Fred Jacobs is President of Jacobs Media, a media research and consulting firm. Jacobs Media clients have included CBS Radio, Premiere Radio Networks, Citadel, Greater Media, MTV Networks, Playboy, Amazon, Electronic Arts, NPR, Sylvan Learning Centers, and Taubman Malls. Learn more about the company here.
OK, picture this fantasy scene....
It's the 2009 Grammys, and the winner of the best Rock song or Rock album takes the stage, grabs his/her Grammy, and says the following, "I would like to thank Rock radio for helping me win this prestigious award."
I know... it's a fantasy.
But during the recent CMA Awards show, there was George Strait and Rascal Flatts thanking Country radio for their airplay and support.
As the economy worsens, you'd like to hope that everyone will be more appreciative of who's buttering their bread, and keeping them working.
In Country, they truly get it. In Rock, well, I can dream.
Schadenfreude. We all feel it from time to time, some of us more than others. It's that emotion that causes us to feel good when someone else suffers. Many people are feeling it about Wall Street brokers and the Detroit 3 CEOs right now. Whether it's rational or even nice, it's hard not to sometimes get a nice glow from someone else's pain - even if you aren't doing especially well yourself.
That's probably how a lot of broadcasters are feeling when they look at Sirius XM stock. When I wrote this blog, their stock was sitting at about 15-cents a share. So while most other radio broadcasting stocks aren't doing much better, you know there's a little schadenfreude going on, especially given Mel's famous quotes about how a company's share price ought to determine how it should be judged.
But here's a little piece of schadenfreude that isn't so snarky because it is well deserved. It turns out that Sirius XM is furiously working on an iPhone app (called StarPlayr). It sounds pretty cool, and the developers are frantically trying to make sure that it technically works and that it receives approval from the Apple Supreme Court.
Yet, it's not out, and "old media" broadcasters have been able to produce a solid iPhone streaming product for months now. Between aggregated sites like AOL Radio to FlyCast, groups of stations are available on iPhones. Isn't it interesting that satellite radio - always positioned as the future, the next big thing, and so much better than good old AM and FM - has fallen behind when it comes to technology? As their business model has been leapfrogged by new media and cool gadgets, satellite radio has been tethered to the way they've always done things.
And terrestrial radio has now moved even a step better. Pardon a little shameless self-promotion, but Jacobs Media's "stationalized" app allows individual stations to have their brands right on the desktops of iPhones all over the planet. Since we released our app last week - ahead of Sirius XM's - we have received dozen of inquiries, even in this lousy economy. Broadcasters big and small from the U.S., overseas, as well as Internet stations, quickly understood the beauty of this killer app. New stations will be coming online every week, as soon as we can get the simple process going. We are also getting stats that the downloads for the first "stationalized" app - WRIF's - are through the roof, reinforcing our belief that radio's best brands will excel on cell phones, in this case, iPhones. This begins radio's dream of being easily and attractively accessible on mobile devices. By the way, apps for WBOS (Radio 92.9 - Boston) and WRAT are also "up."
As for Sirius XM, dream on.
JacoBlog reader Bruce Barber drove me to Seth Godin's blog about what The New York Times coulda shoulda woulda done to save itself from becoming downsized and obsolete. It's a great read that says a lot about the Times...and about radio, and about other businesses that are trying to make the transition.
I am reminded of that silent movie image where the stuntman has one foot on one biplane and the other foot on a second biplane. It is not easy to move from the old business model to a new one. Clearly, the CEOs of the Detroit 3 demonstrated that last week. Perhaps Congress making them write a term paper ("How we plan to use the money to reinvent our companies") will contain some forward-thinking ideas. Maybe they should read Seth's blog.
Hope you enjoy it.
If there's been a more exciting event in broadcast radio in the last couple of decades than PPM, I can't recall it. While the PPM rollout has had its ups and downs, it is the buzz of the radio industry. Last month, markets like Detroit, Washington, and Dallas were added, and as more come online, the PPM story will become even more compelling.
For programmers, sellers, and managers, however, there's a serious learning curve. PPM is a totally different ratings platform, requiring content and sales managers (and their direct reports) to get their heads around this new methodology. From weekly reports to huge cumes to the end of Thursday as "The Day," PPM is causing everyone to re-learn the ratings - how to sell them and how to program them.
At Jacobs Media, we have put together a great PowerPoint presentation that helps indoctrinate stations in coming PPM markets to the ins and outs of this electronic methodology. Our experience working with WMMR and WMGK in Philadelphia has been invaluable, and now that we're seeing data in other markets like Chicago, New York, Detroit, and D.C., certain "truths" are beginning to emerge.
Yet, the questions about PPM remain. Despite Arbitron's best efforts, there are many outstanding and basic questions about PPM - the methodology, the system, the meter itself, and interpretation of the data. I know that in the course of presenting our PPM PowerPoint, I am pelted with all sorts of questions.
Arbitron understands that, and as a result, they have put together a panel for their upcoming Consultant Fly-In on Friday, December 5th. Called "PPM FAQ PDQ," a panel of Arbitron experts and wonks will answer those frequently asked questions in a quick and simple Q&A format. Arbitron's Gary Marince has asked me to do the moderating, and I'm looking forward to a rapid-fire panel.
To that end, I want to be sure that every key PPM question is addressed. If you've got one, this is the time. Please send an email to me, and I'll be sure to include it in the session. Arbitron will make it available on their site at the conclusion of the panel, so whether you make the trip to Columbia next month or not, you'll get your question answered.
As they say, knowledge is power. In the case of PPM, that's especially true. We'll try to get everyone a little smarter about PPM next month at the Consultant Fly-In.
The growth of the iPhone is truly amazing, especially since Apple opened up its wildly popular App Store to outside developers. The range of cool, useful, and whimsical applications makes owning one of these devices a real adventure. iPhone owners regularly check to discover new apps that are free or require a small fee.
In the process, the iPhone has become America's most popular mobile device, passing the veteran BlackBerry in the process, mirroring Google usurping Yahoo! despite the latter's early entry into the search field. (So much for the Ries & Trout rule about being the first in.)
Back in February, RAB CEO Jeff Haley made it clear that if broadcast radio is to be competitive as an entertainment medium of the future, it must go beyond traditional AM/FM radio sets, and become accessible in new hi-tech places - on computers and mobile devices, in particular.
To that end, we have studied our own Tech Polls very carefully, and developed a wonderful app for broadcast radio, allowing stations to have a personalized (or "stationalized") icon on iPhone desktops. In this way, basic on-air promos will direct listeners to the App Store where they can easily download your logo icon, and let the streaming begin. (Stations can include up to five different streams with the same logo icon.)
Now we realize that many station streams are already available on iPhones underneath larger "umbrella icons" - such as AOL Radio and FlyCast. These are great apps, but they require the iPhone user to scroll through hundreds of stations to find their favorite. Our personalized icon allows individual stations to have their own icons, thus making it easy and simple to stream their audio in just seconds.
WRIF here in Detroit provided the beta test, and the results look and sound great. Try it for yourself on an iPhone or by visiting iTunes and typing "WRIF" in the search box. The one-time cost is $900 for Jacobs’ clients, and $1,000 for everyone else.
Check out how the App works
We're excited about helping broadcast radio gain an attractive and user-friendly presence in the most buzz-worthy mobile device - the iPhone. This is the just the beginning for our business, and an important step in spreading our great content across exciting digital platforms and devices.
For more information on obtaining your "stationalized" iPhone app, contact Paul Jacobs.
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.
The announcement that Nielsen is back in the radio ratings game now that Cumulus and Clear Channel have signed on for 50 small and medium small markets has achieved "breaking news" status today. But what does it tell us about the state of our industry, and its inability to get on the same page?
PPM lacks perfection, to be sure. Many broadcasters have been critical of numerous flaws, from sampling frames to meter issues, and of course, the cost. But going back to the diaries as the solution?
Today's Media Daily News story, written by Joe Mandese, notes that "instead of utilizing a newfangled, state-of-the-art audience measurement technology, Nielsen will deploy old school paper diaries, though it will utilize a peel-and-paste sticker methodology that Nielsen has deployed successfully for radio audience measurement internationally in 11 key global markets, and will utilize what is considered by some to be a better system for drawing the samples it uses to produce its ratings."
Isn't this like saying that instead of using a "newfangled" word-processing program like Word, Cumulus and Clear Channel are opting for Remington manual typewriters? Who needs a GPS when we can still get TripTiks from AAA?
But don't take it from me. Ask your neighbor at your kid's hockey game, or the guy next to you in line at Quantum of Solace, or the mom you run into at the tailgate. Tell them you're in radio, and when they ask you that inevitable question about how the ratings work, describe the metered electronic measurement system of PPM versus the paper diary. And then get their reaction.
PPM - flaws, expense, fits and starts, and all - makes sense to anyone who has a computer and has put away their 8-tracks. Programmers in PPM markets will tell you to a person that the accountability and reflection of reality they see in electronic measurement is what they've yearned for their entire careers.
But as has been the case - especially since consolidation - radio rarely speaks in one voice. Instead, it's often several disparate tongues. As advertisers continue to wonder about radio's relevancy, broadcasters continue to give them fodder that suggests we just don't get it.
There's been a lot of talk about Joe Scarborough's F-word miscue last week on his MSNBC, "Morning Joe."
Oddly enough, I was watching in real time (while reading email, of course), and just about fell off my chair. Yet, the lack of reaction afterwards from just about every corner, is even more shocking.
First, Scarborough had been a vocal critic of the Janet Jackson incident, and was vitriolic about broadcasters paying for these types of mistakes. Just a few years later, here he is addressing his gaffe by advising adults watching his show that they should simply get over his "F-bomb moment" and move on.
And no one else was outraged either. Some explained that cable TV is different from broadcast, and lives by a different set of rules. Really. Ask anyone under the age of 30 which channels are broadcast and which are cable and the chances are good they have no clue. All the channels simply appear on their screens, whether they're CNN, NBC, CNBC, MSNBC, or CBS.
Secondly, others (including Tom Brokaw) have noted that the "F-word" has become such a normal part of the language that it has virtually become acceptable. While there's truth to this, it's amazing that when these slips have occurred on the radio, the FCC and Congress have been vicious with their threats against stations and personalities.
And while MSNBC has now acquired a delay unit for "Morning Joe," they apparently won't use this technology for their other shows where the likelihood of more verbal mistakes is just as great. Contrast that with the complex multi-delay systems that radio stations have been forced to install - not to mention the personnel who are constantly "on the button" - and you get a sense for the hypocrisy of this moment.
Radio has paid the price for all this vitriol from the hardcore right wing, and it has cost the business a great deal, in terms of advertiser revenue, legal fees, and the expense of monitoring our own potential "F-bombs" and other nebulous FCC violations. Conversely, I'm sure there were no agency boycotts or "do not buy" lists for "Morning Joe" this week. Nor were there any indications that Scarborough had to sit down with a team of NBC lawyers, or put up with threats, fines, or suspensions. In radio, the net result of a similar slip-up would likely have been an on-air apology, some form of punishment, a letter in "the file," and possibly a dismissal.
When radio CEOs claim that our problem is more perceptual than real, it certainly applies to this issue. We have done a terrible job of promoting and defending some of our most dynamic personalities. The NAB has systematically ignored some of radio's biggest stars - from Howard Stern to Bubba to Opie & Anthony. Instead, the industry would rather be associated with more "wholesome" entertainment, totally missing the edgy direction in which America has moved over the past decade or so. As a result, these personalities have felt the alienation, and have run scared from the potential government backlash, thus creating the exodus to satellite radio.
Broadcast radio faces bigger challenges moving forward than even the newspaper business because our P.R. efforts have been so miniscule. This has allowed others - from Sam Brownback to Mel Karmazin to Tim Wildmon - to define and defile a business that is still the best, easiest, and most cost-effective way to reach American consumers especially during tough times. Eff that.
The sands are shifting very quickly in the world, in our country, and in our business. It is noteworthy that some companies are "getting it," and responding to the changing emotion of the American consumer, while others are missing it entirely.
In the midst of their new Yankee Stadium project, many luxury suites are going unsold - despite all the hype and excitement. Season ticket sales are slowing, while many tickets in the new stadium will be considerably more expensive than in the old ballpark. The Milwaukee Brewers - fresh from their playoff run - have increased ticket prices in '09.
In the meantime in Boston, tickets prices are being reduced for the '09 season. Their CEO, Larry Lucchino, noted: "This is not based on an assessment of a reduction in demand. We have thousands of people on our waiting list. This is an assessment that this was the right thing to do for the people of Red Sox Nation who have been loyal and committed fans to us."
It's about reading the tea leaves, and these moves have resonance for radio. Is the right tone right now to be giving away big items and luxury prizes? Or is it more about finding discounts for listeners that are meaningful? Or is it about putting together charitable and community events that help those in need? Or is it about providing listeners with free/less expensive entertainment during times when just going to the movies is a major expense?
I'll leave those decisions to you, because as we consultants always say, "Every market is different." But at this anxiety-ridden time, it might not be a bad idea to review what's on the air, and what's coming up, and take your audience's temperature in the process. The Red Sox and the Eagles are proving they understand their loyal fans very well.
Wanna hear the new Springsteen song, "Workin' on a Dream?"
And don't listen to it on your favorite Classic Rock station because it won't be there either.
You'll hear it at halftime on Sunday night's NFL game between the Cowboys and the Redskins.
It's yet another sign that the new music exposure platform has totally shattered. Your chances of hearing new music outside of traditional broadcast radio stations continue to grow.
Today's guest blog is from our own Paul Jacobs, who stresses to radio that their sales models must change for them to be successful in the future.
I was at a family function a few months ago talking to a relative who owns a small fence-building business. He knew I'm in media, and had a few questions about advertising on the Internet. Knowing that he has only two employees, I immediately assumed that electronic media was out of the question. So I asked him what his annual budget was, and he said, "Well, I spend close to $50,000 a year in the Yellow Pages and it isn't working any more." He was searching for a place to put his money and had no clue where to put it.
Think about it - here's an extremely small business and he's got that kind of budget! Thinking as a radio sales guy, I started considering about how the industry could tap into a small business like his, and millions of similar businesses. Certainly not via the traditional "commercial" sales model, but this does open up the possibility for a completely new sales platform utilizing a station's web site and other digital activities.
I encourage everyone who has a financial stake in the future of the radio business to read it... Which means all of us.
Radio needs to get there as well, and quickly. We have the sales platform, and in some cases, the digital solutions. But do we have the right sales and marketing philosophy? Newspapers are turning to telemarketing to call all local businesses regardless of size to tap into this huge revenue stream. None of these clients might be huge, but if they each have the kind of budget my fence-building relative has, it adds up.
Of course, station web sites need to significantly evolve in order to provide these clients with the right selling environment. Somehow I don't see my relative sponsoring Rock Babes or a Concert Calender. Instead, radio needs to develop better sales pages on their sites, and microsites targeted at different lifegroups and interests. Check out www.Indymoms.com if you want an example of how a newspaper has set up a site that is generating a ton of revenue, but doesn't have any clear relationship with the paper.
Let's face it - radio can continue to hope that advertising agency budgets will bounce back, but there is no indication that is going to happen any time soon. We can hope that advertisers will have a change of heart and begin to allocate a greater share of dollars to radio, but that doesn't seem to be on the horizon. So we must... MUST... change our sales model. Now. There are dollars out there, but if we don't quickly and aggressively re-tool to where they are, then 2008 is going to look like the good old days.
More and more, it is becoming painfully obvious to programmers, managers, researchers, and yes, consultants, that the simple business model that has guided radio since Marconi is broken. It used to be that your ratings simply translated into sales. The higher your rank, the higher your rate.
For many stations, the basic transactional basis of radio sales was all about quoting rates, doing some negotiating, a lunch here and there, toss in a remote, and you're on the buy. In essence, there wasn't enough selling going on.
And as revenues plummet, even great brands will erode, because less money coming in translates to fewer staffers, less or no research and marketing, and dwindling resources. So, if programmers are serious about protecting their brands in order to get through the economic crisis, they must take matters into their own hands.
Along with my great staff at Jacobs Media, we recently wrote an article for FMQB's "Programming To Win" series. Click link below:
We hope you'll take the time to look it over, give it some thought, and test drive some of our suggestions.
Back when I was a programmer in the early '80s, PDs never had a clue about their stations' sales and revenues, there was no "value added," and jocks didn't do live reads. That's all changed, and today, programmers are stakeholders in the financial well-being of their stations.
I realize that the life of a PD today is exponentially more complex than even a decade ago, and many are now responsible for multiple stations in a cluster or region. But the onus of driving revenue has to be shared across different departments if radio is to survive this mess.
While you're trying to determine what the hot got-to-have toy/gadget will be this holiday season, I'm thinking that the '09 award will go hands-down to the Beatles' new game, which MTV and Harmonix (who makes Rock Band) announced last week. It's not just that the Beatles have finally committed to a video game (and you have to wonder what Activision/Guitar Hero will do next - the Stones?). It's that their music will finally be digitally distributed.
The folks at MTV say this won't be the usual music/video game, and will contain more interactive features that go well beyond Rock Band. In fact, the game apparently won't even use that brand, but will be positioned as a new model that Harmonix's Alex Rigopulos says will be "built from the ground up." For the Beatles, that's the way it should be.
For the Beatles and their heirs, this is a major moment because it represents the band foray into the digital world. There is no telling how huge this will be, but given the success of the Rock Band and Guitar Hero franchises, this "game" promises to be something special. And for Beatles fans - and those who have not yet discovered the Fab Four - this will be yet another way to enjoy their music.
Exactly. If the content is there - and there's no question that the Beatles' catalogue will live on forever - distribution outlets of the future - like video games - will support it. This is yet another reason why radio broadcasters simply have to focus on proprietary content that consumers cannot get anywhere else. Whether it's transmitters, mp3 players, video games, or technologies of the future that we don't know about, "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" will live on.
Say what you will about Michael Bloomberg's plan to run for New York Mayor for another term; the guy is proactive, and knows when to take the bull by the horns. Realizing the impact on his city that all these media layoffs are having, Bloomberg is launching a multi-level plan designed to help the media industry. This will include hiring a consultant to put together a "state of..." report, along with a year-long study conducted by NYC's Economic Development Corporation. The study will include CEO roundtables and workshops designed to generate action steps.
It is interesting that the Bloomberg plan isn't a bailout, but an initiative to help traditional media companies get healthy and adapt to the changing digital universe. The Huffington Post has been identified as a positive sign that the media industry can thrive, and its location in Manhattan is a real plus. As founder Arianna Huffington notes, “What happens is a convergence: It’s not that new media is going to replace old media, but it’s really old media that really moves online.”
We hope the RAB has a seat at this table, and is an active participant in this initiative, because if NYC can get a better handle on how to help "old media" find its digital bearings, this process can impact all of radio. This Bloomberg plan should also be a clarion call to the entire radio industry to consider an initiative of its own; do the research, investigate the landscape, bring in the very best people, put together a plan, fund it properly, and stick to it.
It is interesting that as media outlets proliferate, actual reporting deteriorates. Many of you are well aware that because of the growth of online and cable media, staffs are stretched, and there is even more pressure to come up with news to fill all that space. Now that the election is finally over, there's an even greater need to generate some sort of content, much of it not very good.
Many of you know how easy it often is to "make the news." Frequently, agencies and entities send out press releases that are simply printed verbatim. There's often no one with the time to make some calls, do an interview or two, and actually write a story. Instead, it's simpler to just publish the release, or accept some video or audio that is supplied by the "newsmaker."
That's why it always interests me when a local radio station breaks through the traditional news cycle, and makes news of its own. One of the morning shows we work with here in Detroit - J.J. & Lynne on Greater Media's WCSX - has been consistently doing this with the Led Zeppelin reunion story. Last summer, Jason Bonham gave them a great sound bite about the band reuniting that made national and international news outlets.
And now, Cream's Jack Bruce stirred it up on their show, calling the Zep reunion at the O2 arena "crap." He negatively compared Jimmy Page to Eric Clapton, and generally created a great controversy that went well beyond Detroit. This story has now broken internationally - once again.
This level of guest booking and interviewing is something that any morning show might do, but under the guidance of Super-Producer Jim O'Brien, J.J. & Lynne have continued to make news - by making news.
OK, I'm getting a little political with this post, but it's a great illustration about the power of using personality and warmth to connect through newer digitally communiqués, such as emails and text messages. Marshall McLuhan taught us all about the importance of "hot" and "cool" media and messaging, and the Obama campaign has figured out how to make it work, unlike any other political machine we've witnessed.
If, by chance, you signed up for text messaging or submitted your email address at www.barackobama.com, you've been receiving missives from a variety of people from the campaign, including Obama himself. What is striking about these messages is that they are encouraging without being cloying, and they keep supporters up-to-date with the campaign's thinking.
They are also very personal, using first names - the supporter's and Obama's himself. It is interesting to receive an email or text from the candidate (and now the President-elect) that is simply signed "Barack." It connotes familiarity, association, and a personal connection - even when you realize that you are one of perhaps millions of people receiving the same message.
This is also why radio station email messaging can be so much more effective when it contains that personal touch, conciseness, and simple messaging. Every email from the Obama campaign is personalized, brief, and contains a simple action step. They do not offer too much information or promotions, and there are never typos. Your morning guy may not have the power and presence of a political candidate, but to your listeners, he may be the conduit between your audience and your station. Unlike generic emails that we continue to receive from stations, your DJs can make the connection that iPods and other technologies cannot.
In future blogs, we'll talk about how some of the lessons of the Obama campaign can work for radio - if we're smart enough to rethink some of the procedures we've been employing for years. And if you were a McCain supporter, unhappy with the recent turn of events, I would ask you to go beyond your political leanings, and think about the Obama campaign as a way to get schooled about how to do it right. The Republican Party is doing the exact same thing as we speak.
Here's the email Obama sent:
No, not Archie Bell and the Drells (from Houston, Texas), but what's happening in radio (and every industry these days) as the economic pressures and falling stock prices force every company to rethink everything.
Some of you may remember playing Pick-Up Sticks as a kid. It was a mental and physical challenge to carefully remove sticks from your structure without collapsing it. That's what radio ownership and cluster managers now face as they survey the landscapes of their companies and their stations. Every time a PD, a GM, or an afternoon jock gets axed, the entire entity shakes a bit. For the rank-and-file, these are nervous days, but don't envy the executives at the top who are forced to pull the strings during these precarious times.
Yet, when you look at some of the programming and management cuts that have been made, you have to wonder about radio's future. For many, they've reached the point of no return. Some of the truly talented veterans that have been "laid off" aren't coming back. They'll either hang it up or look outside the industry for their next opportunity.
Many of you probably saw that Paragon study that suggests that young people are actually listening to more radio compared to last year. It's being touted by many radio organizations, covered in the industry trades, and even made its way into the New York Times last week. Paragon is a reputable company, and a spot of good news about a challenged industry is always welcome. But I have no idea where they're coming up with these numbers. Our Tech Polls continue to show listening decreases among young people - and our respondents are core radio listeners who are members of email clubs. If they are spending less time with terrestrial radio, what must be happening among radio's P2s, P3s, and beyond?
Your own visceral knowledge of young people should tell you something different. Radio isn't growing, especially among teens and college students. The distractions and options are plenty, and amidst all the cutting, radio certainly isn't going to sound better. When you see major league PDs like Bob Buchman and Larry Sharp on the street - despite sporting great ratings in the nation's biggest markets - you have to wonder whether all the budget cutting isn't going to eventually start eroding great brands that took years to build. As research, marketing, staffing, management, and yes, consulting is being sliced out of budgets, stations are going to need more than inertia to stay compelling, much less listenable.
Our blog last month about the difficult terrain the industry is facing in the sales arena motivated a variety of responses, posted on the site and off-line. Clearly one of radio's biggest challenges is figuring out how to monetize its digital offerings. One of the more interesting came from digital consultant, Mel Taylor, who spends a great deal of his time working with newspapers on these same types of challenges.
Mel sent us this unique deal offered by none other than The New York Times:
A new Pew Research Center study now shows that more people used the Internet to find out about election news than used a newspaper. What does that fact, and this ad, tell us about the state of "old media" and its uphill struggle to integrate a digital menu into its revenue generation strategy?
In a shot heard 'round every newsroom in America, the venerable Christian Science Monitor announced last week that it will no longer print its daily edition, ending a 100 year tradition. Instead, the bulk of the publication's material will only be available online. This is an event that newspaper veterans have seen coming for years, but now that it's here, others will follow suit over the next several years. Tom Brokaw, during a tour of the Washington Post newsroom last year, predicted that the print edition had less than a decade left. He may have been too conservative as the way Americans consume their news has changed a great deal in recent years, and the "hard" version of newspapers may become extinct sooner rather than later.
Part of the challenge, of course, is that the newspaper is essentially a subscription-based business. Sure, you can buy the Times, or the Globe, or the News each day at a newsstand or from a vending machine, but the model of subscribing to a newspaper is being challenged by the cheap, fast, and immediate benefit of reading news online. Even in television, there's a cost (for most people), depending on whether you have a dish or you're connected by a cable. You know that consumers are assessing their monthly "entertainment fees" - TV access, hi-speed Internet, premium movie channels, mobile phones, and yes, satellite radio.
But then there's broadcast radio. Yes, it's free - no subscription required, so that is happily congruent with these economically challenged times. And yes, it's everywhere. During a time when consumers are going to be pulling in the reins, spending less, not going out as much, and backing away from paid entertainment, how can radio become the medium that regains popularity during these recessionary times?
Our personalities, our promotions, our community efforts, and even our music need to maintain a certain level to get us through these tough times, and perhaps capture a larger share of the market. In past recessions, strong brands that maintained and grew their quality, and actually took the offensive, survived - and thrived. As difficult as these times promise to be, radio actually has a chance to become more vital to consumers.