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.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Finally, a dose of reality

by Don Keith

Regular visitors know I often rag on  some of the radio-broadcasting trade newsletters who do their best to put a positive spin on even the worst news.  This is especially true when it comes to how rapidly changing technology and consumer demand have affected their previous monopoly on the automobile dashboard.

An article today in INSIDE RADIO, though, seems to actually acknowledge reality, admitting folks may be punching something else on their car radios besides "AM" or "FM:"

Fresh insights intoconnected car streaming.
More than one-third of Americans driving a car with a next generation dashboard regularly listen to streamed audio while behind the wheel. That’s according to a new report from Nielsen. The bottom line: if consumers have a digital dashboard system, there’s a good chance they’re listening to something other than broadcast radio at least some of the time.

Soon almost all cars on the road will have that "next generation dashboard," and the percentage of users who will opt for something other than "the biggest hits of the 80s, 90s and today" will climb well north of 33%.

What do broadcasters do to stem the tide?  Certainly not waste time and energy lobbying Congress to require FM tuners in cell phones.  Or barter precious ad time to cell phone makers to bribe them to include such a device.  Or give out more and more tiny-powered FM translators to AM station owners to further clutter the FM band with bad programming in a useless effort to save AM.

How about putting something on all those stations that would compel listeners to come back?  Or to choose not to leave in the first place?

Streaming the same songs everyone else is, Satanizing commercial content, being as bland and boring as possible, investing more money, time, and thought into cell phone FM tuners than in creative, innovative programming?  Continue that path and see how long radio broadcasting is a viable business model.

Or how long before NOBODY is listening.