Next week Ad Age will run a piece about the likely “disruptive” effect of connected high-speed mobile devices like the iPhone on radio.
This comes in the wake of a spate of such pieces, all of which illustrate what I and others have long predicted would occur.
Says Steve Rubel:
The iPhone 3G and other smartphones like it will change how people access interact with audio. Already, the Pandora music discovery service is the fourth most popular application in the iTunes store. And bloggers like Jeff Jarvis believe that it will disrupt radio. I tend to agree. The cellphone will change the radio landscape by not only establishing a two-way modality but by ushering in new models for advertising that are mapped to people’s musical tastes and perhaps locally relevant as well thanks to GPS. This maybe one of the most promising mobile ad formats and is a space to watch.
Says Buzzmachine’s Jeff Jarvis:
My most striking realization since getting my iPhone (love it, thanks for asking) is that radio is doomed. Pandora is a wonder, creating my own radio station, live and on the fly without need for a broadcast tower. CBS is streaming all its stations over the cell network but when I told my wife this she kept asking, “Why would I want to listen to a CBS station?” That’s not the point, I huffed; we don’t need broadcast towers. OK, she said, but I still don’t want to listen to CBS stations. So count that as two strikes against radio. Digital radio? Heh. Satellite radio? I’m paying for it and I want Howard on my iPhone.
Technically, Jeff’s story would be stronger if he didn’t piss on the CBS streaming effort, since nobody in their right mind listens to a “CBS station,” but plenty of Angelenos will be interested in listening to CBS-owned KROQ (although why they want to do that when they can tune it in the old-fashioned way is a topic of a previous post, where I basically make the point that being available via the iPhone may be only half the battle, but it’s an important half).
Radio is not doomed, of course, but it is certainly challenged. And I don’t know about you, but I prefer to rise to that challenge.
About two years ago now I gave a presentation to the National Association of Broadcasters where I noted radio’s inherent competitive advantages relative to alternatives in the years to come.
Music discovery was one of these advantages – and one that technology has threatened. But what Pandora fiends generally don’t understand is that the appetite most music listeners have for new music is not boundless. If it’s a steady diet of discovery you want, then Pandora is your Garden of Eden. But if it’s a taste of the new mixed with the familiar, hello radio.
The “stuff between the songs” was another of these advantages. I emphasized the importance of investing in talent, a call that has generally been ignored. Name the biggest star in radio under the age of 40 – besides Ryan Seacrest? You shall reap what you sow.
Local information and connection is a third advantage. While there is plenty of potential for geo-targeted advertising, that’s different from the stuff that binds people to their neighbors but is not advertising. This is not “crisis” stuff I’m talking about – it’s every day connection. Radio forgets this at our peril.
The exclusive content on radio is a critical fourth advantage. And by that I primarily mean NON-MUSIC content (note that I didn’t narrowly say “Talk,” so use your imagination). You can tune in Alternative music on Pandora, but you cannot find Rush Limbaugh – or Howard Stern (hello, Sirius, please WAKE UP). It would be smart for radio to use its presently deep pockets to establish talents worth seeking out, regardless of what else is on, don’t you think?
Obviously radio has to establish some beachfront property in new media and we have to do it in a form that emphasizes our content rather than our over-the-air brands. Then we have to enlist every state-of-the-advertising-art tool available to monetize that content.
I’ll say this again until someone hears me: You need to get out of the call letter-only business. Say goodbye to the “shut up and play the songs” business.
My imagination exercise a couple years ago began this way: Pretend you don’t have a broadcast tower -what would you do?
I suggest you engage in that exercise before it becomes a reality.
Part of my role is to help broadcasters and others do just that. Now is your time to act.