One of the most difficult things about programming a radio station is knowing exactly what works - and what doesn't. PDs try a countdown stunt one weekend, and come back with artist blocks the next. But when the Arbitrend comes out weeks later, it's tough to know which one - if any - moved the needle.
With PPM, results are clearer, but far from definitive. In fact, I've seen a number of analyses where an event or stunt worked once, and stiffed when it was repeated.
But on the web, that accountability that advertisers talk about can be a powerful measuring stick to confirm a tactic, or prove it to be a dead end.
And in that spirit, The Huffington Post is conducting an ongoing experiment to determine which of their headlines moves eyeballs and generates clicks. Here's how it works:
On the site, they will create two different headlines for a story, and show them randomly to web visitors. After a short period of time (they have a lot of traffic), it becomes pretty obvious which headline drives the most clicks. That's when they shift the entire site over to the most popular headline.
In fact, Huffington Post also solicits headlines from readers, using Twitter. While that's not science, it's an interesting way of using their web audience to generate potentially creative phrases and catch words.
Radio stations can easily use A:B testing, too, especially with email blasts. We subscribe to scores of station database clubs, and the variance in headlines is often striking. While some emails are positioned as coming from one of the station's personalities, others are very impersonal or generic or worse.
In the subject box, what works best? A contest solicitation? A great discount? A programming tease? Or something else?
It's not difficult to find out, and webmasters and programmers can collaborate in online experiments where half the members get one subject line, and the other half get the alternative. Determine your open rates, clickthroughs, etc., and you're well on the way to establishing protocols that provide consistent results.
The Huffington Post test also speaks volumes about the importance of research on digital platforms and habits. The fact they are spending as much time on some of these nuances tells us a great deal about how critical language, pictures, and layout can be.
The Internet, your website, and your database club can be great sources of learning how to best communicate digitally with listeners, advertisers, and clients.
If we take the time to use these powerful tools.