09/29

A Lesson for News/Talk Radio from Amazon’s Kindle Fire

Too many News/Talk broadcasters just don’t get it.

What can they learn from Amazon’s new Kindle Fire?

Quite a lot, I think.

This is not a piece about Amazon vs. Apple.  Nor is it a piece about the merits and prospects for Kindle Fire.  Those are all discussed ad infinitum elsewhere.

This is a piece about strategic thinking, specifically the strategic thinking that makes Kindle Fire different from the zillions of other tablet alternatives to Apple’s groundbreaking iPad.

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos spelled it out, as reported by USA Today:

One reason that some companies have not succeeded in the marketplace is “because they built tablets instead of services,” Bezos said in an interview following the press conference. “The hardware tablet is (only) a piece of that service. The end-to-end service is what customers really want, the deep integration with all of Amazon’s media.”

“it’s the service, stupid,” not the product itself.

While the cutting edge among us may rush out to buy the latest gadget, for the vast majority of consumers their purchases are all about solutions to their problems or frustrations.  And those solutions are rarely as simple as the gadget itself.

Fast Company has it right:

in other words, the vision is to sell movies, TV shows, apps, and yes, more books, on the Kindle Fire. It’s a strategy only Apple and Amazon can pull off–every other tablet maker has stumbled because they lack content. Have you ever purchased a book through HP? A song through Motorola? A magazine through Samsung? An app through Toshiba? No, these companies don’t provide content–they provide hardware.

If on the surface Amazon appears to be selling gadgets to consumers, on the surface News/Talk radio appears to be providing a convenient source of headlines and conversation about the day’s news for free.

Or, rather, they’re providing it on the radio.

Amazon recognizes that the gadget – the radio, in our case – doesn’t exist without the end-to-end services that establish the value consumers are really paying for.

To be sure, News/Talk radio provides plenty of “service elements,” but for the most part those service elements are provided only on the radio itself (or the stream which is a carbon copy thereof).

In other words, is your business to sell radio listening to consumers or to satisfy the needs for services which your audience has in abundance?

If it’s the former then you are ignoring all the other ways those services will and are being provided and all the other habits your consumers will develop because your habit is no longer sufficient.

If, for example, you are the go-to station for traffic, then you should be providing the traffic service to anyone who wants it any way they want it.

If you are about my local community, then do I, as a news consumer, have the opportunity to contribute to the news or comment on your take?

If you are the station for news, then it may make sense for you to create an app dedicated to the Michael Jackson doctor trial, just as LA’s KTTV did (for 99 cents a pop, it’s the number one app in the iTunes store now).

If you are the source for information in an emergency, then you should be providing that information across all the platforms your consumers use – not simply the platforms you are best equipped today to monetize.  That’s how you get ahead of the curve rather than drift behind it.  During a recent natural disaster in one large market, for example, the primary News/Talk station’s Twitter feed consisted primarily of messages to tune in to the station for the latest information.  Ditto for the website which was much slower with breaking news than other online sources.  What?!  In a crisis the crisis-oriented station should be providing what residents need wherever they go for it – if they can’t get it from you, they will go somewhere else and set a new habit.

In other words, you’re not in the radio news business, you’re in the news business – period.

Unless, of course, you choose to surrender that position to a competitor.  Rest assured up-and-coming audiences accustomed to information choices will exercise their ability to choose that source which best meets their needs, whether or not it’s tethered to a radio station.

So consider what business you’re really in, News/Talk.

Are you a radio station or a service?

In the former case you will keep drifting older.  In the latter case you will gain relevance to more consumers of every age and disposition.

Such is the strength of information.

Such is the power of a service.

* = required field
  • Andy McNabb

    You’re right.  Taking it one step further –
    we’re in the business of (vis a vis our Mission Statement) of keeping the Peterborough public “Connected, Informed, Inspired” – we do that with timely, relevant and resonant local news
    and information that people will want to know.  We realize we need to quickly get to the point where we’re effectively using all platforms to do so.

  • Jerry C

    Radio people should know this, it is as old as our industry.  Powell Crosley was a manufacturer, he wanted to sell radios.  But he realized that without something to listen to he had no customers.  So he started WLW and brought in the best of the best. (& sold a ton of radios)

  • Right, Andy. Unless one sees that destination one shall never reach it.

  • One lesson for broadcasters to learn from the examples of Apple and Amazon is to act as ‘open-source’ infrastructure companies.  It’s easier for the public to walk into the CIA’s headquarters than to get inside many news/talk radio stations.