11/08

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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