Sunday, October 19, 2014

Why people don't "love" broadcast radio

by Don Keith

I know some regulars here might grow tired of my continual reference to researcher Mark Ramsey and his comments about what it will take to "fix" traditional, over-the-air radio stations.  However, I can't help it.  The guy just keeps hitting it out of the park (note timely World Series-week baseball reference).

Broadcasters are facing their eventual demise (in my opinion, not necessarily Mark's) because they continue to ignore rapid technological change and how it is affecting their medium, including their very business model.  Affecting it just as it is TV, newspapers, magazines, the movies, and every other source of entertainment, information, and distant companionship.  You see, radio station owner/operators think of themselves as a ubiquitous medium with primarily over-the-air brands that listeners will continue to flock to and enjoy.  They are convinced that people still have allegiance to "radio" and to specific stations and call letters and positions on the AM and FM dial.

Apparently they still don't realize that potential listeners (and potential responders to their advertisers' messages) don't care how they get their entertainment, information and companionship.  There is no loyalty--and practically no awareness--of Rock 107 or The Q.  People just want to be able to find something compelling, creative, fun, interesting, entertaining, and warm, and they will use whatever medium, device or circuit they can locate that reliably delivers what they seek.

Mark's latest post is right on target.  He references an author who insists that a brand must include "love" to be as successful as it can be.  That brand does not have to be a broadcast facility either.  It applies to anyone trying to attract "customers" to a "product."  Call it "love," "warmth," "feeling," or whatever you like but it has to affect a user/customer in some emotional way for it to be successful.

I do know there is no "love" or "emotion" in a radio station that streams the same limited-playlist of music that "customers" can get easier from myriad other sources, has only cold, distant voices repeating meaningless slogans between the songs, clusters commercials into huge blocks that encourage people to hit the button or mouse and go elsewhere, and still believes listeners will flock to them just because they are offering "the biggest and best hits of the 80s, 90s, and today with fewer commercials."

Technological change has made such "safe" and lazy programming/branding--content without "love" or "warmth"--obsolete. There are so many places people can find soul-less content.  Why should they remain loyal or care about or go to any trouble to find and listen to some particular radio station when there are other choices that are equally boring but have no commercials or are easier to access?

Somebody is going to have to break the mold or over-the-air radio will be dead as a hammer.

Sorry.  I just don't see it changing.  It's a shame.  The very entities that once owned the hearts (and ears) of its customers are ignoring the obvious and have already squandered the huge advantage they once held.

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