07/02

Does Radio “Need a New Story”?

Sometimes I just want to scream.

Like when I read a piece in Radio Ink titled “Consumers do not know about the Power of Radio.”

That’s right. With five radios in every household and radio presumably being a part of virtually everyone’s daily habit, we consumers “do not know about the power of radio.” We consumers must be stupid or something.

As a result, say Radio Ink’s 40 “Power Players,” “Radio needs to tell a better story.”

Yes, the clichés are flying like monkey dung. Watch out, or a cliché might smack you upside the head!

And the story includes a photo of the great Orson Welles (which is spelled “Welles,” by the way, Radio Ink comment-maker) in one of his cliché dramatic radio poses from the era between the birth the telephone book and the birth of Facebook.

It seems to me, gang, that if almost everyone uses radio, the story consumers understand is certainly good enough for them.

And if that story isn’t good enough for us, Mr. Broadcaster, perhaps rather than diving in to the latest and greatest in PR gimmickry, we might add novelty and innovation and enhancement to the product itself. Because there is no better ad – no better story – than a product which sells itself.

Today I walked into a Starbucks and was struck that, as with every visit, the store was flush with innovations. A new drink over there, a new display over here, a new CD over there, a new coffee variety over here. The same store I have visited countless times before was fresh anew. No whining about storytelling here. But plenty of new stories to tell.

The new Starbucks stories exists because the new products tell them. Not because Starbucks management called a meeting between The Wizard of Ads and The Wizard of Oz to cook up a catchy phrase that will fit snugly on a t-shirt produced by the marketing department at the NAB.

A new story comes from a new product or service that is worth telling new stories about, not from the spell-chef at Hogwarts.

Maybe folks just take radio for granted. And why not? It is, after all, free and ubiquitous. That’s not the same as unimportant, quite the contrary.

And Arbitron’s measurement methodology encourages taking radio for granted because it rewards compliance and passive listening, not the kind of consumer decision-making driven by desire and passion. Passive measurement turns down the volume on “love” and amps it up on “like.” And “like” does not make stories.

Do people shout “I like that song!” or “I love that song!”?

If we want to be in the utility business, then don’t be surprised when folks treat us like the electric company. Although personally I am crazy for San Diego Gas & Electric.

People care about what they love. Be what they love, and we don’t need a story.

Because that will become our story.

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