The Rise of Consumer Generated Media, and Why it Matters to Your Station

by Tom Webster, Edison VP


Last week I wrote about the importance of blogging and why radio stations should have some strategy for engaging the blogosphere. One aspect of this topic that bears revisiting is the importance of consumer-generated media (blogs, podcasts, message boards, etc.) and how these can directly impact radio station search engine marketing.

Disregarding the efforts of people who take the time to write about your station is missing a golden opportunity

If you are like me, the second most-common screen on your laptop (after your E-Mail application) is Google. Like Yahoo, MSN Search and other popular search engines, Google relies on a complex, ever-changing algorithm to rank and sort search results so that when you google “Baked Alaska” you get this page, and not this page. The components of these algorithms make the formulas for Coca-Cola and the Colonel’s Extra Crispy seem like public domain by comparison, but they all involve some combination of the same three inputs: the structure and markup of your site’s code, the contents of the page, and the page’s popularity, largely based upon the value and number of external sites that link to the page.
These inputs are inextricably tied together, but are all based around one simple fact–you need good content. Despite the claims of thousands of quasi-legitimate Search Engine Optimization (SEO) consultants, the best way to “beat Google” is no secret, nor does it require the purchase of some special brand of SEO snake oil. You need to start with great content first, then optimize the markup of your site’s code to reflect the semantic structure of the ideas on your page. If the most important idea or concept on your page is not marked in your site’s X/HTML as such, then you lose some Google Juice for those keywords. If, however, your content is good and your code is marked-up appropriately to highlight the relative importance of the ideas on your page, Google shines upon you. This requires a careful, page-by-page look at everything on your site to optimize both the code and the content–again, no tricks here: just good, hard work. We work at it every week to make sure that Googling “research and edison” leads potentially interested clients to us first, and not to that Thomas Alva guy, who was, I understand, a pretty good researcher. Getting your code and content optimized is mandatory, and a continual process.
Try this: Google “rock radio philadelphia” and look at the results. Did the order surprise you? Then Google your own market and format–are you where you want to be? The vast majority of people who use search engines never go beyond the first page of results, and the majority of those people rarely look below the “fold.” Send out all the direct mail pieces you want–but you will never overthrow the “meritocracy” of Google unless your site (and your station) presents the most credible claim to your market position. You cannot truly own this unless you also own the third leg of the search algorithm platform–link popularity.
Again, I refer to the “Googlebomb” examples of googling “failure,” “miserable,” or their stepchild “miserable failure” and getting the White House’s official bio of Bush 43. If, for some masochistic reason, you wanted to “own” the keywords “miserable” and “failure,” you could work your keyboard till your fingers bleed and never topple the results of a legion of determined bloggers. This is why you should engage on at least some level with people who are blogging, chatting and leaving message board posts about your station. “Monitoring” is only part of the story– only by engaging with consumer-generated media (either by hosting your own blog, or by participating in conversations on other sites) can you hope to build lasting relationships, which is what we should all be doing anyway.
Again, the continuing theme of this effort is that there are no tricks, no backdoor solutions. You need to have a credible, “human” voice (marketing-speak will be unceremoniously trashed) and engage in two-way conversations, not the spread of press releases. The folks who are trashing your station in their blogs or message boards may or may not change their opinion of your music–but I can guarantee that they and their readers will change their opinion of your station if you make the effort to build relationships online. The people writing blogs may represent a small percentage of Americans, but the people reading them do not. Everything on the web is permanent and findable. You can’t buy page one here–you have to earn it. Disregarding, or worse yet belittling the efforts of people who take the time to write about your station (for good or evil) is missing a golden opportunity to build a relationship with a segment of your audience that you can’t get to any other way.
Comments are welcome, of course.
Tom Webster is a Vice President of Edison Media Research. The opinions expressed here are his own. Tom can be reached at 908.707.4707 or twebster@edisonresearch.com.
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