Most radio Program Directors (or Brand Managers or Airwave Czars or whatever the preferred job title at your particular company is) can tell you what their station's ratings are without batting an eye. After all, for many, this is the primary metric by which their performance is measured, and there's a good chance that they have a bonus based on this number.
But there are a few digital performance metrics that Program Directors should also be able to rattle off the top of their head at any given moment. Here they are:
1. How many visitors does the website get every month?
Radio stations should focus on driving traffic to their websites because once listeners are there, you can steer them towards an action that will have an impact on the station's bottom line, such as streaming the station or signing up for the email newsletter. You will find the number of website visitors in your Google Analytics dashboard (assuming that you've installed Google Analytics).
Watch this number over a significant period of time, such as a year, to see if there are any trends. You may notice a seasonality to the number of visitors. You may also find that certain events, such as a big signature concert or promotion, cause a spike in the number of visitors. In general, however, you want this number to trend up.
While you're in Google Analytics, you can find a whole host of other important data points, such as where your website traffic is coming from and what percentage of your visitors are using mobile devices. But the number of monthly visitors is something you should know off the top of your head.
2. How many subscribers in the email database?
At Jacobs Media, we often talk about the assets that you own and the assets that you rent. Social media is a rented asset; your email database is one that you own. Rented assets are subject to the whims of a “landlord.” In the case of Facebook, the landlord is the algorithm that controls how many people see posts made by your radio station's Facebook page. The landlord can jack up the rent (change the algorithm) at any time and there's nothing you can do about it.
We saw this a few years ago when Facebook made changes to its algorithm in the wake of Congressional criticism. Suddenly, radio stations were complaining that their Facebook pages were seeing up to a 50% decline in engagement. What could they do? Unfortunately, not much.
On the other had, once you capture somebody's email address, you can always reach them again without worrying about the intervention of a “landlord.” That's why we prioritize the growth of your station's email list. Sure, email databases aren't as sexy as Instagram or TikTok, but email is still a reliable marketing workhorse.
You should always know how many people have signed up for your email list. You'll find this number by logging into the backend of your email service provider (Mailchimp, Constant Contact, AWeber, etc.). Your email service provider may offer a mobile app that you can install on your smartphone so this number is available at your fingertips.
3. How much is my radio station being streamed?
One of the most important digital actions you can encourage people to take is to stream the station. After all, this number affects the ratings which, in turn, affects revenue. Just like terrestrial listening, there are really two important numbers here: cume and time spent listening. In other words: How many people started the stream? And how long did they listen? You will get these numbers from your streaming service provider.
4. How many people are using my radio station's mobile app?
Getting listeners to download and use your station's mobile app should be another tier one goal of your digital strategy. Time and time again, we find that the more stations promote their apps on the air, the more they are used by the audience.
The key metric here, however, is not the number of times the app has been downloaded — after all, how many apps do you have on your phone that you never use? — but how many “session starts” your app gets. You will find this number in your Google Analytics/Firebase backend.
A few short decades ago, radio stations had only two metrics they could measure: the ratings and the revenue. Now, we have dozens of data points, from retweets to podcast downloads to Instagram comments. It's easy to think that just because we can quantify something, it's important; but some of the data points have a much bigger impact on the success of a station's digital strategy than others. The four above are arguably the most important, and every PD should know them off the top of their head.
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