Jeff Schmidt

Radio stations that haven’t yet embraced the world of digital should take a hard look at how they deliver services to audiences, and how they deliver services to local retailers.

That’s according to Jeff Schmidt, Senior VP of Professional Development at the Radio Advertising Bureau, who hosted a webinar on Tuesday (Sept. 8) entitled “Demystifying Digital Marketing.”

The event covered the basics of digital, including how to deploy a strategy and what kinds of questions stations should be asking.

“We need to get out of this thought that digital is something mystical,” Schmidt said. “It’s just an electronic delivery of content, whether it’s on the internet, whether it’s on a podcast, whether it’s on a streaming radio station or on a website… [Digital] democratizes development, production [and] delivery; reinvents supply chains; challenges established brands by giving new ways to engage with the content of the brands [consumers] love.”

Content, Schmidt asserted, is everything — an insight that dovetails nicely with what Schmidt outlined as the three universal truths in digital: One, digital doesn’t care; two, disruption is driven by consumer choice; and three, consumer choice is driven by content.

The key role played by quality content, Schmidt said, is something that’s right in the medium’s wheelhouse.

“We have local content,” he said. “We have been producing more local content than any other media company since radio began. Every day we turn on the microphones we’re creating local content.”

But not only does radio have content that people want and need — particularly in a time of crisis — it has trusted content, Schmidt noted.

Schmidt also pointed out some other key details that are selling points for radio, including the fact that more than four in five (81%) of adults 18 and over listen to AM/FM radio while in the car; and the dramatic proliferation of smart speakers and how they have enhanced listening to traditional radio. (Nearly a third of U.S. households — 32% — now has three or more such devices, according to findings from Edison Research and Triton Digital.)

“Smart speakers are bringing radio back into the home,” Schmidt said. “In the Jacobs [Media] Tech Survey earlier this year, one in five smart-speaker owners are listening to more AM/FM radio since getting an Alexa device. It’s the number one thing people do on their smart speaker — they listen to music. And oftentimes they listen to their local radio station.”

In addition to content, Schmidt identified a handful of other assets that radio can use to bolster its digital presence: technology (expanded platforms that deliver radio beyond the traditional dial); local activation (the ability to move markets locally by driving and changing consumer behavior that’s beneficial to advertisers); fully integrated marketing options that cross channels and platforms; creativity and local engagement; and powerful local media brands.

For local radio stations, there’s an opportunity — one that’s currently being exploited by global powerhouses for the most part.

On average, Schmidt noted, citing findings from Borrell Associates, 15% of everything that’s spent on digital advertising by businesses located inside a market goes to a locally based media company. The remaining 84% goes to Google, Facebook, Yelp, Homes.com, Autotrader.com and a bevy of other internet companies.

“The outsiders are invading your market — and putting boots on the ground to sell, in some markets — or, at the very least they’re making phone calls into the market and selling Google Ads and selling Facebook posts,” Schmidt said. “Eighty-four percent of the digital money being spent right now is going out the door that way. But you still have that 15% to tap into.”

Schmidt emphasized that radio and digital by no means have to be in conflict with one another. Rather, radio’s abilities in the areas of reach, targeting and engagement only serve to enhance the ultimate mission.

“Digital and traditional media are really a match made in heaven,” Schmidt said. “… We reach massive amounts of people. Then we can draw them in and target them even more — hyper-target them — with digital, and we can engage them through social media. The first thing that we have to do is get out of this mentality that it’s digital versus radio. It’s not an ‘us versus them.’ It’s more of a peanut butter and jelly.”