01/04

Tell the Second Story

Recently I was interviewed by a reporter for a major advertising trade, and she asked me whether broadcasters “see the light” that shines on future opportunities, or are they stuck in the past, defending an industry structure that will never be what it once was.

Many do see that light, I explained.  And there are two stories broadcasters can tell, one of which is unfortunately favored over the other.

The first story is one of decline.

It’s one where radio reacts reflexively to claims that “nobody cares about radio anymore” with evidence to the contrary.  It’s one where broadcasters illustrate radio usage as being as great or greater than ever despite the huge number of distractions consumers have today that never existed before.  It’s a story where we attack the new competitors as being “outside” our category or being “less than” radio in one way or another.  As the attention and interest surrounding radio alternatives rises, we go for the jugular.  We recognize that advertisers are attracted by these shiny baubles and fear the notion that they will take their dollars, previously earmarked for us, and devote them to these new ideas.

This first story is a story about defense.  It’s the story of a caged animal lashing out.

If you’re an advertiser, you find this story pathetic and uninspiring.

The second story is one of opportunity and innovation.

It’s one where radio welcomes new competitors because in the cold, harsh light of day those competitors may earn a seat at the table, but it’s still the kids’ table.  And smart broadcasters know that these competitors will simply make their industry better, because that’s what competitors do.

This is the story where radio acknowledges that while reach is still awesome, folks are not listening to radio as much as they used to and that’s okay. Why? Because it’s not radio’s fault – it’s not because radio’s “bad.”  It’s the “fault” of the zillions of alternative ways people spend their time nowadays and it’s why NO mass medium has the same intensity of usage it had 20 years ago.  So get over that.  The listenership is not going to iPods or Pandora or wherever. In fact, it may not be listenership that’s going anywhere.  It’s time that’s going places.  And time will follow whatever fun and entertaining things can fill that time, whether those things are audio-only or not.

So, Mr. Advertiser, stop asking whether folks are listening more or less to radio because it doesn’t matter.  In a world of booming choice, value flows to he who can aggregate consumers, even if it’s not as many consumers as it used to be. Just ask network TV.

And Mr. Broadcaster, stop obsessing on reach.  This is not news to advertisers, and they’re looking for a fresh message.  That’s where the second story comes in.

This second story is one that illustrates the many innovations radio has embraced to extend its enviable reach across new platforms (and what these are vary with the broadcaster – some have many, some have none).  The more radio attracts engagement across platforms (including the one called “the real world”), the more we take back the time radio alternatives have stolen from us. It’s how we give our many audiences new places to go and things to do that they would never have known about if not for radio.  An example: What’s the best way to put your deals platform on the map?  Unite with the massive megaphone of radio, that’s how.  The reach and power of radio makes everything non-radio work better.

Several broadcast groups are projecting that 40% of their revenue will come from non-traditional sources in the years to come.  Those are the groups telling the second story.

The reporter indicated to me that of all the broadcast folks she has talked to, I’m the only one that told the second story.

Tell the second story.

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