“Internet Initiatives are dead!”
Yes, I said. I said it at the Convergence 2010 Conference. And I would say it again. In fact I will say it again, and again and again, until I stop hearing some in the broadcast industry using the phrase as cover for a lack of commitment. It’s almost as if we use it, so when we fail we can say, “Well, hey, it was only an initiative”.
It’s a poetic phrase. Alliteration aside, it is kind of a cool term, in a geeky-corporate sort of way.
But here’s the problem: The definition of “initiative” is “a beginning or introductory step”. If we are still screwing around with Internet Initiatives, we are in trouble. Internet Initiatives are so 10 years ago. And 10 years ago on the Internet, might as well be 1000. Now is the time for Internet Business.
Wayne Dyer said, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”.
This is the first step for success for broadcasters on the Internet. We have to change the way we look at it.
As I told our customers back in the 90s, the Internet is not about connecting computers; it’s about connecting people -- connecting people to information and connecting people to each other. The technical or structural device is the computer network, but what is important is the people network. Thus the Internet or “network of networks” is really an audience of interconnected individuals and groups of people.
The Internet is another “Platform” just like Radio. Think of a platform as a stage. A platform is simply, a unique combination of technical (structural), procedural and social factors (values, interests) within which producers and consumers interact with information and each other. The Internet is made up of sub-platforms, like the web, email, and social networks like FaceBook, twitter, etc. Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 we’ve all been hearing about are evolutions of the platform where the audience can also be the actors.
Enough of the geekospohy. At the risk of telling you something you already know, here are a couple of keys that we have found useful:
1. We are an Audience Company
Mark Ramsey said, “There’s no such thing as radio” … or newspaper, or television, or print media. He said that we need to stop thinking of ourselves as what we think we are in order to get to the next level. I absolutely agree. Nielsen, in their “State of the Media 2010” stopped calling it radio and refers to our category as audio. We are not our distribution methods. We don’t build radios; we have simply distributed our content to our audience over the radio. We are also not our sensual medium, even though audio is where we have excelled. We now have a chance to distribute our content over other platforms. We have built our audiences by providing them great content. We don’t sell access to our content, unless you are SiriusXM, we sell access to our audience. Past investment notwithstanding, we should strive to be platform agnostic, meaning we should strive deliver our content to our audience on whatever platform they desire.
2. Treat Our Audience Like Consumers
The audience pays us too! We provide them great content. In exchange they pay … attention. That attention is valuable. We monetize that audience attention by selling access to it. We need to go where our audience is. We need to provide our content the way our audience wants to consume it. If we don’t, our audience will dwindle just as surely as our revenues would dwindle if we did not provide the products and services our advertiser wanted to buy. Our audience is on the Internet and stats show exactly what and how they want to consume content.
3. Regard Interactive / Internet as a business
Internet is not NTR and it is not a hobby. It is a business that requires FACE just like any other business we are engaged in. Since we are an audience company and our audience is on the Internet, we must do business on the Internet too. From top to bottom, we must require Focus, Accountability, Commitment, and Effort by Everyone (FACE), just like we do for other parts of our business. We must learn the language, learn the metrics, and learn the conventions: talk the talk, and walk the walk. Our Internet assets can bill just as much as a radio station and should be treated as such. Every radio ad proposal should have an Internet component and vice versa. Besides content to our audience of consumers, we provide multi-platform-based solutions to our advertisers.
If you treat your Internet with the same prudence and commitment as you treat your other businesses, you will succeed. There is no other major media industry more suited to succeeding on the current interactive platforms, especially social media, than local broadcast radio.
I am not saying that you won’t have various product or service initiatives in your Internet business. As Jeffery Eisenberg said, you should be trying, experimenting with new things all the time. In many cases, 90+% of your audience is on the Internet, and using it more and more to interact with information and other people. For the Internet as a whole, if you are just taking introductory or beginning steps, you are in trouble.