Is Radio “Relevant”?

I was struck by the following exchange about radio’s relevance – or lack thereof – from Radio Ink:

Entercom CEO David Field got the hair on his back up a little bit yesterday when speaking at a Wells Fargo Media Conference yesterday. When answering a question about whether radio was relevant anymore, Field said there’s “a lack of respect for what radio is and has accomplished” out there. “More people listen to radio than ever before. When you aggregate all the other listening of audio, it’s still less than 10%. Radio is still over 90%. Go compare that to TV. They never have to answer about their relevance.”

David is considering “relevance” in the context of what is used by most people on a daily basis.  Without question, if we’re all using it it is relevant to our lives.

But there’s another meaning of “relevance,” and that other meaning is what propelled the question in the first place.

That is, is radio “relevant” to “the conversation”?

“The conversation” is about trends – it’s about what’s new and fresh.

“The conversation” is what you read about in the headlines when a new Apple device is launched.

“The conversation” is about what’s interesting, not what’s habitual or taken for granted.

“The conversation” is what gets people excited – especially younger people – and the advertisers and agencies which follow their tastes so slavishly.

“The conversation” is about innovation – “what have you done for me lately?”  And “the same thing as always” is definitely the wrong answer.

“The conversation” is not what is usually associated with articles depicting the industry with a graphic of an eighty-year-old wood cathedral radio, as too many articles seem to do.

The reason why TV never has to answer the “relevance” question is that TV is constantly innovating – and I’m talking content here, not just technology.

Is there always something “fresh” on TV?  Yes.  Experiments come and go every season.  Experiments create novelty, and novelty sparks interest, and interest drives “the conversation.”

List in your mind the most important content innovations in radio in the past year.

How about the past five years?

Who are radio’s hot new stars this season?

“Relevance” and “the conversation” are about what’s new, not about what’s reliable and consistent.

Even when that reliable consistency is ubiquitous.

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  • Mark:
    I had a conversation last week with a station manager, who was crowing that his station was running 28 minutes an hour of election ads this past month. I congratulated him for his windfall, but I was also dumbstruck how any listener could endure that onslaught.

    I told my friend that radio’s relevance left me a few years ago, and they haven’t improved enough to deserve my attention.

    While I fondly remember my years in radio, I also mourn for an industry that is slowly killing itself by not looking forward.

  • There is only one direction: Forward.

    Not to borrow a phrase from Mr. Obama, of course.

  • Mark, I’m sure you wrote this because you want to stir up some reaction and that you don’t actually believe this given your strong association with radio. If innovation in TV is giving us Snookie, Swamp People and Honey Boo Boo then they can have it. I will take Clear Channel’s fabulous iheart Radio product and Astral Radio in Canada’s new On Demand music player. Radio is still…according to all research…the number one source for music discovery in North America. The hot new stars in radio are Katy Perry, One Direction, Ed Sheeran and on and on…you can hear, and see them, on air, on line and on your phone. I’ve had a number of conversations start with “did you hear the new Rhianna song this morning”…kinda relevant in my world.

  • Those particular hot new stars are part of a content sphere which is not radio’s alone. I’m talking about radio stars, right, Murray.
    As for Snookie, she may be at the end of her run but anchoring the highest rated show in MTV history is nothing to be ashamed about, no matter the content. If ratings were all about high-brow content then we would all be fans of NPR.
    Again, relevance is not strictly a function of usage – it’s also a function of novelty – “what have you done for me lately?”
    To depend on the labels for our novelty is to fix ourselves in the role of distribution only, thus making us vulnerable to anyone else who is likewise in that role.

  • TV you must SIT and watch. Radio is 95% consume “On-the-go” in the car, at home doing cleaning, in shoppingmall. If people were sitting and listening, i’m sure radio would be less afraid of loosing rating by trying new things that demand a focus for the listeners. Before tv, you could listen at some play like Orson Welles was doing to name one famous name.

    Radio will change the day you will hear someone tell you: I can’t go tomorow I CAN’T MISS THAT SHOW on “that” station !! It’s CRAZY ! Did you listen last week show .. UN BE LIEVEABLE !!

  • I hear you Mark, and I don’t disagree…for the most part. However, is not televison..or any other media outlet for that matter…just a distributor of content? Does TV not rely on Hollywood just as radio relies on the labels? Does Facebook create original content, does Twitter? Are yahoo and AOL not just content aggregators? We are all vulnerable to others who can package or brand better than us.
    I do stick to my point that good radio stations or companies do innovate by using technology to remain relevant to their listeners whether via web, apps or social media.

    I give MTV credit for their efforts with Jersey Shores..it was unique however, their 8.5 million viewers at the peak is a long way off radio star Ryan Seacrest’s 20 million weekly…and he’ll be doing that long after we’re saying “what ever happened to Snookie?”

  • Well, let’s take TV….

    NBCUniversal alone owns some or all of NBC, Universal Pictures, Universal Parks & Resorts, Focus Features, NBCUniversal Television Group, NBC News, NBC Sports Group, USA Network, Syfy, Chiller, G4, CNBC, MSNBC, NBC.com, NBCNews.com, iVillage, PictureBox Movies, Bravo, Telemundo Television Studios, The Weather Channel, ShopNBC, and Hulu.

    That puts it not only in the production (i.e., content creation) business, but in the “expansion of the brands across platforms” business.

    So TV is Hollywood and Hollywood is TV.

    And that’s without using the ubiquitous Disney as a case study.

    Facebook is a platform on which all of us create custom content. Very often content which is exclusive to that platform. Twitter, much the same. Your examples exclude YouTube, of course, which is now spending on custom content.

    Yahoo and AOL both are now creators as well as aggregators. HuffPo, an AOL property, is certainly both.
    Yes, Ryan Seacrest has more listeners than Snooki had viewers, and he’ll be doing that for a good long time. But it seems to me you are supporting my point there, not arguing it.

    The problem isn’t that we don’t have Snooki. It’s that we have too few Ryan Seacrests.

    And before I forget – thanks for the comments! 🙂

  • AdamG

    Obviously you are an intelligent gent! Throw out your Creative radio concepts…when ever you are ready.Is it that The ones in radio to say “GO” are not willing to do that as opposed to TV “go people” who risk daily?
    Are there conventions that need to be broken and reset?

  • AdamG

    Obviously you are an intelligent gent! Throw out your Creative radio concepts…when ever you are ready.Is it that The ones in radio to say “GO” are not willing to do that as opposed to TV “go people” who risk daily?
    Are there conventions that need to be broken and reset?

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