Friday, October 30, 2009
I know regular readers of this self-indulgent waste of bandwidth suspect I have an unnatural man-love for consultant/marketer/blogger Mark Ramsey. Not true. I do have an unnatural respect for many of his well-spoken opinions about the state of media in general and radio (still my first love!) in particular.
One of his latest posts revolves around the Pandora on-line radio service. And in that post, he refers to an article in the radio trade news service INSIDE RADIO:
Pandora is pushing its way into the car. The pure play webcaster that allows users to create and customize their own radio stations has its eye on the auto market and home appliance integrations. Pandora VP of business development Jessica Steel tells eMarketer that many of its 30 million registered users stream the service in their car via mobile apps. “We’re definitely looking at ways to make that experience more seamless — basically making all the core user interactions of Pandora integrated into the vehicle, so that you don’t have to fumble around with your iPhone to skip or rate a song.” Pandora has partnered with Sony to be included on Blu-Ray players and other devices. Echoing a refrain often heard in the over-the-air radio industry, Steel says: “Success for my team looks like Pandora being available on pretty much any connected entertainment device.”
You see that? 30 million registered users are already streaming their own customized "radio station" into their cars! 30 million! Add to the in-car listening sources such ubiquity-busters as satellite radio, people talking away on their cell phones, DVD players in the back seat, other people bringing "radio" into their ears using the cell phone, and you see why fewer and fewer are listening to traditional, over-the-air broadcasting RF from that tower on the hill. Radio broadcasters are losing critical mass at a stunning rate!
How do you counter that? Simple answer: put something on the air that people really want to hear and can't get anywhere else and offer it to them on a wide variety of platforms, not just from the roto-tiller antenna on the side of that tower on the mountain.
But, as you guessed, it's not that easy. Most stations are automated, voice-tracked, and syndicated, pulling music from a hard disk and personality from somewhere far, far away. Walk through your typical "cluster" facility. Nobody there! A receptionist. A gaggle of eager salespeople first thing in the morning and at COB. Maybe a GM or a "program director." They may or may not stream from a web site...many don't because they have not figured out how to make money on it or how to measure its reach...but otherwise, you got to have a radio to hear them. (I can actually show you stations who have to stop the occasional salesperson in the hall to voice a commercial. There are no announcers left except maybe the "production director," and he is already on 90% of the locally produced commercials.)
And when Arbitron (and now Nielsen) measures radio listening, everything is based on "share." Share of people who are listening to over-the-air radio who is listening to a particular station during a particular daypart. Oh, the research companies publish "rating" numbers, too--the percent of ALL people in the market who listen to a particular station, not just of those who are listening to ANY station. Shares are still showing in the 20s for some stations. But ratings are quickly ducking below 1, and you can bet salespeople for The Q and Classic Rock 100 Point 5 are not touting those numbers, regardless of where their stations rank. ("Rank" is an especially appropriate word to describe a list of stations, lined up according to their "share" numbers from three months ago.)
See, the day is coming when one lucky station will have a share of 100. The one person left still listening to traditional radio station will write down those call letters in his diary.
Everybody else will be "0."