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There will be video: how community radio can adapt to digital disruption

This is the second in a series about how community radio stations can adapt to and embrace digital disruption. 

There Will Be Video

At a strategic planning meeting for a community radio station I used to work for, the facilitator asked if we wanted to make any changes to the mission. I raised my hand.

“I want to change ‘radio station’ to community media institution. We need to be more than a radio station.”

A board member promptly got up and threw up his hands in my face. “What are we going to do, Ann? Put video on the website?!”

That was in 2005. It’s a story I still recount, because it makes a point about how much our imaginations our constrained by the broadcast tower, in particular the many volunteers who give their time and share their personal music collections.

Why Video?

People are going to see video production at your station as a resource suck. It eats up studio time, staff time, server space. But here’s why the smart community radio station embraces video:

  • video streaming is at an all time high. People are hungry for content.
  • the videos are short – usually 5 minutes. A station doesn’t need to produce a documentary.
  • it’s a great way to brand and market the station. How many times have we heard the clarion calls from volunteers that the station doesn’t market their programs enough? Marketing is a natural by product of sharing videos that tie into the content of the station’s radio broadcasts.
  • it will will involve a different segment of the community at the station, probably younger. We all want that!
  • it’s fundable. Community+Video=HOT! Embarking on a web based video initiative that involves communities should perk up the ears of local funders and underwriters.

If you want a great example of how video has increased audience at a community radio station, KDHX’s Live from KDHX series has hit the 2 million mark. The station has a huge tower – but in the past a weekly audience that barely showed up on the ratings. It’s doubled its audience and can now boast a 1.0 market share (that’s a lot for a community radio station in a shark tank urban market next door to a powerhouse NPR and PBS affiliate.)

Who Will Do The Work?

Stations need a different set of skills – and that may mean a different staff person. At the heart of adapting digital disruption is managing change at community radio stations. There’s no silver bullet for this. It will be gradual, it might be painful at times and it will most likely be the result of attrition. The first generation of community radio station managers and staff are coming up on retirement. Their departures will mean opportunities.


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