05/18

“Pandora is Not Radio,” says Radio Ink. Oh yes it is.

From Slacker’s Jonathan Sasse in the LA Times:

“If you look at where broadcast radio is going, it looks like they’re trying to become what online radio used to be,”  Sasse said. “What we’re trying to become is what broadcast radio used to be, which is radio that’s expertly programmed and tailored to you. It used to be that when I came to a new town, I’d find an awesome station with a local DJ that talks about the music in my city, the concerts in my city and play some new music. Radio done right can be really good. And broadcast radio is really missing out, because they’ve just turned into generic hit machines.”

This quotation has caused more than a little bristling among broadcasters.

I know Jonathan.  I haven’t asked him about this, but I suspect that he would not want to characterize his comments as an attack on radio.  He’s just trying to paint the Slacker picture with a broad brush and sometimes contrast can get ugly.  The guys at Slacker have great respect for radio and the people who toil away at it – which explains why Slacker subcontracts to so many of those radio professionals to program their channels (oops, your secret is out, radio programmers).

He is certainly right that broadcast radio is missing out in the sense that if a broadcaster has a relationship with a consumer it seems to me, at the very least, it’s that broadcaster’s obligation to fulfill the audio-related needs and wants of that consumer across whatever platform and via whatever form that consumer wants.  And if that consumer wants to take control of the radio – literally – then so be it.

This is why the kerfuffle about whether, for example, Pandora IS or IS NOT radio is so dangerous.  As I have argued, Pandora (and Slacker et. al.) definitely are radio and radio is Pandora.  Eric Rhoads at Radio Ink thinks otherwise, but Eric is dead wrong.

Among other things, Eric argues that Pandora is trivial in the context of the much larger radio industry.  This is classic rear-view thinking.  We’re big, they’re small, so what’s the fuss?  I am certain this is exactly what the newspaper folks said.  Ditto the music labels and the movie studios.

I’m not going to trudge through every point of Eric’s piece with a rebuttal because that would only bore both you and me (I actually drafted that rebuttal and it DID bore me).  But suffice it to say, if broadcasters don’t recognize that the definition of “radio” is a lot bigger tomorrow than it was yesterday, we will only enlarge the opportunity for radio “alternatives” to compete and thrive.

Diminishing the competition is stupid.  Joining them on their trajectory is smart.

A much-expanded definition of radio which includes Pandora and their like is a destination.

And you can’t reach it until you see it on the map or over the horizon in all its multi-flavored variety and fabulous glory.

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