How to market your digital station

Cut through the clutter to make your mark

I don’t know who first said ‘build it and they will come’, but they were likely referring to bricks and mortar High Street retailers rather than radio broadcasting.

Radio broadcasting, no matter how it is transmitted, is an intangible entity. You can’t see it or touch it. It only becomes truly worth while when people listen to it; and you can’t force people to listen to anything.

Your listeners have to want to listen. But first, they need to be told you exist.

It’s one thing to happen across a new shop while walking down the street, it’s quite another to happen upon a new radio station – unless it can cause a buzz. And to take you way back just for a moment, that has happened twice in the UK.

Once when Radio Caroline launched in the 1960s and disrupted the BBC’s comfortable existence. And again when pirate Laser 558 shook the independent radio stations out of their slumber in the early 1980s. Laser 558 turned the independents on their head.

Anyone there?

But, having launched your station, the first thing you’ll want to do is shout about it on the internet radio forums – but in reality – you’ll only be promoting your station to fellow broadcasters. They are not your target audience because they are too busy keeping their own ship afloat.

To draw in listeners you need to target the people your station was set up for (and that is not everyone everywhere). Your listeners are people in a particular age group, weighted male or female (depending on what you are broadcasting), earning a particular income, doing particular jobs and have easy access to the internet.

Not everyone has an ‘all you can eat’ data plan for their smartphone or home internet.

Your backyard

Rather than take on the world, and revel in seeing you have listeners in far off countries; concentrate on your own backyard. I recommend your listeners live in your neighbourhood, village or town.

Most internet broadcasters are on a tight budget, so a bit of guerilla marketing will be your first step. That may mean posters in the local bus shelters, public notice boards, your radio station business cards left on the back of bus seats, local library, meetings halls, telling friends and family and putting posters on car windscreens at your local mall.

While there’s talk of Facebook falling out of favour with younger people; it is still worth your time creating an FB page for your station. Then becoming members of any FB pages run by people near where you live (community forums etc).

Enter to win!

Having a contest to win something tangible is good; and this is where a local shop might come in handy. What you give away doesn’t have to be huge – it could be a tray of soft drinks or a box of snacks (50 bags of crisps or biscuits etc; promoted as a years’ supply).

Your local paper or community newsletter is also a good place to appear, so pitch your story to the editors.

I also recommend giving free air time to promote charitable and  (not-for-profit) community events. That will really help you attract local support and connect you with prominent people who may be able to help in other ways.


And one of your team is bound to be a mobile DJ with lots of gear. So ask the local Mall if you can run a promotional roadshow where you promote your station with leaflets, badges and give-aways, as well as promote something for the Mall owner – either on the day or on air by way of free adverts.

Ideally you can do a live broadcast from the Mall. But if you can’t, don’t let that stop you do a roadshow. Make sure to get T-Shirts printed up with your logo on them.


Promoting your station is almost a full time job in itself. But if you are broadcasting consistent and interesting content – you’ll get cut-through sooner or later. It won’t happen overnight though. Give yourself at least six months to a year to establish your station. As the saying goes; overnight success takes 10 years.

Just for the record, any commercial enterprise takes five years to turn the corner and start making a profit. You may do it sooner because it is unlikely you’ll have to pay for premises or staff.

Steve Hart

Steve Hart

Steve Hart is a journalist and editor based in Melbourne.

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