The Way Radio Thinks About Digital Makes It Harder to Sell

Seth Resler

By: Seth Resler,
Jacobs Media Strategies

Every year, advertisers tell us the percentage of their marketing budget allocated to “digital” is increasing. On the other hand, the portion dedicated to “traditional media” is heading south. Ever since “digital” became attractive to advertisers, traditional broadcasters have struggled to find their foothold in this world.

In the early days, radio’s reaction was to sell digital inventory, such as display ads on station websites or inclusion in station email blasts, in much the same way they sold 60-second commercials. Over time, radio broadcasters recognized the digital solutions its clients desire go beyond just having more places in which to stick ads. As a result, the array of services broadcasters offer has gotten more complex. It’s not uncommon for radio stations offering to build websites, directing social media strategies or perform SEO services for their clients.

The added complexity involved in offering these services presents two problems for broadcasters. The first is the challenge of execution: Can radio stations actually deliver the goods they’re promising to clients? After all, the ability to produce a hit morning show does not guarantee the ability to produce a good website. Broadcasters have found different ways to address this challenge.

Some have hired digital experts, while others have acquired digital firms, and still others subcontract the work out to third parties. Some companies have abandoned specific digital offerings altogether. On the whole, however, broadcasters have gotten vastly better at execution, and some are now in a good position to deliver on their digital promises to clients.

Which leads to the second challenge that many broadcasters face: Selling these services. Selling digital is very different from selling radio, and the transition from one to the other is not an easy one to make. Some clients lack digital expertise, and look to radio salespeople for guidance they’re simply not equipped to give. Other clients know exactly what they need, and speak about digital marketing at a such an advanced level that radio salespeople struggle to keep up with the conversation.

Broadcasters have grappled with ways to address this issue: Some have installed a separate digital sales team, while others send a member of the digital team to accompany sales people on client calls. New training programs and shifting incentives are also used to motivate radio sales teams to sell more digital services.

Still, the problem persists. We frequently run into experienced salespeople who feel overwhelmed and intimidated by the changing digital landscape. Sometimes, they are forced to push digital initiatives without fully understanding how these programs deliver value for a client. They might sell services to clients that fall short on their promised value; then the salespeople lose faith in the digital programs, and are reluctant to sell more.

What’s a radio station to do?

Perhaps we’ve been thinking of this all wrong. We’ve been thinking about digital services as products to be sold, when they are in fact tools that can accomplish particular goals. Reframing the way we think about digital services may help our salespeople sell them.

Throughout its history, radio stations have always had two core competencies: creating compelling content and delivering relevant audiences. That’s what they’re really good at. New digital tools don’t change that; they just enable radio to do them better.

BD – Before Digital – the best stations could offer clients was a vague sense that if they advertised on an AC station, they might reach women between the ages of 25 and 54. Now, if that same station used social media and its website to build up its email database, it can do even better: delivering “mothers of children under 5,” for example. Yes, there are new tools involved, but at its core, radio’s service remains the same: it delivers relevant audiences.

In the past, when radio broadcasters thought about “creating compelling content,” that often translated to coming up with a killer morning show bit or a fantastic benchmark feature. While over-the-air content is still the main trust of what radio stations do, they now have a new set of tools, enabling them to create new types of content — especially for clients. This might include a series of branded videos for a local sporting goods store starring the trusted midday jock, or a branded podcast for the local brewery hosted by the quirky morning show producer.

Again, there are new tools available, but the core competency remains the same: radio stations know how to create compelling content.

If your station’s sales team feels like they’re drowning in a pile of new digital offerings for clients, try this: forget about the laundry list of widgets and whatnots that have been added to the menu. Instead, focus on the station’s core competencies: Delivering audiences and creating content. Your station is doing the same thing it’s always done, it’s just using new tools to do it more effectively.

By reframing the way we talk about digital, we can help our salespeople close more deals.

For more assistance on digital or social media, contact MAB Member Services at [email protected] or 1-800-968-7622. 

WDET Names Mary Zatina as New General Manager

Mary Zatina

Public radio station WDET-FM (Detroit) has named a new General Manager. Mary Zatina, a former assistant general manager of WDET and an alumna of Wayne State University, will now lead operations for the 48,000-watt station. Her appointment is effective January 2, 2020.

Zatina has spent the last dozen years as senior vice president of government relations and community affairs at Oakwood Healthcare and Beaumont Health, where she was also responsible for marketing, public relations, internal communications and community health. Prior to that, she held numerous leadership positions in communications, public affairs, fundraising and community engagement.

“We are delighted that Mary is joining us at WDET. Her wealth of leadership experience and her deep connections in the greater Detroit community are a perfect fit for the station,” said Michael Wright, WSU vice president of Marketing and Communications and Chief of Staff. “I have no doubt WDET will thrive under her leadership.”

Zatina will work to provide the highest possible quality programming to the Detroit metropolitan area with a strategic focus on audience and revenue growth, community engagement, as well as fundraising and stewardship for the station.

“It’s been a while since I worked at WDET, but I have maintained my strong belief in the station’s mission and the critical role it plays to serve metro Detroiters,” said Zatina. “I’ve never stopped listening to and supporting WDET. I am excited to be coming home, and looking forward to working with this dedicated and dynamic team of professionals.”

Previously, Zatina served as chief of staff for the Office of First Gentlemen Daniel Granholm Mulhern and an advisor to Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Jennifer Watkins Becomes New Marketing Director at WILX

Jennifer Watkins

Jennifer Watkins is the new Marketing Director for Gray Television’s WILX-TV (Lansing).  As the Department manager, she will oversee Marketing, Creative Services, Promotions and Community Relations at the station.

Watkins is a proud graduate of Western Michigan University with a Bachelor of Art Degree in Communications and Journalism.  She also holds a Master of Art Degree with a focus in Marketing and Social Sciences from the University of Michigan.

Watkins has twenty years of marketing and advertising experience.  She has created marketing strategies and promotions for many top Fortune 500 companies. She most recently comes from Valassis Communications (a digital and print marketing firm) where she was responsible for managing and innovating multiple digital and printed advertising products and brands.  Watkins started her career off as a journalist and also developed and launched her own Detroit-based clothing line.

Outside of work, you can find her spending time with family and friends, reading a good book, doing yoga, paddle-boarding or running. Watkins lives in Hartland, Michigan with her husband and two children.

Cheyna Roth Leaves MPRN

Cheyna Roth

The Michigan Public Radio Network is sad to announce that Capitol Bureau reporter Cheyna Roth has left the network to join MLive in Grand Rapids as an investigative reporter.

MPRN State Capitol Bureau Chief/Managing Editor Rick Pluta said, “Cheyna’s been a great partner to work with. I know that respect for her is shared by the members of the state Capitol press corps, the people she covered and our MPRN stations. Please join me in extending our thanks, best wishes and (as we used to say in the wire services) happy landings.”

In a note to MPRN member stations, Roth wrote,  “Working with you all has been a wonderful adventure. While I’ve gotten to know some of you more than others, I can truly say that it has been an honor to work with each of you. Thank you for your patience, your kindness, and your sense of humor. While my focus shifts to Grand Rapids (and to print), please know that I am always available to you and can think of nothing I’d love more than to make a guest appearance on your air again, or even better, collaborate on a story.”

Roth started her new position in MLive on December 16.

Prior to joining MPRN in 2016, Roth was an assistant prosecutor in Ionia County handling a lot of prisoner misconduct cases when she decided, after about a year and a half, that her passion was story-telling.

“NPR got me through an almost hour long commute every day,” she said. “Listening to the stories and amazing quality of radio production was a real catalyst for my leaving the legal field to pursue journalism.”

Roth returned to school and graduated in 2016 with a master’s degree in journalism from Michigan State University. During grad school, she interned with Michigan Radio, and post-graduation, her freelance career included multi-media reporting for WKAR and researching and producing a documentary on an ex-con’s experiences teaching life lessons to kids in Flint.

Lansing Television Stations Pitch In For Salvation Army

Left: WILX-TV’s David Andrews. Right: WLNS-TV’s Veronica Gabriel.

In the spirit of the holiday season, Lansing television stations WILX-TV, WSYM-TV and WLNS-TV each did their part to help with this year’s Salvation Army Kettle Drive.

On December 6, WILX/WSYM News personalities were at two different locations at Lansing’s Eastwood Town Center.  And, on December 13, WLNS-TV had its on-air personalities set up at different locations around the area.  All in all, the three stations raised around $16,000 toward the Salvation Army’s goal this year.

Alpha Media Raises $47K for Saginaw and Bay City Rescue Missions

(L-R) Rescue Ministries of Mid-Michigan CEO Dan Streeter and Alpha Media/Saginaw Operations/Content Manager Dave Mauer.

Alpha Media stations in Saginaw held their annual “Sharing Hope” Radiothon this past Wednesday, December 18 to help those in need who are served at the City Rescue Mission in Saginaw and the Good Samaritan Rescue Mission in Bay City.

During the 12-hour radiothon, with a goal of $45,000, listener donations, as well as matching money from the business community, brought the final to $47,190!

Alpha stations participating include WSGW-AM/FM, WTLZ-FM, WGER-FM and WCEN-FM.

WMGC’s ‘Big Top Toy Drop’ Raises Over $40K in Toys

WMGC’s Gello & Joanna

Beasley Media Group’s WMGC-FM (105.1 The Bounce)/Detroit teamed up with Lafontaine KIA, Community Financial Credit Union and Lady Jane’s Wicked Awesome Wishes to present Gello’s Big Top Toy Drop. The collection raised over $40,000 in new toys for children during the holiday season. The event took place from Friday, December 6-13 at Lafontaine KIA in Dearborn. Michigan.

Morning Personalities Gello & Joanna took over the station and camped out in a tent for seven days straight at Lafontaine KIA. The donated items will be distributed at Lady Jane’s Wicked Awesome Wishes and Ronald McDonald House in Detroit.

“This has been a life changing experience for me,” said Joanna. “We truly appreciate everyone who supported the kids in our community.”

“I am completely overwhelmed by the amazing support of the community who stepped up and showed out for the kids in Detroit,” added Gello. “When a kid goes to school after the holiday, there are kids that will be asked what they received for Christmas. Now, over 4,000 kids won’t have to lie and will have a brighter Christmas. To the people who donated, please understand how monumental and important your contributions are.”

WGHN, WMPA ‘Cover the Tri Cities’ with Coats

(L-R) Leslie Cassis-Withun, John Roberts and Rose Dunlap from WGHN-FM, LeAnn and Al Plantengas from Plantengas Cleaners and Josh Bytwerk from Love in Action.

WGHN-AM/FM and WMPA-FM (Grand Haven), in partnership with Plantenga’s Cleaners has announced that this year’s “Covering the Tri Cities Coat Drive” was a great success!

The drive took place during the month of November with collection sites at numerous businesses and community partners of WGHN’s family of radio stations and Plantenga’s Cleaners. WGHN said in a release that the community’s donation of coats, snowsuits, hat and gloves for children and adults, was overwhelming.

LeAnn Plantenga’s, owner of Plantenga’s Cleaner’s added, “We are very pleased to report that in all the years we have been involved in coat drives, this year’s total set an all time record for the amount of coats collected and cleaned. We want to thank our staff for putting in the extra time for such a great cause. They always had a smile when they knew the coats were going to Love in Action, Salvation Army, The People Center, Every Woman’s Place and the Muskegon Rescue Mission. WGHN 92.1, WMPA 93.1/Oldies 94.9, Plantenga’s Cleaners and all the non-profits want to thank the Tri-Cities for supporting this year’s ‘Covering The Tri Cities Coat Drive.'”

Love In Action Executive Director Josh Bytwerk said, “Every coat will help a person in our community who is in need. Thanks to Plantenga’s, each coat is clean and ready to be given away.”  Love in Action is a ministry that works with a network of church partners, volunteers and partner organizations to help our neighbors in need.

Share Why Local Broadcasters are Important During the Holidays!

During the season of giving, local radio and TV stations demonstrate their remarkable commitment to #BroadcastGood around the country. They collect food, gifts and coats for those in need, report on community events and continue to share the news and information you need most.

Your local television and radio stations are honored to provide Americans’ most trusted news, plan service projects that bring your community together and provide a lifeline during winter weather emergencies. And remember, from your favorite music on the radio to the shows you love to watch on TV, broadcast service is free – all you need is a radio or a TV with an antenna.

Share why your local radio and TV stations are important to you this holiday season:

Click Here

…and please send to the MAB audio/video and lots of photos for our annual Michigan Broadcasters Community Service Report:

[email protected]

Digital Tips for Every Employee in Your Radio Station

Seth Resler

By: Seth Resler,
Jacobs Media Strategies

Towards the end of every year, I like to make a list of the blogposts that I’ve written and break them down by the radio station staff roles that might find them most useful. This way, if you happen to miss anything relevant to you, you can catch up on your reading. So without further ado, here are digital tips for everyone in your radio station:

Program Directors:







With that, I wish you all happy holidays and best of luck in the new year!

For more assistance on digital or social media, contact MAB Member Services at [email protected] or 1-800-968-7622.