This morning's post comes from Mike Stern, former Jacobs Media consultant, and all-round great radio guy. Here is Mike's "take" on another auto/technology breakthrough - and what it could mean for broadcast radio:
It’s always the fine print that gets you; that one line at the end of a big announcement that seems innocuous but isn’t. For instance, take General Motors’s announcement of “Pause and Play Radio,” a new feature that will soon be available in some vehicles.
Described as working like a DVR for radio, most of the announcement describes scenarios that sound great for radio listening.
The opening paragraph of the press release reads, “You're driving along listening to your favorite radio station and a commercial playing contains a website address you want to check out. But you can't – or shouldn't – be writing while driving. Wouldn't it be great to just hit a pause button on the radio?” Hallelujah, a feature that actually helps advertisers' messages reach consumers in the car.
In another example of the new radio’s capabilities, the automaker paints a scenario where a sports fan is listening to the final moments of a football game but is also low on fuel. It used to be either shut off the car and miss the end of the game or risk running out of gas. Not anymore says GM: “Before shutting off the vehicle, the driver can press the radio pause button, shut off their vehicle, get out and fill up, get back in the vehicle and start it, push the radio play button and resume listening to the game it stopped.” This is wonderful for radio, new features that encourage more convenient listening!
Then there’s the fine print. The very last line of the release explains that the radio stores the content on an embedded hard drive which enables listeners to “fast-forward and reverse playback as desired.” There it is! Listeners can also use this new feature to skip over ads which means in the not-too-distant future, radio will be facing the same problems television has with viewers time-shifting consumption and skipping over commercials.
While television was slow to understand the challenges posed by the DVR, radio has a head start on facing this issue. It’s time to start crafting solutions now for the day listeners will be able to skip over our ads.
One plan is to continue finding ways to smoothly integrate sponsors into programming content. For example, here in Chicago, the American Hockey League franchise, the Wolves, sponsors the sports updates on CBS Radio’s sports-talker WSCR. According to the anchors, the updates originate from “the Chicago Wolves update studio” and include a mention of when the team’s next game is scheduled. All of which fits nicely into the flow of programming.
More aggressive solutions may be rooted in technology. Another Chicago-based example is Emmis alternative station WKQX, which sold regular placement on their RDS data feed to the Illinois Department of Transportation. Reminders to buckle up or risk a ticket appear at regular intervals on car radios as part of the station’s RDS information, reaching drivers directly in the car.
The time when radio’s commercial content can be skipped over by listeners is approaching, but don't say there wasn’t any warning. It was right there, in the fine print.