Adapt or die. That popular proverb could apply to broadcast radio in North America, a sector trying to keep up with digital and social media. But how should radio engage its listeners in a meaningful way?
That's the question at the heart of Deborah Esayian's business. She is co-founder of Emmis Interactive, a software company designed to help bring interactive tools and features to local media outlets. With a focus on broadcast radio, Emmis has worked with Canada’s CBC, Corus and Astral to help “connect their listeners while boosting ad revenue on their radio stations’ websites,” according to a press release obtained by Digital Journal.
Emmis Interactive offers several products to forward-thinking radio companies – BaseStation acts as the hub for content management, while TagStation lets station controllers easily tag songs and allows listeners to buy songs via iTunes. Esayian positions her company as a vital player to help broadcast radio recoup recent losses – for the first time since 1993, revenues at private Canadian radio stations decreased by 5 percent to $1.5 billion.
We wanted to find out how Emmis jumpstarts radio to the digital era, how DJs are adapting to the ubiquity of social media, and the major challenges this medium is facing.
Future of Media: Why would a radio station want to get involved with Emmis?
Deborah Esayian: Our customers proactively decided be in this space in an intelligent way, they want to move into the digital world and they usually face a few failures before they come to us. Maybe they tried the easy way and then realized it takes more work and investment. I’ve noticed lots of resistance in the U.S. but less so in Canada.
Future of Media: What are the challenges U.S. radio is facing?
Esayian: They don’t have the capital and funding to expand. Some radio operators want to do more but they can’t financially. One of the biggest obstacle is that everyone wants a quick fix, but there isn’t a magic pill to transform a company. It requires tremendous amount of love and patience.
The leadership of a media company matters. I’ve noticed people in radio are the most creative people out there, they know how to engage with their audience. They just don’t have a lot of funds to work with.
Future of Media: Can you give us an example of how radio outlets can better interact with their listeners?
Esayian: For years radio stations have made money doing remote broadcasts, where they bring a DJ and a van to create excitement at a mall or store. The idea is to drive people to the store to get prizes, to promote the outlet’s client. That’s nice but that’s not how people really operate; they don’t look at their calendar and think “I’ll make sure I drive by that store now!” So our twist on that are cyber-remotes – they happen online, and we architect it correctly. We found out more people stop by on their phone or iPad and participate from there. For instance, a DJ can say, “Come visit our website between 12 and 4 on Saturday to see a new housing development, click through to get a virtual tour of these new houses, sign the guestbook, let the salespeople know you like what you see.” This is not only measurable but also targeted and more successful than a regular remote.
Future of Media: How should DJs and radio station managers embrace social media?
Esayian: Social networks are a great way to share info on what is going on at the station, to promote what is happening, to engage discussions. But ultimately everything should lead back to the station’s site. Thing is, there is no definitive rulebook with social media. Not every DJs wants to express himself the same way online. We don’t think everyone should blog, and if they do, their online activity should be tailored to their personality. We sit down with staff to discuss how these shiny new social media toys can benefit them because it’s easy for Facebook and Twitter to be blown out of proportion.