Perhaps 2007 will be the year that will be remembered in radio history as the time when most radio broadcasters began to start thinking digitally. Just about everyone you talk to is rethinking their Internet architecture, their content, and their revenue-producing strategies. But as Internet guru Zephyr Teachout reminded us at the last L.A. Summit a few years ago, most radio station websites still are not competitive. Referring to them as online "billboards," Teachout emphatically made the point that radio was simply not in the game.
And of course, that feeds into that chicken-egg conundrum that plagues radio. Oftentimes, the guiding philosophy is as follows: "We'll sink more money into website content when we can see our way clear to developing a revenue stream that will pay for it all." (By the way, that same logic is working wonders in the HD Radio arena).
That's why yesterday's debut of KSHE's virtual "Real Rock Museum" is such an important breakthrough. It is a lovingly created tribute to the station, the city of St. Louis, and rock n' roll. There's video, audio, history, tribute, and of course, humor within the wings of this online "Museum." And importantly, there's also revenue. I am not at liberty to divulge the specific dollars and cents that have already been booked, and the impressive totals that are pending, but I can tell you this: Emmis St. Louis will monetize this project, it will make money, and it might set the tone for subsequent radio station web efforts. Simply put, they are walking the walk - something that is often missing from these online endeavors.
The side benefits of these efforts are impressive, too. St. Louis' mayor made the KSHE Day declaration yesterday, and the "Museum" itself is generating a great deal of publicity (and in the process, lots of web hits and page views). Kudos to Tony Jordan, Rick Balis, John Beck, and dozens of Emmis St. Louis staffers for their vision and contributions, as well as to company management for green-lighting this endeavor.
I urge you to check out the "Real Rock Museum," but also to consider that in order to reap some of the growing riches of the web revenue pot of gold, stations will have to commit, invest, and exert a full-tilt effort, like this one. Radio has the brands, the personalities, the history, and the local roots. But just as the TV networks support their hit shows with increasingly impressive web content, radio needs to get in the game, too.
This is one helluva start.