How to Beat the New Car Dashboard

All this fretting over the evolving car dashboard is so much ado about the wrong stuff.


A flood of new content is coming. Lots of it is already here. There is no way to keep it out because consumers don’t want it out. The primacy of radio on the car dash is officially a thing of the past. So let’s begin by accepting that fact.

Further, being on new platforms in the new dash is fine, but we’re already on the platform that is most familiar and most used – the “radio” one. The fact of life for radio is that while every other content player has everything to gain by accessing the auto dash, only radio has everything to lose. So how do you maximize your odds of not losing?

Without question, the consumer will make her auto entertainment experience more “her” no matter how much you make it more “you,” Mr. Broadcaster.

So what do you do?

You ask yourself and your team the following questions:

  1. Is our content so compelling that consumers will choose it in spite of an abundance of other appealing options? For years radio has been built with the goal of being good enough for most people most of the time. In a world of choice “good enough” never is.
  2. Is our content so unique that consumers will have no choice but to get it from us?
  3. Have we created additional points of value across platforms that engage consumers beyond simply “listening” to the radio? Is the brand bigger than the sum of its parts? Or are we simply a Pandora channel that’s yours, not mine?
  4. Have we disaggregated our content – chunked it into bite-size pieces – so that fans can consume it on-demand? Or are we insisting on a linear stream of content in an increasingly non-linear world?
  5. Have we made our content easy to access and easy to consume across platforms? Or is the only “easy to consume” part of our content the online stream – the same content in the same order as is available over the air?
  6. Are we so busy trying to improve our Arbitron ratings that we lose sight of this reality: Most of the cannibalization of radio’s in-car listening will go to products and services that are not measured by Arbitron? In other words, are we fighting to win a battle that will guarantee we lose the war?
  7. Are we relevant on platforms that target a digital audience and a digital advertiser?

It seems to me you don’t need a sit-down with a Detroit bigwig to answer these questions. You don’t need the advice of experts. You simply need to observe how the New Consumer is behaving and expect that as more power and control yields to her will, she will embrace it gladly and with gusto.

Audio entertainment and information built and designed for an audience with few choices and limited control will never again thrive. Period. On or off the dash.

Long live the NEW radio.

In all its app-filled, personalized, crazy quilted, multiflavored, online-sourced, mobile device, transmedia, compelling, and exclusive goodness.

* = required field
  • Don Keith

    Right on target, as usual, Mr. Ramsey! Give ’em content they can’t get anywhere else and do it through all the ways they want to get content.

    Oh, and you best be training a “marketing” staff…NOT sales…to be able to assist potential advertisers in taking advantage of what you have to sell. That may include teaching your folks how to use an Arbitron ranker and a Scarborough run…but it will have to also include so very much more. So very much more that I don’t think is even on the radar at many stations.

    “Broad”casting is rapidly dying. You better learn how to attract a sizeable and sellable TRIBE!

  • Well put, Don!

    Mark Ramsey

  • Dave Mason

    Mark, you’ve definitely pointed out a great challenge for our industry. Only one more obstacle to overcome, and the person (or people) who come up with the solution will be considered geniuses. How do the suits make money off this investment? There’s no argument we need to invest. The creative types are looking for an outlet. The investors are looking for a return on their investment. As we’ve seen since 1996, the pushers and the shovers are the ones looking to make a buck. Maybe when the audio content is a Pepsi spot, I see a nice frosty drink pop up on my screen. That McDonald’s radio spot should show the product on the screen. I’m not sure someone’s come up with that kind of interactive/reactive technology but if RADIO does, it could go a long way. Oh wait, that would cost money for R and D. So many opportunities, so few corporations willing to go out on a limb.

  • There certainly are interactive technologies that can do these things. And the R&D is startup R&D – always easier in radio to gather than Big Radio R&D.

    Frankly, I’m tired of complaining. If the radio suits don’t want to listen I recommend that smart and thoughtful and clever people in the space simply route around them.

    Thanks for the comments, Dave!

  • Anonymous

    Reading your stuff is like going to a “how to” seminar where seemingly eager participants only remember how good the food and drink was. Your points are great and better yet spot on.
    How much pain does their have to be before owners start to look for mad scientists instead of accountants to cure their woes?
    I’ll let you contemplate that while I watch this guy to my left stock up on all you can eat shrimp.

  • The radio accountant would have cut that guy off by now. 🙂

Dive Into The Blog