While creating a station website is a simple proposition, making a
successful website, one that extends the station's goals and makes
money is a bit more challenging. Before considering the revenue
solution that is right for a station, know the purpose of the website.
Keith Swartz, senior consultant with Streaming Authority, warns, "if
the goal is to increase listenership, and availability of programming
and advertising, then [the Web] might be one marketing avenue to
explore ... to make 'bunches of money' and buy a pro sports team, this
might not be the easiest way to approach the goal." What would
financial success look like for a particular station's website? A
starting goal could be to create a self-funding website.
Developing a website that enhances the station's over-the-air
presence and makes a small profit requires good planning,
well-considered design and compelling content. Is the website an
extension of the station's sales and marketing strategy, or is it part
of the programming side of the business? Either strategy can be used
successfully to drive revenue, but without a plan, the proposition will
The website for KJR, Seattle offers
online CD sales.
Website traffic is essential to generate revenue. Listeners need to
be visiting and spending time on the site. It is not enough to simply
throw up a Web page with the station's logo. Research the online market
to deliver the content that the station's target audience demands. A
site that engages the listener and keeps his attention can form a deep
bond between the listener and the station. This will help drive
recurring traffic, as the listeners will return on a regular basis.
Visit a website as if you knew nothing about the station or the
town. Is the site attractive, well-designed and easy to navigate? Most
users cite information and entertainment as the reasons for visiting
websites. For example, the user might visit a radio Web page for
weather, news, concert calendars and events around town. Does the
station's Web presence deliver in these types of categories? Fresh and
compelling content is crucial. The music reviews posted six months ago
will get old and tired. Listeners will quickly abandon a website if
they feel the content is inaccurate or stale.
Sales and marketing revenue
Once a site has traffic, the most common way to make money on the
Web is through online advertising. These are graphical banners and
click-through advertisements. Online ads can be value-add positions to
existing over-the-air advertisers, or they can be sold to new
advertisers that may have been unreachable before. Internet ads are
generally less expensive than over-the-air spots, but a station can run
more of them, more often, as advertisers are not limited by 30-second
or 60-second time breaks. They can also be highly targeted.
Information gathering is a common way listeners use the Internet, so
another way to integrate the station's over-the-air and online presence
is to have a page on the website allowing listeners to find out more
about companies that sponsor station programs. Sometimes a listener may
hear an ad while in the car and have no way to write down the telephone
number or address of the advertiser. Let the listener go to the website
to look up the information when it's convenient. Some advertisers may
offer a special discount or coupon that listeners can print out. For a
small fee, this service can have great value to existing station ad
If offering a streaming version of the station's signal on the Web,
in-stream advertising can double the amount of airtime available for
sale. Some streaming hardware and service providers will allow users to
lay special Internet-only spots into a webcast. Imagine the potential
for the sales manager who can now sell each spot twice.
Less obvious ways to drive revenue are selling station merchandise,
such as hats and t-shirts, or sponsorship of interactive features.
The KDBN, Dallas, site offers station
merchandise from the Bone Gear T-shirt shop.
A further way to use a website to drive sales revenue is to sell the
station's database. The Web makes it possible to gather huge amounts of
demographic data about listeners. This can be done by running online
polls and questionnaires. Alternatively, by asking people to sign up
for the website and become free members, the site can ask them a series
of questions about their home and spending habits. Corporations can
spend millions of dollars gathering this type of information through
telephone and in-person surveys. For minimal cost, the station can
gather and then use or sell this demographic data for clients and
Adding to the content and value of the website while driving revenue
for the station creates a winning proposition for everyone.
Programming-based revenue models can do both. Arbitron reports that 40
percent of Americans have bought things online, and one in five people
make it a habit. A music station can partner with companies to provide
online sales of CDs, cassettes or concert tickets. News and talk
stations regularly interview authors; consider a partnership with a
bookseller. In such a partnership, the station does not actually sell
the items, but rather provides a storefront with links for users to
click through to buy from the partner company. In return, the partner
pays the station a small fee for every referral, or in some cases every
Another way to drive programming-based revenue is subscription
services. For a small monthly or annual fee, there may be website
extras such as members-only chat rooms or access to special events.
Consider having users subscribe to listen to a collection of MP3 files
or the streaming radio signal. Nine million online radio listeners
would be willing to pay a fee for online music services, according to
Arbitron and Edison Media.
A Web presence can be self-sustaining and profitable. Don't be
limited by only thinking of the website as a place to put print ads for
over-the-air advertisers; integrate existing station strategies into
the online plan.
Snyder is an independent streaming media consultant based in