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And Radio’s Secret Power is…


Recently one of my radio clients explained how his 20-year-old daughter uses radio: “She chases her favorite songs around the dial,” he said.

For her, every station button is another chance at hitting the proverbial jackpot. Either I land on a song I love or I don’t. And if I don’t, I move to the next button. It’s radio as slot machine, and – like a slot machine – the odds are better than even that any given spin is a loser.

But this is the behavior of someone who is using radio because it’s convenient, not because it’s her preferred way to solve a problem. Let’s face it, if it’s your personal favorite songs you want you’re more likely to find them in a Spotify playlist or on an iPhone than happening at this very moment on one of the random buttons in your car.

While convenience is a big driver for radio usage (especially in the car), broadcasters need to recognize another force that’s more lasting than convenience and more unique to the medium of radio. It’s a force that can’t so easily be substituted by Spotify or Pandora. It’s one of the main reasons why Apple launched its live-streaming radio station, Beats1. It’s a force that too many stations don’t leverage because they take it for granted, but if they take it for granted it may vanish forever.

What is that powerful, but often forsaken, force?

Imagine that you’re in the TV business. There you have to contend with time shifting, the idea that viewers can view exactly the content they want whenever they want it. It’s a growing phenomenon, of course, and a big boon to consumers, but it’s not without drawbacks, as noted by Alan Wolf in his new book, Over The Top: How The Internet Is (Slowly But Surely) Changing The Television Industry


As viewers watch shows on their own timelines, television begins to fade in importance as the source of America’s shared moments. When half of the country was watching the same show at the same time, week after week, that created a bond that no longer exists today, save event shows like the Super Bowl.

So what is the powerful force that gives radio great potential advantage? It’s the power of “now.” The sharing of this moment with everyone else who’s listening right now. The notion that not only is what you’re hearing happening LIVE, it’s happening live for thousands of listeners all around you at the same time – the people who work with, the ones you live and play with.

TV’s vanishing bond – the “shared moments” – are still very much present on the radio, or at least they’re present when we try to create them.

You see, too much radio programming demands no “now.” The practice of being consistent and timeless sucks the power from “now.” If your station sounds the same all the time, every day, day in and day out, there is no “now.”

No. Bonds form around moments that are meaningful, special, and unique. Moments we all share together through radio’s magic. That means you must fill the funnel with these moments. You must create the magic you expect your listeners to share. You must invest in “now” to realize the power of “now.”

Because if your listeners can hear your station in close-enough facsimiles on competitors or in simple playlist recreations on digital platforms, then you have no “now.”

And without a “now,” you may have no “later.”

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