In the great scheme of things, where does radio stand in the new media milieu?
Depending on who you talk to, radio is somewhere between dead and hot – and it can’t be both.
Many are writing off radio as being an antiquated media model that lacks so many 21st century values – transparency, engagement, social interaction, commercial-free, personalization, and control.
Yet, if radio is so “old school” – in a bad way – why does everyone want a piece of it?
Consider this page from the RoadRunner cable site, extolling the virtues of their many radio channels, powered by Music Choice:
Or this one from AT&T that offers 40+ “commercial-free” genre music channels, and unlimited personal radio stations.
And then there’s Pandora Radio, Slacker Radio, AccuRadio, and perhaps soon, Spotify – all radio-like products that are targeted at you-know-who. We’ve heard Tim Westergren intone on many occasions how he wants to essentially replace broadcast radio as we know it. This wouldn’t be Pandora’s strategy if they didn’t see huge opportunity in “radio.”
So in the big picture that is all media, is radio playing offense or defense? Or is radio just playing with itself?
I would argue the latter. We debate the pros and cons of the Performance Right Act. We discuss what may happen if one company goes private and another orchestrates a hostile takeover. We talk about when we should start playing Christmas music. We contemplate PPM tactics. We obsess about format changes across the street. I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't be engaged in all those conversations, but they are all examples of “inside baseball” thinking.
And in the meantime, the big guns are loading up, and moving in for the kill. Because the idea of radio – the consumer's word for audio entertainment – is still incredibly cool. Maybe it’s just the tired way we often execute and deliver it is passé.
That’s because the radio industry still acts like it’s in a vacuum, and yet, the full arsenal of tools are available to us.
We're talking "alien invasion" here. Yet, how many movers and shakers are taking it seriously? How many are in denial, continuing to rest on reach numbers that have nothing to do with consumer engagement and satisfaction or on a revenue model based on selling :30s and :60s while these other players see even bigger dollars in new platforms?
If you read AT&T’s language in the above ad, it’s clear they’ve done their homework. Look at their messaging: commercial-free, unlimited, personal, “your music your way” – all designed to get into broadcast radio's shorts.
But, of course, let's not lose our focus. We’ve got first quarter goals to reach. And we can’t just cut back our commercial load to accommodate competitors like Pandora, and besides – our TSL is better than theirs. We have our agendas and our goals, and we're going to get them done, no matter what else is going on.
And we’ll get around to researching and better understanding the new global competition, but first we have to test another 600 hooks like we did last year, and find out “Which station is the concert authority?” and “Which station plays too many bad songs along with the good ones?”
We spend so much of our time looking inward, when the biggest challenges are happening in plain sight, right in front of the strategic windshield.
If only we had a bunch of unused radio stations laying around where we could experiment with alternative programming concepts, listener interactivity and personalization, and different commercial models.