06/02

How Radio Can Battle Pandora – Part 2: Beyond Music

(This is part 2 of the post.  For part 1, go here)

Recently, the radio industry has obsessed on a few low hanging strengths relative to Pandora:  “We’re local,” “we’re big,” “we’re useful in an emergency.”

I have already talked about the flaw in “we’re big.”

Ditto “we’re local” (“local” is not a mailing address, it’s what you do that’s local. “Local” is not Lady Gaga.  By the way, Pandora is personal which in many ways is better than “local”).

Ditto radio’s unquestioned value in an emergency.  True though it is, it’s a weak argument because the value proposition of radio should be evident to every listener every time she turns on the radio, not simply to those listeners facing a flood, hurricane, wildfire, or tornado.  How many of your radios have a hand-crank?

The biggest advantage radio has over Pandora is not its locally-based origin or its utility in an emergency or its sheer size and ubiquity.  The biggest advantage radio has over Pandora is its ability to provide content that is not music (and thus can’t be easily co-opted) and attract vast numbers of loyal consumers and advertisers to it.

Our edge, in other words, is not down the long tail but atop the short head.

It is the the fact that we’re “live” that brings people into this moment together. It is the fact that we can make you laugh or cry because we are your friends and have been for years.  It is the fact that we have people – real human beings – breathing life into the medium between the songs (or instead of them) that makes this a thing worth listening to.  Pandora has personalization.  Radio has personalities.

Unless radio chooses not to, of course (good luck with that strategy long term).

So don’t get lost in the personalization jungle – Pandora does that better than you.

Don’t imagine that better ratings “estimates” are in any way as good as the perfect accountability provided by Pandora.

And don’t fall prey to the weak-minded industry arguments that radio is great for all the reasons it always has been great.  Paper books were great too.  But that didn’t stop e-readers from eating them for lunch.

We have to deal with the new realities of the new marketplace (and that, my friends, is why I define radio and Pandora as being players in the same industry and why anyone who doesn’t is naive).

And in that marketplace the big advantage for radio is to be live in the moment.  The big advantage is to offer non-music content which appeals to all, not tiny niches of music appealing to one.

The big advantage is to think big.

Radio has the money to do this.  Radio has the presumed ability to know talent when it finds it.  Radio has the scale to distribute that talent far and wide. Radio has the freedom to make and monetize stars.

Do it.

And then set a goal that 100% of your consumers will be known to you by name just as they can be known to Pandora.  Only such a goal will prepare you for the advertising revolution which is coming.

Your alternative is to trim and cut and plow ahead with a ton more spots – and generic, annoying ones at that – than Pandora will ever force-feed its audience.  At Pandora, the listening experience matters most, because they understand that the coffers don’t fill unless the audience is happy.  They have a respect for their audience.

Do we?

As you can tell from these posts, my answer to the question “How can radio battle Pandora?” is…

Don’t.

Be the best you you can be.  Be the you your audience fell in love with.  Build on what you’re good at.  Don’t get defensive and don’t try to do a weak version of what Pandora does so well.

Your future is beyond music.

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