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Leave the Digital Strategy to Muggles

Recently, Roy Williams, the “Wizard of Ads,” had this to say in the print version of Radio Ink:

I strongly believe radio should not look to the Web as a growth center for profits.  That would be short-term and counter-productive. I believe a radio station’s digital assets should be given away as added value for radio’s broadcast advertisers…. You’re not in the Internet business.



While I have great respect for wizards ever since I watched one vanquish Voldemort last weekend, this particular one needs a new spell: Realitus Perceptus!

I have read Roy’s books and have always found him to be an incisive observer of marketing and advertising, but this observation is seriously off-base, I think.

First, there is no “Internet business.” The Internet is a transformational force that affects every medium it touches.  Ask Borders.  Ask Blockbuster. Ask your local newspaper.  The “Internet business” is every business. Yes, you are in “it,” too.

Second, of course the Internet is a growth center for profits. Marketing and advertising dollars are migrating online so it, by definition, becomes a growth center.  The only question is whether an industry built on the power of towers will tap into that rapidly growing stream, and if they do not, they will be stuck with whatever dollars are left after media companies who understand and leverage the Internet take their unfair share.  Digital monetization is a central initiative for all media companies today, from local television to the movie studios to the cable and broadcast networks to the medium formerly known as “print.”  Is radio really all that different?  Are we really the one medium built to be left behind?

I don’t think so.

Unlike the average purveyor of digital solutions, radio has massive audiences and longstanding relationships with clients, and if you can’t leverage those two ingredients, mix them in a digital cauldron, and make marketing alchemy, then I don’t know what to say to you.

Third, Roy suggests giving away the digital portfolio as “added value.”  Exactly how much will your company invest in a category of services built to be “added value”?  Almost nothing?  I thought so.  And do you know what digital services built with almost nothing will be worth?  Less than almost nothing.  And how great will they be?  Less than almost bad.

When you don’t believe enough in the value of your services to build them out and price them accordingly, then you’re not adding value to your on-air campaign you’re subtracting value by signaling it’s not worth the rate you’re charging.

I don’t know.  Roy’s terrific, but maybe digital strategy is meant for Muggles.

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