Twelve years ago, when I was a radio station Program Director, my staff would huddle once a week for our Music Meeting, where we would decide what songs to add to, move up in, or drop from rotation. We would compile a ton of data for this meeting, including airplay charts, callout research, and concert calendars. But this data-driven approach bears little resemblance to how the average listener experienced music on our station.
So one day, I decided to take the staff out of the station. We piled into the car and drove to three different music stores to see what our listeners were experiencing when they went shopping for the songs they heard on the radio. Could they find the baby bands we were playing? How were the biggest artists represented in the shops? Was there a difference between the shopping experience at indie stores and big box chains?
The results were eye-opening. Often, we were championing artists on the air, only to find out that our efforts were being hindered on the ground. Sometimes, it’s useful to step out of the confines of our radio station offices and experience things the same way that our listeners do.
Today, technological changes mean that our listeners may experience our radio stations in any one of many different ways. When is the last time you examined the paths to your radio station with a fresh pair of eyes? If it’s been a while, take a moment to put yourself in a listener’s shoes, and try approaching your radio station through each of these channels:
Take a look at your radio station’s website on three different types of devices: a desktop computer, a tablet, and a smartphone. Based on what you see, ask yourself these questions:
- Where is this station?
- What type of music does this station play?
- Who are the core artists on this station?
To fully understand how listeners are interacting with your radio station’s website, you’ll want to run a usability test.
2. Social Media
Take a look at your social media feeds with fresh eyes, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. But don’t focus on your station’s page for each of these social networks. Instead, examine individual posts in isolation. After all, most people see these posts in their feeds, not on your page. Based on what you see, ask yourself:
- Does this post make sense without the context of the station’s website or social media page surrounding it?
- How does this post compare to others that might come up in a listener’s feed? How does it compare to other posts in your own feed? Is it as compelling as the other posts from your friends?
3. Search Engines
Listeners may come to your website after conducting a search in a search engine like Google. What will they see in the search engine results? To find out, you may first want to use a VPN to ensure that your search results are not colored by your browsing history. Then, conduct searches for popular terms that revolve around your website, such as:
- Call letters
- Morning show name
- DJ names
- Specialty show names
- Names of signature concerts or events
- Names of benchmark bits
- “[Format] radio station in [City]”
Are the results that come up accurate? Do they link to the correct pages on your station’s website? Do the pages’ titles and descriptions support your branding? If not, you may need to optimize your website for search engines.
4. Mobile Apps
Before opening your radio station’s mobile apps, see how they appear in the Apple and Google app stores. Ask yourself:
- Are they easy to find when searching the app store by call letters, station name, and morning show name?
- Is the description of the app compelling?
- How are the reviews for the app?
- Is the logo on the icon current? Is it clear and readable on the phone?
The best way to take a fresh look at your radio station’s mobile app is to run a usability test on it, just as you would for the station’s website. Be sure to test both the Apple and Android versions of your app.
Some listeners will access your radio station through the TuneIn mobile app. When’s the last time your opened up TuneIn to see how your station is represented there? Take a look.
6. Car Dashboards
How do listeners see your radio station when they’re in the car? That often depends on the type of car stereo they have. Try tuning in to your radio station in a car with a radio equipped with RDS, a dashboard running the Android Auto operating system, and a dashboard running the Apple CarPlay operating system. Ask yourself:
- Is it easy to get to your station?
- How well is any additional data displayed in the dashboard?
7. Smart Speakers
As we’ve seen in our most recent Techsurvey, 11% of radio listeners now own smart speakers and the number is growing quickly. Have you tried to access your radio station on the Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple Homepod? Test it our and ask yourself:
- What words can be used to pull up the radio station?
- Are there phrases that don’t work?
- If you have developed special skills for your radio station, do all the commands work as they should?
If your radio station produces podcasts, people may be accessing them in iTunes, Apple’s Podcasts app, or other podcatchers (podcast listening apps). Try searching for your radio station in popular podcatchers, including:
- iTunes (on a desktop computer)
- Apple Podcasts app
- Google Play Music
As broadcasters, it’s easy for us to get mentally stuck inside the confines of our own building. Every once and a while, it’s a good idea to step back and reevaluate how listeners are accessing our stations, and see if there are opportunities for improvement.
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