We are addicted to “Reach”

From Seth Godin:

When in doubt, disaggregate

The typical American buys precisely one book a year. 


Of course, this isn't true, because when it comes to books, there is no typical American. There are a lot of Americans who buy zero books for pleasure each year. And then there are people like me who buy 400. The average is irrelevant. 

When you can't figure out the best way to treat all your customers, the best way to price things, the best thing to offer, realize that the problem is almost always this: you're trying to treat everyone the same. Don't. Break them into groups with similar attributes, and suddenly the path becomes a lot more clear.

The biggest problem I see in the world of radio is a stubborn resistance to this very notion.

We are addicted to reach – to the notion that we must touch every person in every corner of our markets with the same thing – and we are better than any other advertising medium because we do.

Reach While there's nothing wrong with wanting more users rather than fewer (who doesn't?), we need to recognize that in a world of splintering taste and attention, they who are "reached" will be increasingly less passionate about what's reaching them as long as it's ignorant of the serpentine details of personal taste. 

As long as my interests, my problems, and my needs take a back seat to the interests, problems, and needs of the many, you may still reach my ears, but you will never have my heart.

If radio stations are, as I would argue, local media companies in disguise, then there is no limit to our ability to impact broad audiences, but it is inevitable that we will impact them using a variety of media with a menu of options that suit their needs.  We will not impact them because we own several radio stations and have mastered the art of pleasing more average people increasingly less well.

In a world of choices, "reach" is passionless because passion lives in niches at at the edges.  Passion drives novelty and change, and change is what makes our hearts beat faster.  It's why Pandora gets more media attention than Clear Channel.

While there are certainly average tastes there are no average people.  The long-term success of broadcasters will relate to our ability to cherish the differences of our audiences and add value to their lives because of these differences, not in spite of them.

That will mean broadcasting companies of the future which are unrecognizable from today's vantage point. 

Those companies are being created today.  Look closely and you can find them.

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  • http://www.jeff-schmidt.com Jeff Schmidt

    I’d argue that Seth is pointing at exactly what radio owners have been trying to do.
    To buy as many stations in local markets as possible, each one reaching/serving slices of the larger populous. Country, New/Talk, Rock, AC, Hit Music and hybrid variants of those.
    The terrestrial portion of the business is presently capitalized in a way that makes drilling down even further into more passionate niches impossible to do on air. The only place to do it is the net. But that requires a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.
    Neither of which really exist in any meaningful institutional way within terrestrial radio in my experience.
    So, as you noted – that leaves the market wide open for people like Tim Westergreen to innovate and serve niche markets.
    The big broadcasters seem content to leave that “business” to others. At least until it starts racking up the kind of billing that’ll get their attention. Then they’ll jump in.
    And it’ll probably be too late for most of them.

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

    That’s what radio owners THINK they’re trying to do under the assumption that radio is a fixed thing and media options are finite.
    As if.

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