Over the past couple of days, we've talked about this whole concept of local, and how radio stations should be focusing their efforts and resources in a changing media environment.
If you're buying what I'm selling, you have hopefully reached the conclusion that local market radio stations need to be victorious in the battle they can win - on their home court. While streamlined music and less talk may be a formula of success in PPM this month, it is unlikely to be the winning strategy that will serve you over the long haul.
Pandora, Accuradio, Slacker, Rhapsody, and the many commercial-free music services that exist now and will be created in the years ahead have the capability to create a better, more listenable music product than what most local stations can deliver. And whether the listener selects the music or it's done by recommendation or algorithm, the fact is that global streaming radio provides great choice and variety for a growing number of consumers.
And as the hardware for accessing the Internet becomes even more readily available at home, at work, and in the car, a bland, music-intensive local market radio station is going to be hard-pressed to compete with global streaming brands.
So, how do you compete with big brands for listeners, for revenue, and for survival?
As stations like WMMR, WDVE, KQRS, 97Rock, KISW and many others have proved over the last few decades, there is value in having local roots, strong personality, street presence, and a sense of what people care about in their markets.
But as the recession has deepened and broadcast companies have become more desperate, some strategic decision-making has moved from questionable to just plain dumb. Cutting loose some of the best local personalities only genericizes radio, diminishes presence with advertisers, and erodes the sources of loyalty between the stations and its listeners. It may be "cost effective" to throw some dollars to the bottom line by throwing heritage personalities out the door, but it's a short term strategy that will only hurt radio's ability to fend off big brands that decide to pitch their digital tents in your hometowns.
Local matters. While consumers may enjoy renting movies from Netflix, buying toaster ovens from Amazon, bidding for cars at eBay, or creating custom music channels on Pandora, that doesn't mean they've lost interest in what's happening next door, down the street, and in the heart of where they live.
When your morning show talks about local politics, it matters.
When you set up online voting for March Bandness, it matters.
When your afternoon guy champions a local band, it matters.
When you support a local charity or cause, it matters.
When you throw a concert or event, it matters.
When you put together a great promotion with a couple of local advertisers, it matters.
When your night jock speaks at the local high school, it matters.
When you get a group of listeners backstage for a meet-and-great with a major act, it matters.
When you organize a rally for a winning sports team, it matters.
No one knows the local market like you do. If you still have some assets left, and a CEO and a cluster manager who truly value what local is all about, you have the foundation to rebuild and/or grow your local franchise - especially if the other stations in town are taking the easy way out.
Remember what got you to the dance.