Mon. Apr 22nd, 2019

How Do You Define Digital?

Ask a few different people what the word ‘digital’ means to them. After you do, take note of the variety of responses that you receive back. What you’re likely to discover is that the definition changes from person to person. This makes it challenging when trying to articulate vision and focus to advertisers, account executives, program directors, and talent.

Yet for many media folks, digital has been presented as the elixir for future growth opportunities. But what exactly is it? Is it podcasting? Is it streaming? Is it your brand’s mobile app or website business? Maybe it’s social media. Or smart speakers. Perhaps it’s video. More than likely, it’s all of the above.

When you combine each of these areas, and consider how they factor into your business model, ask yourself how well versed and prepared your people are to take full advantage of opportunities in each space. As you think about that, I want you to remember how much easier things were in years past.

Previously, the radio, television and newspaper businesses were easy to define. Advertisers knew what each provided, and made their decisions on how they’d divide their advertising dollars to reach each audience. But in 2018, the lines are blurred. Radio, TV and print are all present in the same arenas. Some may perform better than others in specific areas, but most brands now have an audio, video and written strategy, and talent capable of performing across multiple platforms.

And there’s a good reason for it.

Every revenue projection I’ve seen over the past two year’s points to increased opportunities for digital, and either flat or declining revenue for radio, television, and print. This has led media groups to place a higher premium on digital content creation and distribution, while challenging their teams to find ways to further monetize it. But if those we trust to create and sell content in these space aren’t given a clear focus of what matters most to audiences and advertisers, can we fully take advantage of all of these wonderful brand extensions?

As I’ve spent time this week at the NAB Radio Show, I’ve been thinking long and hard about this. By definition, digital means available in electronic form; readable and manipulable by computer. But does that truly capture everything it stands for to folks on the programming and sales end of sports media operations? I’m not sure it does.

I’ve listened the past few days to sessions about the explosion of podcasting, the future of artificial intelligence, and the financial climate for radio, and all of it connects back to the word ‘digital’. That’s both exciting and confusing. It’s easy to embrace lines such as ‘this is where the future growth of our industry lies’ but the ability to offer a clear description, provide a picture of what deserves focus, teach staffs and clients how to maximize digital opportunities, and explain what success should look like is a very different story.

If you go by industry perceptions, podcasting and social media are vital to our success. Yet revenue in those spaces remains challenged. Mobile advertising has reportedly improved, and a robust future is expected, but that too is an area that has yet to be fully maximized. Streaming, and smart speakers offer hope for expanding the reach of our brands, but monetizing them is still difficult, and many who rely on radio ratings to generate business remain unsatisfied with the current standard of measurement.

There’s no question that brands have more ways than ever to connect with people. That means there are ample opportunities to deliver results for clients. However, maximizing all of these layers of digital media is very difficult.  Between mobile, social, web, smart speakers, podcasting, and of course, radio, we’ve got numerous platforms to produce solutions to our client’s problems, except let’s be honest, we’re not going to break records in each space.

What we should be able to agree on is that our future path to prosperity depends on excelling in the digital realm. The likelihood of our content and sponsor associations owning space inside the consumer’s head thru terrestrial radio is going to be less. The only question is when, not if. That doesn’t mean audiences won’t continue receiving our content, they’ll just do so thru multiple channels.

Inside each building, it’d benefit every market manager and programmer to ask their staffs how they define digital media. Once all of the feedback is received, you’ll have a better idea of how to define it, and present it, internally and externally.

If we can reach a consensus of how to define digital, and show our teams where the biggest opportunities are, how to create impact for clients, and which areas to focus their efforts in, we could end up becoming a bigger part of that digital growth story that everyone’s buzzing about. And the last time I checked, success was a word that required little explanation. Certainly a lot less than digital.