Jacobs Media's Keith Cunningham joins us for another guest posting today:
It was five months ago I posted a blog on the increased importance for today’s radio brands to use their speed, flexibility, and localism to cover news and current events. And this past week brought us more good examples.
The Internet, smart cell phones, email, texting, and all things wireless have changed the world forever. Never before have news and entertainment moved at such a rapid pace. Consider these very different stories from the past week:
I chose these three stories because they transcend all demos or formats, and were huge headlines. The unspeakable tragedy at Virginia Tech, Alec Baldwin’s shameful and narcissistic message to his 11-year-old daughter (or is she 12?), and America’s favorite no-talent, Sanjaya, finally getting the boot from “Idol.”
In each case, details of the story traveled so fast they became widely known in minutes, or hours at the very most. And no one needed radio to get the information first. In the Sanjaya case, I knew he was a goner before the show even aired in Los Angeles (thanks to the Internet) and I didn’t seek out that information. I stumbled upon it while looking for something else.
Sure, news and information traveling at unthinkable speeds is now an everyday occurrence in 2007. But the question is whether or not FM radio is truly participating and leading the way with information flow, and possibly shaping opinions and the overall debate? Especially for morning shows, their coverage of these major stories can cement a show or station’s image as being the local epicenter for information.
We don’t have to go back many years to remember the day when radio was the clear leader for music, and much of the day’s information flow. But that era is now ancient history. As we discussed late last year, radio still has the ability to be one of the fastest moving mediums. Got an idea or a news tip? You can have it on the air in mere minutes.
Conversely, print and TV had lengthier timelines. But they’ve caught radio in the speed game, thanks to the Internet and multi-media applications. Sadly, radio is actually getting slower in some cases. Voicetracking, production outsourcing, and smaller “more efficient” staffs are dramatically impacting radio’s ability to react. How can a station capture the moment and react right when something is hot or breaking, if no one in-house can do good production; if the creative team is too busy doing other jobs to pay attention to what’s going on; if there isn’t a live jock on the air for another twelve-hours? At that point, radio becomes slow, inconsistent, and unreliable.
Radio must keep up in the game of speed. But as we pointed out in a VT Client Advisory for Jacobs Media clients earlier this week, radio has the unique ability to let the community drive many issues. In other words, giving local listeners a voice. This is a tremendous advantage for radio. We still have the reach, resources, localism and the ability to be as fast, flexible and personable as any other medium.
Radio doesn’t need excuses; it only needs to harness and utilize its power. If radio gets scooped on important local stories by bare-bones websites, loses out on demo-relevant news or great music to competitors with far fewer resources or reach, and doesn’t embrace and participate in the larger discussions, the skies will continue to darken over the radio business.