Bob Garfield’s “Chaos Scenario” – and answers for Radio


Garfield, who has a forthcoming book that will point the way to answers to what he calls the "chaos scenario" presents in gory detail the tribulations of media conglomerates, including radio.

If you don't come away from this piece feeling a tad suicidal, then you will likely arrive at a few inescapable conclusions for radio in particular:

1.  If the supply of advertising avails online is infinite but the supply of advertising is not, then the only way to avoid having the cost of that advertising driven to zero is to create an environment that attracts advertisers because of its uniqueness.  Unique brands, unique advertising concepts.  The era of successful me-too brands and "this space available" advertising is over.

2.  Radio can move a lot of people to wherever they want to go.  We will need to monetize their destinations, whether or not they are "our station's website."

3.  You need to be out of the "radio station" business and into the "local media company" business.  Now is a time to recognize the roots of value for your company and to leverage that value.

4.  We will need to recognize what makes our audience unique – one listener from the other – not simply what makes them alike.  In the future, what makes each listener different is key to her value to advertisers and to your media company.  How much each listener lets you know about them is critical to your ability to connect those listeners to marketers that interest them, and vice versa.

5.  You need to embrace all manner of social media as an adjunct to the one thing no social media tool has in your absence:  A loudspeaker with hundreds of thousands of willing consumers on the other end.

6.  Our obsession with ratings and ratings methodologies is entirely misplaced, thus the importance of ratings per se will invariably decline.  When I have lots of ways to reach thousands in my target audience – and most of those ways have precise metrics, not "ratings estimates" – then the number of ears you attract is less important than what you can do with them when you attract them.

We are at a turning point in our industry and the need is clear for us to remake what we do from the ground up.  We cannot "shrink" to success, only to obscurity.

The challenge may be clearer and more obvious than the answers, but accept that challenge you must.

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