Radio stations’ primary way of relaying news and content to listeners is over the airwaves. That being said, in a growing age of digitalism and an increase in the evolution of traditional media, consumers desire more than to only listen to their favorite stations on the radio.
Because of this, radio stations and networks have expanded to meet these consumer demands, offering different forms of programming in order to increase engagement and retain listeners. Through consumer interactions in different facets, radio stations hope to grow brand loyalty as well as attract new listeners.
But exactly how are stations and networks doing this? We embarked on a research project to learn about the different ways that stations are expanding to encompass more than just their AM/FM signal. Through our research we specifically looked at the following strategies and programs that radio stations are investing in: Social Media, Online Streaming, Apps & Podcasts, and Other Forms: Contests, Blogs/Newsletters, Events.
We analyzed 23 different radio stations: NBC News Radio-FM/AM, Fox News Radio-FM/AM, CBS News Radio-FM/AM, Family Radio-FM/AM, Family Life Network-FM, WTOP-FM, WAMU-FM, WALR-FM, KRLD-AM, WDBO-FM, Alabama Public Radio-FM, KTAR-FM, WWJ-AM, KFI-AM, KNX-AM, KOGO-AM, KFBK-FM/AM, KXL-FM, WDAS-FM, KJZZ-FM, WZFX-FM, KTRS-AM and WOAI-AM. The radio stations are both national and local and range from a variety of formats including news radio, Christian programing, and urban stations.
The research we did is based on information available to the public found on the radio stations’ websites, as well as official social media channels and content provided by third party listening apps/streaming services.
What we found was a shared commonality between the radio stations; they all use other types of communication, including social media and apps, in some combination, to communicate with their audiences. In other words, none of the radio stations we looked at communicate and share content solely via their official radio channel.
All 23 stations use at least one social media platform, and most have two or more. The most used platform among this group of stations/networks is Facebook, which 23 of the outlets are using. Twenty-two use Twitter. Based on what format of radio station it is, the content posted on social media can be very different. News stations will post primarily news-related articles, videos and pictures. Other formats stations are more likely to post events, pictures and podcasts.
Many stations have robust online streaming platforms. We found that all the radio stations we looked at offer online streaming in some form. What this means is that some stations stream primarily or exclusively through their official website. Other stations stream only through third-party streaming service, however, many stations provide both options for listeners. Third party streaming services have become increasingly popular for radio stations to use. Examples of the most popular include TuneIn, Streema, iHeartRadio, Stitcher and Radio.com.
Quite a few stations we looked at, such as KOGO-AM, KFBK-FM/AM and WOAI-AM, are owned/powered by iHeartRadio. These stations all use iHeartRadio’s platform as their only or primary streaming service. Their websites are structured almost identically, and programming for each is very similar, with exceptions based on where these stations are located throughout the United States.
In addition to social media and online streaming, a majority of the radio stations we looked at have a podcast or multiple podcasts. Stations we looked at have anywhere from 1 to 15 different series of podcasts. Length of podcasts can vary; however, most podcasts are categorized into three types 5-10 minutes, 20-40 minutes, and 60+ minutes. An example of a longer-style podcast is “Money Matters,” which is available to listen to on KOGO-AM, among others, which runs for 60-80 minutes long.
It is common for news radio stations to have a daily podcast, either in the mornings or evenings, which reports on trending news stories. ABC News has recently announced the launch date for their upcoming daily podcast, “Start Here,” which will cover the top news stories for that day. Other radio stations have expanded their podcasts series and have included additional programming. An example of this is WTOP’s podcast lineup. It includes podcasts such as “Target USA,” which explores threats facing the United States and other related topics. There are also other types of podcast series, such as WZFX’s “Rumor Report,” which explores celebrity gossip and news. Large networks, like CBS News Radio, will often have more than one podcast. CBS has 10 different podcasts, covering a variety of news topics, that can be subscribed to for free.
It is important to note that podcasts can usually be listened to free of charge, however, there are a few stations/networks that have started to charge for access to exclusive podcast series. Fox News Radio is one of these stations that offers “premium” podcasts that have to be purchased in order to be listened to. For example, one of their “premium” podcast series, “The Brian Kilmeade Show,” offers single episode purchases at $1.49, monthly subscriptions at $4.95 and yearly subscriptions at $39.95. It remains to be seen if other big national radio networks, such as NBC News Radio and CBS News Radio, will start charging for premium podcasts as well.
Another rising trend is for radio stations to have a newsletter/daily email subscription. Most radio stations who do have a newsletter will email it to subscribers daily. Newsletters include highlights from the news, contests, events and special offers.
Some stations and networks even have their own app, including KTAR-FM, whose app includes live talk shows, podcasts, and news articles. Some stations may be connected to their parent company’s app, such as NPR and the iHeartRadio app.
These types of communication that radio stations and networks are using will affect the future of radio, and those who want to use radio to convey their message to audiences across America. Radio is extremely useful in this regard, but now more so then ever because stations are able to connect with listeners from anywhere.
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