03/08

The last word on “Radio” and “Local”

Nosize In my earlier post, I described how broadcasters tend to misunderstand (at best) and abuse (at worst) the term "local," thinking that the mailing address of the local radio station somehow entitles it to unique privileges versus its competitors, even in today's digital era.

Today I draw your attention to a fantastic new book called No Size Fits All: From Mass Marketing to Mass Handselling, which discusses the implications of a digital world on our business, our economy, and our culture.

"Anything that can go digital, ultimately will.  And when something goes digital, it inevitably goes global.  And the more things go digital, the more they are rewarded with explosive growth, enhanced scale, [etc.]."

Differentiation is made between varying shades of "local" and "global."

The two categories that are most relevant for radio are these:  "Intrinsically local" and "functionally local."

Author Tom Hayes writes:

INTRINSICALLY LOCAL:

These are businesses that are typically small, rarely serve more than the immediate neighborhood, and are often single-proprietor.  You frequent them because the services they provide can only really be provided locally.  Think barbershops, beauty salons, convenience stores, gas stations, restaurants, grocery stores, automobile repair shops.

For the most part, these enterprises will not be affected at all by the new global economy.  No matter how much the world is networked, you will still drive down the street to get a quart of milk.

That is not "Radio."

Tom goes on:

HABITUALLY LOCAL:

These enterprises, though often assumed to be intrinsically local, are in fact highly vulnerable to an increasingly networked world – especially after the right technological revolution or quantum leap in communications or delivery systems.  Classic examples of this are the local printer, the video rental store, the local record store – all were assumed to be enduring local enterprises – until they were rendered all but extinct by, respectively, desktop publishing, Netflix, and MP3 technology.  The LOCAL hardware store, green grocer, and department store were all overwhelmed by improved distribution and inventory systems implemented by national chains.

The awful truth is that, with only a handful of exceptions, every local business and institution is under competitive risk from the newly emerging business order.

THAT is the radio industry's category.  Vulnerable.

Vulnerable to consolidation.  Vulnerable to centralized, nationalized, globalized content and delivery mechanisms.  Vulnerable to substitutes and alternatives capable of localizing or personalizing content and features as well as or better than a radio station can.

So I call on the leaders of the radio industry to stop harping on the illusory talking point of "local" and to start harping on the advantages that are or could be unique to radio in a local market.

Fail to understand the difference at your peril.

You have a megaphone – a big one.  And the permission to use it to connect consumers and marketers and to carry those consumers wherever they want to go.

That is the leverage-point.

Anything else is a mirage in global media desert.

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  • Pat Holiday

    I have often thought that the automatic line of “We’re going to be very local and that’s our strength” was ultimately wrong for ages now. Typically that’s never backed up like Mark describes.
    When I noticed Stern a decade ago crushing competitors coast to coast in market after market it was instantly clear that ‘local’ in itself means zip. Stern normally had nothing local. No weather, time, temp, local mentions (other than spots & news dropped in), etc.
    What he did do was give someone ‘local’ their own choice as to what they found entertaining or interesting. What would you choose?
    Hearing someone from the Salvation Army talking about their latest local clothing drive or a 2000 miles away Donald Trump being goaded on by Stern to elaborate on all the women he’s slept with?

  • http://profile.typepad.com/mramsey1 Mark Ramsey

    Thanks Pat.
    Nothing is more local than you and me.

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