There are at least three challenges that every broadcaster is going to have to overcome in order to secure their future.
Once upon a time in a world of lower expectations and far fewer choices, "relevance" meant something that was vaguely good enough for everybody. The very roots of "broad" "casting" imply the goal of zeroing in on that which the largest number of folks can settle on most of the time. Banish the edge, pull back on the extremes, quit the talk, remove the reasons to listen less (which is a lot easier than adding reasons to listen more).
But in a world where the control belongs to the consumer – the listener – the rules are different.
Now relevance will mean what's relevant to ME.
Broadcasters must recognize that this challenge requires seeing the world from the perspective of the individual, not the perspective of the station or, God knows, the group.
Radio's advantage is in bringing together local consumers and local advertisers. Nobody ever said that had to happen over your air.
Again, "broad" "casting" implies a one-way monologue. But "monologue" is yielding to "conversation" whether you like it or not.
So how are you part of that "conversation"? How interactive is your station? How interactive is every element of your station? Can I share what you do with others – easily?
One day Howard Stern had a radio show that took listener calls. The next day he had 14,000 followers on Twitter. And that's just the first day.
We can talk all we want about radio listening being a passive experience for many folks. But tell that to the people who punch buttons when they drive. These folks have been interacting with you for years. And now, finally, you can turn that to your advantage.
Or pretend it doesn't exist and make way for those who don't.
The notion that radio is measured by ratings "estimates" will be increasingly anachronistic in a metric-obsessed world where there are no such things as "estimates" because all the numbers are known with 100% certainty.
Likewise, advertisers and their agencies will look for evidence that their buys "worked" – and the question will become what metrics we all can agree on to define what that means.
I am terribly tired of broadcasters ranting about how many folks listen to the radio. I get it. Everybody listens to the radio. That's not the issue. The issue is why – or if – that matters to your clients. The issue is how that usage translates directly into ROI.
The issue is not how many ears you have but what those ears want to do.
It's an exciting new world, and we are well-staged to excel there.
But only the broadcasters taking the yellow brick road less-traveled will reach the fabled Emerald City.
For the rest, field after field of poppies.