What is the purpose of your radio station’s website? This question is a really fundamental one you should explore if you are looking at developing a new website for your station.

There are a couple of main approaches we see radio stations take:

  1. A content-driven website
  2. A listening focused website

Neither of these approaches are right or wrong. What’s important is to pick the option suitable for you and your organisation’s strategic direction and capabilities. If you can’t produce enough content for the 1st option, then there is no point designing a site with twenty different articles on the homepage (you’ll look out-of-date within days) – just focus on listening/streaming and delivering maximum value there.

Let’s take a look at these two different approaches in action.

A Content-driven website

Most websites for major radio station networks are content-driven. Stories, articles, galleries and podcasts abound. One example is the Z100 website – a typical iHeart website.

Radio Website Purpose example: Z100

This homepage, like every other content-driven homepage, displays a seemingly-endless array of content. It’s an approach that requires you to produce a lot of content. This may seem easy, as the typical radio station will produce a lot of content for on-air. The trick with the website is to turn that audio into pictures and text. Often, this approach requires you to hire a team of digital producers.

This sort of site is often considered a ‘downtime’ site – something users will keep coming back to on their ‘downtime’. You need a lot of fresh content to do this. You’re essentially competing with Facebook for eyeballs (arguably the biggest ‘downtime’ site of all).

This approach is very common, and we see it copied time and time again. From commercial outlets to government to community. Everyone wants to have a homepage bursting at the seams with content.

If you can get the page views, then it’s a decent approach. Banner ads are fairly easy to see, and you can get a decent income from them. There are also plenty of other ways to monetise your site – including sponsored content and other forms of native advertising.

A listening focused website

A different approach is to focus on the core over-the-air product: a live radio experience. Absolute Radio have recently taken this approach. In an age where radio stations are all fighting to have the best content-driven site, it’s certainly a stand-out move. Take a look at their homepage:

Radio Website Purpose example: Absolute Radio (UK)

This website has a very clear focus on live streaming: it’s the big button on the top of the homepage. It’s literally the only thing you see when you load the page.

Absolute Radio have very few banner advertisements. Most on-site advertising is native, and even then there isn’t too much of it. Their online business model revolves around people signing up to listen. They can then deliver targeted advertisements, which to them are more valuable than banner ads.

This model has been described by many as commercially brave – which on the surface is true (“who dares scrap the banner ads?”). But as one analyst has noted, it may actually be a logical move as it saves you the hassle of creating so much online content. Online banner advertising is sold based on CPM (cost per mile – or cost per thousand impressions). To get the page views up you need a lot of content.

Which direction should I take?

The purpose and strategy you choose all depends on your capabilities and direction as an organisation. For smaller radio stations I would certainly recommend steering clear of the content-driven approach. If a massive radio station like Absolute Radio can see value in this strategy, then I say you should at least consider it.

That being said, there is still enormous value in being a ‘downtime’ website – one where people keep coming back in their downtime. It’s a highly sought after position, but one that is easier to obtain if you already have a over-the-air relationship with your listeners. Just be prepared to back the website with suitable content-generating resources (staff).

It’s up to you to decide which approach you should take. Just make sure you make that decision after having fully weighed up the options.

Get the Broadcast Technology Newsletter

Sign up for the email newsletter about media and technology. Sent irregularly. No spam.

I'm Anthony Eden, and I'm a IT Professional, Broadcast Technician, Software Developer, and Solutions Engineer. I've been working in broadcast media since 2008, and developing software and websites for just as long. Right now, I provide freelance services through Media Realm - in particular, to the media and not-for-profit industries.

Follow Anthony on Twitter: @anthony_eden