From time to time, radio broadcasters will ask me whether an initiative their station is working on warrants the creation of a website separate from the radio station's website. We might be talking about a morning show, a concert festival, or a large contest.
For example, let's say your radio station wants to create an eight-week competition called “Gotham's Got Evil,” in which listeners come up with creative and elaborate schemes to fight Batman in the hopes of becoming the city's next big supervillain. The competition will feature three celebrity judges: the straight-laced Commissioner Gordon, the glamorous Poison Ivy, and Simon Cowell. Alfred Pennyworth will host the show, and the winner will receive a million dollars plus the opportunity to perform in front of a live audience at Arkham Asylum.
As your staff fleshes out the strategy for this competition, you decide you want to use the opportunity to create a lot of digital content: videos of the performances, written interviews with the contestants, and behind-the-scenes photos. You also want to give your listeners the opportunity to vote online for their favorite contestants and incorporate that feedback into the competition by creating a “Fan Favorite” prize package. As you and your team work through the details of the promotion, somebody inevitably asks, “Should we create a separate website for this?”
Before running to GoDaddy to see if the domain has been taken and you're forced to settle for GothamsGotEvil.info, there are several factors to consider.
Here's when you should create a separate website for your station's project:
1. You have the resources to maintain it.
Let's be honest, most radio stations are short-handed these days. Don't create a new website if your staff is stretched too thin to manage it. A website is not something that you can set and forget, especially if it involves content creation or has dedicated social media channels. If you run the risk of going months without a blogpost or a tweet, or you can't be bothered to periodically update your WordPress plugins, don't create more work than you can handle.
2. The project's geographic footprint is larger than the station's reach.
Perhaps your company owns radio stations in Metropolis as well as Gotham, and you want to combine forces to create a multi-market competition: “American Scoundrel.” You may want a stand-along website that your different radio station's link to. These considerations could also apply to a syndicated morning show or a state-wide awards show.
3. The project's brand is as big or bigger than the station.
From time to time, a radio station creates a promotion that becomes larger than the station itself. For example, HFStival, the concert extraordinaire in Washington D.C. (okay…Baltimore) took on a life of its own even after WHFS ceased to be a radio station in the market. There are situations where an event becomes such a recognizable brand that when fans want to learn more about it, they google the name of the event instead of going directly to the radio station's website. In rare cases, some people may not even realize that an event is produced by a particular radio station. In these cases, a separate website is often warranted.
4. You want to market the project separately from the station.
There are a lot of disadvantages to creating a marketing strategy for an initiative that is separate from your radio station. You might have to maintain and pay for a separate email database, or manage separate social media accounts, or dilute the power of your “link juice” across two sites, hurting both their rankings in search engine results.
On the other hand, there may be a strategic benefit to creating a separate marketing strategy. Perhaps the Gotham Gazette wants to partner on the project, and politics require a website independent of the sites for the newspaper and the radio station.
Or maybe you think the event will draw a bigger audience than your radio station does on its own. If the competition is designed to be fun for the whole family but your website's homepage prominently features the “Bat Babe of the Day,” you may want to send people to a separate website to avoid alienating any potential attendees. You'll have to weigh the tradeoffs as you make this decision.
As you decide whether or not an initiative deserves other separate digital assets, such as their own social media accounts or mobile apps, you'll also want to consider these factors. Sometimes there are big advantages to a unique digital presence; other times, it's just adding more work. Don't make the decision lightly.
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