Your internet stream is one of the key things people will go online to hear. It’s incredibly valuable to you when you make it engaging and attractive to listen on their computer or phone.
Yet … there are so many below-par streams. I’m not just talking technical quality; most people inside a radio station don’t have much control over the basic technical quality of their stream. However, we have a lot of control over the quality of what’s on those streams. The big challenge is what happens during commercial breaks, when we cover the spots that air on our broadcast signal.
I’ve been listening to a lot of streams in a lot of different formats and have heard very few that really sound good. First off, I’d like to give credit to the radio brand with by far the best stream I’ve heard: Star 94 in Atlanta. They are the only station I heard who, while playing songs on their stream to cover their spots, pointed this out as a listener benefit.
If you play one song per covered stopset on your stream … and if you average two stopsets per hour … that’s an extra 15-20% music you’re playing on the stream. Somehow, we’re not using that extra music as a selling point when we’re urging people to listen on their computer or smartphone.
I’d also like to recognize WCBS Newsradio 880 in New York for a good job of integrating their on-air broadcast with their stream. I heard lots of smooth transitions in and out of stopsets. In addition, there’s not the repetitive miasma of a small number of depressing PSAs that you find on so many streams. They seem to be doing a good job of selling time on the stream and running fresh promos, meaning it sounds more like a “real radio station” (i.e., broadcast).
So, here’s a list of thought-starters especially for programmers … but if you’re a jock or a production person or on the promotions team, you could be creating some of this content, too. Would it help your position to volunteer to do some of this?
Listen to your stream, and get with your engineer or IT person if you have radical audio level changes … if you get louder or softer when covering a stopset.
If you don’t have smooth transitions in and out of stopsets, it might be where you place you trigger “tones.” There also might be things you and your engineer or IT person could adjust about those times when you go in and out of spots.
Listen to a number of other streams or audio sources online. Does your stream sound too soft by comparison? Or cranked up and distorted, instead? Think about how you sound compared to the mp3 or YouTube video your listener heard before starting your stream.
How do you choose songs to cover stopsets? Is there an advantage to listening online? That advantage might be the amount of music one hears online, or the type of music you play.
If you promote how much music you play online, think of it as a super-version of your radio brand. Promote how special it is to listen to the stream, and how much extra music you will play (or have played).
It might benefit you to play types of music you don’t play on the air. If you play a fair amount of current songs, you could play new songs just bubbling up on the charts. Some rock listeners say they want to hear deep cuts … give them some on the stream. A country station might feature classic country hits. It might be strategically to your advantage to claim some type of music … by playing it on your stream … that you don’t want to be playing on your broadcast.
You can create special streaming promos to promote some of the popular content you always have on your website. You can also create some other promos for special contests and other timely content on your website. These might include:
- listening to your stream, and suggestions of other times they might do so
- read the morning show blog to learn more about what you heard this morning (click the ad in the streaming box to access the blog)
- learn the title and artist of any song we played, and also buy the mp3 from iTunes/purchase the CD/learn more about the artist/see their videos/etc etc etc (whatever sort of extra service you might offer at that page on your website)
- see the “Music” paragraph above … run promos for the songs you play on your stream (get more music, get newer music, get older music, get deeper music, get more whatever)
- keep a “Concerts and Events” promo updated with content from your online Concerts and Events list
Keep in mind that most streaming set-ups will let you create a clickable link that shows up in your stream window when you play a station promo. It just takes a little extra time and the commitment to do so.
What do you run promos for on your broadcast? Can you create :10, :30 and :60 versions of this that don’t have the exact same “feel” that can cover some of the time on your stream?
For many stations, PSAs are all you hear covering commercial breaks on their streams. Think about this when picking public service announcements:
- keep the tone as positive and upbeat as possible
- think about what your target would be interested in
- load a good variety of PSAs so the same ones don’t play all the time, over and over and over again
- keep them fresh and updated … put this on your calendar or Outlook schedule to check regularly
- you can even tell the charitable partners you work with most often that if they can produce PSAs, you’ll run a ton of them on the stream
HOW DO YOU VIEW YOUR STREAM?
In the meantime, what value do YOU put on your stream? Is it a throw-away? Do you ever listen to it? Do you use it as another way to entertain listeners and promote benefits of listening to your brand?
If your stream is a mess, you’re not alone. The best way to do something about it? Do something every day to make it better. That doesn’t have to be something big. You might start by having it on for an hour a day in your office. As you find things to improve, hopefully that energy will build and you’ll find yourself more committed to your stream all the time.
Finally … tell your sales manager about what you’re doing with your stream.