It's probably not a surprise that those Saturday Presidential radio addresses were started by none other than Hall of Fame broadcaster President Ronald Reagan. Of course, radio speeches were first popularized by FDR when he took office in the 1930's before the days of television.
But President-elect Obama realizes that in order to better communicate with Americans, he needs to deliver his message on different platforms. When he takes office in January, he'll continue the radio tradition, while also delivering his weekly address on YouTube. (He's actually already started this with his Democratic response speech last weekend.)
Radio's top personalities should be taking notes. While most were taught their craft in the traditional "theater of the mind school," today's audiences expect to be able to access and enjoy content in a myriad of settings. Those "visual bits" that never translated well on the radio can take on a whole new life via webcams and streaming video. But radio needs staffers with video editing skills, and personalities themselves have to recognize, welcome, and create content for the changing media environment.
The President-elect isn't dissing radio. He is acknowledging that video isn't an afterthought, but a primary way to inform (and entertain). Too often in radio, we view video as an extra or an add-on, rather than a vehicle that has become a primary way for Americans to consume media. We have seen the meteoric ride of video streaming in our last two Tech Polls - reminders that Americans are clearly focused on the visual, and on accessing media when and where they like.
As every marketer has blogged over the past few months, Obama has re-written the book on how to utilize digital media to run and win a Presidential campaign. Now he's going to set a new standard on how to communicate with his audience (constituents) by going beyond those Saturday radio speeches. The radio industry should be furiously taking notes.