ahead of the industry on this.
  9. Start Your Own Short-Form Video Business. Digital shouldn’t be an add-on to what you do on the air. Do the best on-air radio you can possibly do and a separate stream of revenue from the hottest digital project ever. Let me play some short-form videos for you that are being done by young people who are making more money than most stations do from all their digital initiatives.
  10. Beyond Clicks – Listener Engagement. Social media is changing rapidly from mass audience to small groups of participants. Radio must rethink using social media to promote what’s on the air.   It’s a waste. Let’s talk about what your listeners who “like” you really want.  Which social media site is ascending at the pace of YouTube?
  11. Telling Stories – the New Spoken Word Radio. You don’t have to run a talk station to cash in on storytelling.  And it is highly saleable.
  12. Why You Should Take a Pass On Podcasting. Podcasting is another form of talk radio. It may appeal to Gen Xers and Baby Boomers but it sure hasn’t made any real money. Ask me about storytelling and how it could find its way onto your station – even a music station. Especially, a music station.
  13. 8 Millennial Mistakes You Don’t Want To Make. There are 95 million Millennials out there – the largest generation ever, even larger than the Baby Boom generation. Here are the 7 things Millennials want most from radio.

This is a collaborative environment in an atmosphere of approval and acceptance. We work together, learn together and explore.

I’ll play video, give you resources, come up with a plan of attack to get out ahead of the most critical issues affecting the radio industry in the year ahead.

March 18th – a day of information and inspiration where we work together. I’m putting lots of time aside for your questions.

This event will not be available by stream or video – only live and in-person.

Just one week until conference day.

Independent broadcasters and digital entrepreneurs are invited to the 6th annual Media Solutions Seminar at the Hub Conference Center March 18th in Philadelphia, walking distance from Amtrak’s 30th Street Station and 20 minutes from Philadelphia International Airport.

Buffet breakfast, lunch and all breaks prepared by James Beard award-winning chef Jean-Marie Lacroix, former executive chef at The Four Seasons included.

Reserve a seat.

Inquire about group rates here.

Look through the online program brochure here.