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Behold, The Car Dashboard Crisis!

Panic is in the streets following two events this week:

First, a Mark Kassof study which revealed the unsurprising news that 83% of a sample of radio general managers and executives view Internet access in cars as “a threat” to “traditional radio,” (whatever that means).

A threat? What about an opportunity, Mr. Broadcaster?! Your experiences can be delivered by digital means, too, after all. And if they’re worthy, magnetic digital experiences, there’s nothing but blue sky ahead. So let’s stop the communal whine and get busy!

And I mean that with all due respect.

Second, a tidbit from Radio Ink’s Convergence Conference which reported the prediction of a panel of auto industry experts that AM/FM radios would disappear from cars in our lifetimes.

In our lifetimes?

Well, I can only speak for myself but I expect to live a good, long time so I wouldn’t kiss the car radio goodbye just yet.

That said, the end will eventually come. And when we eventually do plan the funeral, let’s do it with a dry eye. After all, many of us have lived to see lots of audio technologies come and go, from 8-track (now there was a Dodo if ever I’ve heard one) to cassettes to CD’s to Quadrophonic sound to AM stereo to HD radio. Like so many dominoes, all.

But here’s the thing: While the form of the content comes and goes the content itself lives on along with new content like it – even if it lives in a fresh form and with fresh enhancements. It is altered, but it survives, even as the technology that gave it birth may vanish. And that’s because what consumers need really doesn’t change – what changes is their ability to fulfill those needs and the power they have to shape their own entertainment and information experiences.

In other words, stop worrying about the technology and worry more about your consumers and meeting their needs today and tomorrow in every way that makes sense for your brand and across every platform. Technology will provide the “how” to your “what,” and it will help to make a better “what.”

Stop viewing a new dashboard as a threat and start exploring it as an opportunity. Here’s a hint: Your brand’s presence on the dashboard will require creating an experience which is much more than a stream of your on-air content. Even from here I can see Jerry Lee flipping the streaming switch to “on.” It’s going to take more than that, Mr. Lee, but it’s a start.

Stop viewing your audience as a God-given right and recognize that every one of those consumer relationships must be earned and re-earned daily.

Another headline from Radio Ink announces that “listeners are no longer listeners” because they can consume our content in lots of ways. Well I’m here to tell you that “listeners” have never been “listeners.” They have always been red-blooded people with a complex set of needs and desires fixed on satisfying those needs and desires in whatever ways technology and opportunity allow. The scarcity of options that made that satisfaction impossible is the same scarcity that gave radio ownership of the car. And it is no more. Gotta get used to it.

Either you’re in the content business leveraging the relationships you have presumably earned over the years, or you’re out of business.

Fear that.

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