A Diatribe ... (A Missive) ... (A Manifesto) ... (A Rant) ... (A Pontification) ... (An Essay)
On Radio ... and Excellence ... and Fun ...
Depending on how you keep score, in a few short years, there will only be two kinds of radio stations — Internet and Local, or Successful and Not-So.
I know I have some thoughts on the topic.
With the web destined to be on everyone's dashboard within five years, (not to mention on every home media center too) a consumer will have far more programming options than they'll even be able to comprehend.
With the Internet, IF they want a mix of reggae and Latin and who-knows-what, it will be there for them ... IF they want to hear a big-time, national personality, it will be there for them ... IF they want to influence their music they hear by pushing a button now and then to show their preferences, it will be there for them.
Conversely, if they want to hear a watered down version of a heritage radio station, playing a mish mosh of highly-tested, formulaic, nationally-programmed, voice-tracked terrestrial radio with 12 minutes of commercials ... or if they want a "news/talk" station carrying an assortment of the clichéd national diatribes ... traditional radio will be there for that audience.
Note I said traditional, not local. The "suits" must be confident that enough people will tune into the traditional stations ... confident that listeners will continue to take what's offered up by the accountants and corporate managers instead of programmers.
The truth is listeners have never tuned into a station based on its cash flow, debt ratios, stock prices or anything like that. Listeners choose from among what they are being offered ... and that spectrum of offerings is widening.
Internet streams can and will eventually be successful ... even with the lower advertising loads that consumers are insisting upon. Internet streams can quantify listeners down to the person and deliver very highly targeted ad messages. That means things like synchronized ad tiles make it easy for a listener to respond to a call-to-action and video pre-rolls can be markedly more effective — and quantifiable!
Now, if a listener wants to hear pertinent news, local dialog. local sports and other information of specific interest to them, they will be grossly disappointed by anything available to them only on the web.
Who are you betting on?
Excellence works. Local radio has already been invented, there is a tremendous knowledge base on what works. There are even many radio stations out there that ARE working, that will continue to work and will prevail in the next generation of listening.
Top of the Heap:
KIRO, Seattle ... KOMO, Seattle ... WCBS, NYC ... WBZ, Boston
WOR, NYC ... WTKS, Orlando ... (MORE TBA)
(I'm interested to hear suggestions of other good examples)
There will always be constraints. Truth of the matter is that every operator today has to deal with the realities of the market, debt service, station prices that in retrospect "might-have-could-have-maybe" been looked at differently.
Local radio stations can and will continue to be successful. The reality is many stations will survive and prevail, even with more limited resources, and even with the Internet competing for share-of-ear.
Remember there is technology in place to stretch limited resources farther than we might have dreamt ... even five years ago! The trick is to put those resources to work with the right commitment to being local and to being excellent.
The very good news: Market size doesn't matter. It is almost easier to prevail in the new economy in a smaller market. And the good news for me is that smaller markets are my favorite.
Finally, every Internet stream isn't "radio" ... any more than a jukebox is radio. There's a difference and if you'd like I can direct you to others who have written about that topic.
I guess the point of this is it is important to know who we are and who we are competing against ... and who we aren't competing against.