NTR and Small Market Radio: A Necessity for Survival

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Radio stations that stream their on-air programming have the opportunity to sell around the programming online. Most broadcast software enables stations to air a separate set of ads during commercial breaks online if they choose to do so. These spots could be sold if it was proven that the programming was being listened to online. Stations can also use video and still visual (print-like) sponsor messages around their Internet stream. Stations are also starting to develop streams devoted specifically to broadcasting local high school athletics or local news and community events as a means to cover the event without eating up the airtime on the air. Stations will generally have a launch page for these streams with sponsors getting space on the launch page and also getting messages in the Web stream during broadcasts.

More than online

The realm of the Internet boasts great promise in terms of NTR opportunity, but there are still other means by which to generate NTR. Some stations have experimented with their RBDS signals to deliver information about sponsors during on-air spots as a support for the on-air message. RBDS has also been used as a tool to drive promotions by directing listeners to call in to win, visit a website, etc. The drawback to this NTR option especially for small markets is that not many radios feature RBDS technology yet and as a result many small market stations don't use RBDS. Some radio sales trades argue that this is a chicken-or-the-egg situation where if small stations used RBDS that more people would buy RBDS-capable radios, but information regarding that is inconclusive.

Another emerging NTR tool is text message marketing. Databases can be created by using popular programs or contests to get listeners to sign up for the service. The service can also be used as a tool for promotions to get registrations for giveaways. After stations have a sizeable database, the tool can be used to deliver station and sponsor related messages about special offers. Some companies such as McDonalds and Coca-Cola have used text message marketing to generate text message coupons. Listeners receive a code with the coupon details to be redeemed at a participating store. Opportunities like these could be designed for several types of businesses using the on-air portion of a radio station to support the coupons being sent to listeners. This means of NTR is viable for many small market stations, assuming cellular service is readily available around most of the listening area.

Mainstream NTR

Finally, the most "mainstream" of NTR opportunities for radio stations are promotions and events. These on-site opportunities have been very successful in building listener loyalty, station awareness, and ways to generate revenue by involving sponsor businesses. This type of NTR is far easier and, according to the Radio Advertising Bureau, more heavily used in smaller markets. The types of events that can be created are virtually limitless, with stations organizing concerts, business expos, bridal fairs, amateur sporting events, and more. These events have several ways to generate revenue for the station, and with new technologies the opportunities are expanding. The incorporation of text messaging at these events as well as an emerging marketing technology in interactive Bluetooth messages from sponsors supplementing other messages at events is providing a more intense way to get the attention of people and deliver valuable information from sponsors.

The key to success to these NTR opportunities is designing a plan that will blend a number of different options together to help the business better market itself or help the station drive more revenue as a result. It's the combination and integration of NTR into mainstream radio that ends up with positive results for your bottom line. With today's depressed radio market place, NTR remains a viable source of additional revenue to the creative radio station business.

Roger Paskvan is an associate professor of mass communications at Bemidji State University, Bemidji, MN.

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