03/07

Behold, The Car Dashboard Crisis!

Panic is in the streets following two events this week:

First, a Mark Kassof study which revealed the unsurprising news that 83% of a sample of radio general managers and executives view Internet access in cars as “a threat” to “traditional radio,” (whatever that means).

A threat? What about an opportunity, Mr. Broadcaster?! Your experiences can be delivered by digital means, too, after all. And if they’re worthy, magnetic digital experiences, there’s nothing but blue sky ahead. So let’s stop the communal whine and get busy!

And I mean that with all due respect.

Second, a tidbit from Radio Ink’s Convergence Conference which reported the prediction of a panel of auto industry experts that AM/FM radios would disappear from cars in our lifetimes.

In our lifetimes?

Well, I can only speak for myself but I expect to live a good, long time so I wouldn’t kiss the car radio goodbye just yet.

That said, the end will eventually come. And when we eventually do plan the funeral, let’s do it with a dry eye. After all, many of us have lived to see lots of audio technologies come and go, from 8-track (now there was a Dodo if ever I’ve heard one) to cassettes to CD’s to Quadrophonic sound to AM stereo to HD radio. Like so many dominoes, all.

But here’s the thing: While the form of the content comes and goes the content itself lives on along with new content like it – even if it lives in a fresh form and with fresh enhancements. It is altered, but it survives, even as the technology that gave it birth may vanish. And that’s because what consumers need really doesn’t change – what changes is their ability to fulfill those needs and the power they have to shape their own entertainment and information experiences.

In other words, stop worrying about the technology and worry more about your consumers and meeting their needs today and tomorrow in every way that makes sense for your brand and across every platform. Technology will provide the “how” to your “what,” and it will help to make a better “what.”

Stop viewing a new dashboard as a threat and start exploring it as an opportunity. Here’s a hint: Your brand’s presence on the dashboard will require creating an experience which is much more than a stream of your on-air content. Even from here I can see Jerry Lee flipping the streaming switch to “on.” It’s going to take more than that, Mr. Lee, but it’s a start.

Stop viewing your audience as a God-given right and recognize that every one of those consumer relationships must be earned and re-earned daily.

Another headline from Radio Ink announces that “listeners are no longer listeners” because they can consume our content in lots of ways. Well I’m here to tell you that “listeners” have never been “listeners.” They have always been red-blooded people with a complex set of needs and desires fixed on satisfying those needs and desires in whatever ways technology and opportunity allow. The scarcity of options that made that satisfaction impossible is the same scarcity that gave radio ownership of the car. And it is no more. Gotta get used to it.

Either you’re in the content business leveraging the relationships you have presumably earned over the years, or you’re out of business.

Fear that.

* = required field
  • Anonymous

    That Radio Ink piece is pretty weak. Even “Dr. Frankie James” prefaced her comments by saying she wasn’t relying on data.

  • http://twitter.com/jeffschmidt Jeff Schmidt

    First, congrats on the killer graphic Mark – I laughed. I want it!

    Of course, you’re absolutely correct and rational.

    But I’ve come to appreciate Radio’s cyclical freak outs to advancements as necessary for ANY movement or change to happen at all.

    Radio is a largely complacent industry (as are many other mature industries) and the only time big change can happen is when everyone collectively looses their shit. I look forward to these times because it’s the only time new ideas are even given a moments consideration. They may not act as they should – but that’s another blog post.

    Yes – it is a big opportunity… for big structural change. And it’s only made possible by epic panic.

    Long live the panic!

  • http://twitter.com/jeffschmidt Jeff Schmidt

    First, congrats on the killer graphic Mark – I laughed. I want it!

    Of course, you’re absolutely correct and rational.

    But I’ve come to appreciate Radio’s cyclical freak outs to advancements as necessary for ANY movement or change to happen at all.

    Radio is a largely complacent industry (as are many other mature industries) and the only time big change can happen is when everyone collectively looses their shit. I look forward to these times because it’s the only time new ideas are even given a moments consideration. They may not act as they should – but that’s another blog post.

    Yes – it is a big opportunity… for big structural change. And it’s only made possible by epic panic.

    Long live the panic!

  • http://www.markramseymedia.com Mark Ramsey

    That’s a good point, Jeff. I should have titled the post “Long live the panic!” :-)

  • http://www.markramseymedia.com Mark Ramsey

    That’s a good point, Jeff. I should have titled the post “Long live the panic!” :-)

  • Anonymous

    Non web radios can survive without being in the broadcasting bands, were the listners are, in the AM/FM/DAB? bands.Even small AM/FM stations can make cash-flow in ads course they have very local audience and small stations are cheap in ads. Small companys afford to advertise.

  • http://www.markramseymedia.com Mark Ramsey

    Small stations and cheap ads…. Doesn’t sound very appetizing.

  • Anonymous

    Not for the big boys, the don’t want any competitors with better programs, cheaper ads. Note, that part 15 stations in USA with a couple of transmitters get a very local listnings and are very popular. One-man runing stations and they sell ads 100mW am stations.

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  • hdradiofarce

    Mark,

    I would be surprised if radios ever disappeared in cars. No cost to consumers in terms of bandwidth, and what’s easier than turning on a radio (HD Radio’s digital interface aside)? What I found disturbing, yet amusing, was Eric’s claim that analog AM/FM would disappear, but if HD Radio stays in-dash, then stations that would want to reach new car buyers would be forced to “upgrade”. This is the type of tactic that I would expect out of iBiquity and their automaker buddies.

    Greg Smith

  • http://www.markramseymedia.com Mark Ramsey

    Never say “never,” Greg!

  • http://twitter.com/robin_solis Robin S

    Inventing technologies to help the Radio industry run more efficiently and find more revenue for stations/groups is my business. My first company was the very first national business employing digital delivery on a national scale. And guess what? It was for the radio industry. Let me say that Radio stays in cars forever. It is only the old fashioned, frequency of AM/FM that will be phased out. Radio stays just the way it is. It just gets delivered by a digital channel. AM/FM will be tossed out because it is just so inefficient. But it won’t be tomorrow. Being open to new technologies that help the industry run leaner and meaner will also help.

  • http://www.markramseymedia.com Mark Ramsey

    True, Robin!

    Mark Ramsey

  • http://twitter.com/robgreenlee Rob Greenlee

    No mention of Podcasting here in this post or anywhere on your site Mark is very interesting to me. I see broadcast radio either embracing podcasting or competing with it on the dash in future cars. Podcasting and Internet radio is gaining ears everyday. It is just a matter of time before AM/FM is gone from cars. The question is, what will replace it and what type of audio are audiences moving towards… not the ad heavy broadcast radio formats.

  • http://www.markramseymedia.com Mark Ramsey

    Gosh Rob I have written about podcasting plenty of times.

    Expressions like “just a matter of time” are too pat, I think. Time has a very long bend, in addition to being “relative.” :-)

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