What's online

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By now you should have a website for your station. If you don't, you have some catching up to do. The world is online; if you're not online you're not in the game.

Simply having a website is not enough. Your station website is an extension of the station. With so much information available online, your station is a valuable source of information. Just as time spent listening is important for ratings, time spent online - called stickiness - is important to a successful website.

Of greatest importance is to update the website every day. Less-frequent updates will not attract visitors as often. Often, many of the same techniques used to encourage listeners to tune in can be applied to your website. Don't get caught creating an online space and posting an under construction graphic. There is no better way to drive visitors away.

The daily update can contain information from several station departments. Programming and promotions are obvious content suppliers, but the sales force and engineering can supply useful content too.

A real job Maintaining the website can be a full-time job. Since the Web is a part of our lives now, it makes sense to have someone maintain your website on a regular basis. This doesn't mean giving the task to the promotions intern. Be sure the person maintaining the site understands the station, its listeners and advertisers.

Basic information such as a concert calendar, team game schedules, station remote appearances and community events are a good start.

Station engineering information can be a good source of information. Include facts like the original station sign-on date, ERP, antenna height, transmitter type and studio facilities. A virtual studio tour is another possibility. Be careful not to provide too much information.

One thing I often see missing from station websites is complete contact information. The request line and request fax are almost always there, but listeners are not the only Web visitors you will have. Contact information for the office and sales staff is very important. Likewise, include information from the station's media kit. A potential advertiser may find you. Make it easy for him to contact you as well.

What's online anyway? Internet radio is proving to have real promise as a delivery medium. As streaming technologies continue to evolve, the quality of Internet radio will improve. Radio stations already have an audio stream available. It is not difficult to get an audio stream online. If hosting your own audio server is not practical, there are plenty of companies that provide streaming services. These companies handle all the details and maintain the equipment. All you have to do is supply the audio stream.

Your online stream can also become a source of revenue. While the online stream can simply simulcast the air signal, the commercial inventory that is available online does not need to be given away. Sell the over-the-air inventory, but be sure your contracts stipulate that the online inventory may not be included.

At the NAB Radio Show, one technology was the source of many discussions: ad insertion. This allows you to insert a new audio ad into the audio stream in place of the commercial being played over the air.

This concept can be taken a step further with targeted ad insertion. This relies on specific demographic information from the listener. Each person listening online can hear a different commercial based on that listener's own interests. While audio streaming may not be a major source of revenue yet, it is definitely something to get into.

Your website is even of interest to the FCC. A recent rulemaking provides for portions of the Public File to be available online.

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