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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.


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August 2011

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« Radio Loves L.A. | Main | “A” As In “Adapt” »


Danny Czekalinski

Fred you are RIGHT. I believe that anything that stops someone from turning on the radio has to be considered competition. How many people plug their iPod into their car and hit "shuffle." Many...and it's increasing. Songs can be duplicated great content cannot. Air-personalities should see this TREMENDOUS opportunity and challenge themselves to come up with the best content. It will make them and their radio station that much more valuable.


Thanks for the comment, Danny. Yup, radio has inherent strengths & it goes beyond covering hurricanes and emergencies. The local personality is indeed the "secret sauce.

Appreciate you reading our blog.

David Martin

Good post, Fred. As the technology becomes transparent (i.e., no tech skills whatsoever required) the battle defaults to pure preference, behavior is driven by in-the-moment choice. Is Pandora radio? Who cares. Listeners don't care where their favorite music comes from only that it's there when they want it. It's not about radio or TV or dead tree print. Increasingly, it's about creating that audio, video and/or text that consistently meets the needs and wants of the group formerly known as the audience. Radio is in a battle for attention, for a share of the time spent using audio and other media. Bottomline: All that's important is what's coming out of the speakers and on the screens, everything else is a footnote.

Bob Bellin

Fred...you are right on the money.

Radio needs to understand that it met Pandora halfway before they ever launched. 1993 radio and Pandora are very different. But fast forward to 2011 - when radio is programmed remotely by someone handling as many as 5 - 10 stations, the majority of dayparts are voicetracked and radio is much more like Pandora than its out of touch execs would like to believe.

How hard would it be for Pandora to start voicetracking local references and (through network alliances) offer live coverage of important events like the SE tornadoes?

Radio should try to anticipate where Pandora and its counterparts are going and get there first - after striking a deal with the music industry for a performance royalty that allows that product to make a respectable profit.

The clock is ticking...


Great points all, Dave. It feels a lot like the radio industry is watching a Pandora movie, rather than asking some key questions about its impact on the medium. We've got to get ahead of this thing. Thanks, as always, for taking the time and chiming in.


Thanks for the feedback, Bob. The "scalable" nature of many of today's stations has clearly hurt the local quality in many situations. THanks again for reading and commenting.

David Martin

Fred, it's interesting to note Pandora was not created by music radio programming professionals but by a bunch of folks that didn't know what they didn't know. Same with YouTube - not created by our best and brightest TV programming execs. Nobody seems to like Pandora or YouTube except their respective listeners and viewers. We continue to hear from radio programmers that opine about how "lame" Pandora is and witness TV execs quick to dismiss YouTube as nothing but a home for stupid cat videos. The simple truth would seem audio and video are being reinvented by outsiders, the unqualified that are just too stupid to know any better. The architects of Pandora and YouTube didn't drink the kool-aid that is our broadcast industry dogma and best practice.

Maurice Maeterlinck comes to mind here "At every crossroads on the path that leads to the future, tradition has placed 10,000 men to guard the past."


Isn't it like this in so many industries? The Kodak team was in denial about digital, defending film until it was too late. The book publishers railed against the Kindle. And so it goes.

That's why all this conversation and debate about what Pandora is and what it isn't is so meaningless when filtered through the lens of the consumer.

We continue to learn from our focus groups and ethnographic studies (thanks to Arbitron). If you listen to listeners, the truth comes pouring out.

Thanks, Dave.

Mike Anthony

Hi Fred –
I watched the opening of WWRS online and listened as the discussion quickly evolved into audience numbers and radio versus Pandora. It continues to be a short-coming of the leaders in our industry to be able to objectively evaluate the competitive challenges we face. You wouldn’t conclude that Pandora is not radio, that Pandora is not social or that Pandora is just a feature (so we have nothing to worry about as a business) if you put yourself in the shoes of the customer. If broadcasters obsessed over the listeners wants, needs and behavior they might have a better idea who the real challengers to our future are and what to do about it. The Internet guys obsess solely over the customer experience not over their business model. Silicon Valley continues to figure out the most effective ways to connect people one to one and with things they want anywhere at any time through digital platforms. Why doesn’t radio want to know what their customers are doing when not listening to the radio? But we tend to dismiss or marginalize what we don’t understand.
Fred, as you know better than most, when you watch young people you see the present and the future. They want to be connected and entertained (sometimes informed if it’s relevant to them) so they can share. Pandora has become their place for music. Why? It’s easy to use and besides finding songs they like…they discover stuff they can share with their friends. Discovery is social. They want to share what they find. For laughs they go to YouTube most and find more stuff they can share. As Hugh McLeod says these are social objects. Sharing is inherently social. If they are not sharing on their phone then they do it on Facebook.
It’s not useful spending time discussing why the competition (the Internet / Pandora) isn’t relevant to broadcasting but would be time well spent trying to understand why it is relevant to your customer!
Internet companies are disrupting our business relationships. Everyday traditional media is marginalized as just a middleman you'll never need to deal with again. Radio keeps saying it has an advantage because it’s local. Not true. The Internet is winning because it’s personal. Relationships are not about local. Relationships are personal. Radio used to be really good at personal. It needs to be again…soon.


Great comment, Mike, and so glad you took the time to weigh in. It is truly a philosophical difference between traditional and new media. Both have their place on the entertainment menu, but radio will need to develop a better understanding of what it's up against in order to adapt and thrive in this environment.

You have nailed many of the key issues, and I thank you for providing perspective. It would have been interesting to have seen you participate in that WWRS panel.

מכשיר שמיעה

I observed that internet only to tease over the customer experience is not over its business model.

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