The complementary nature of radio and online has long been acknowledged, particularly by the radio industry, but so far this has been limited to using a station’s website to support on-air promotions and offer live streaming.
Industry observers say radio is already “ahead of the curve” in integrating online and airtime to create unusual campaigns that go beyond spot ads. Simon Redican, managing director of the Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB), points to the popularity of branded podcasts. He adds: “They generate new revenue and create content that can be developed into new areas.”
Global Radio director of online development Adam Williams points to the joint campaign between Global-owned Galaxy and Kiss, now owned by Bauer Radio, which promoted CK One by encouraging listeners to a bespoke website to try out online mixing decks.
This year, the RAB is hoping to deepen the relationship between radio and online by showing advertisers how radio can influence online search. With the help of the University of Lancaster, it has conducted research to show how exposure to radio advertising can lead to an increase in search for brand names and visits to websites.
The research was based around two tests that asked two groups of respondents to find the cheapest car insurance available for their own car, and to find the cheapest return flight from London to Paris on certain days. Both groups had commercial radio playing in the background – a control group was played unrelated ads and a test group was played ads related to the tasks.
The results found that the test group did respond to the ads with a 360% increase in search for the test brands, with 25% of the test group searching the internet-only insurance brand compared to just 5% of the control group. In terms of visiting the brands’ websites, overall there was a 28% increase in traffic and visits to the internet-only insurance brand increased massively, with over half the test group visiting compared with 21% of the control group
Redican says advertisers do understand the link between radio and search because it is “intuitive” but he hopes the evidence will bring new advertising categories into radio. He says this has already happened with online recruitment companies, which is not traditionally a major client sector for radio.
Investment in radio groups’ own websites is expected to increase this year. There are new revenue opportunities for radio brands through the use of content to develop podcasts, but also to develop into such things as sharing sites and social networks.
However, industry observers believe radio groups will have to invest more in online if they are to reap the rewards of a combined offering. Rob Jones, founder of radio specialist USP Content, says: “Radio groups need to take online more seriously and they need to give advertisers more for their money. They have been making hay in sponsorship and promotions but you can see that this momentum is faltering as spend moves towards digital.”
He believes radio groups have “not done a bad job” as all now offer listening online but he also points out that several groups have gone that bit further by investing in senior online development people. GCap Media, for example, brought in Robin Pembroke from Yahoo! last year as group director of online and interactive, and Paul Sigaloff from Channel 4 as head of interactive. The group has made it clear that it sees its future – at least in the short term – in online.
At the start of February, GCap chief executive Fru Hazlitt outlined a vision for the group that relies heavily on broadband and reaching audiences through devices that connect to it. But her decision to invest in online are in stark contrast to the group’s decision to withdraw its support for digital audio broadcasting (DAB).
She said at the time that broadband “has to be a more viable platform” than DAB and she announced that it is working with Nokia and Apple to develop new devices and applications that will deliver GCap’s content to listeners in new ways and at different times. It has already launched an application for the Apple iTouch/iPhone that streams live radio while allowing users to interact with it by buying the music they are listening to and e-mailing the studio.
Pembroke says GCap sees two main benefits of delivering radio over online – being able to target listeners with their brands and content through the devices people use, and being able to further develop radio’s interactivity.
It’s not how but who
He says: “Young people use radios less but are listening through their mobiles. It is keeping radio’s reach up. Advertisers don’t care about the device people use to listen, they just care about reaching people.”
Bauer Radio is also trying to develop communities around its brands with a VIP project around its Heart brand. It aims to sign up members and make them feel part of the station through competitions, exclusive content and areas where they can post on the site.
David Lloyd, Virgin Radio programming and marketing director, says there is “so much noise” online that radio groups need to use the medium as a “signpost”. He explains: “Radio is an emotional and trusted medium and digital can add that level of engagement. It means we can deliver more detailed information – the news on air, the pictures online and something more in-depth through a podcast. It amplifies what we already do.”
The relationship between radio and online is already a growing one but radio groups need to focus on developing this into the next phase. Radio content needs to be available in places where audiences are and on the devices that people are using.