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Go Ahead – Kill Your Radio Stream

“Is it time to kill that clunky stream?” reads the headline in the Radio Ink piece.  It is an interview with the National Associate Director of SAG/AFTRA.

First, the premise that a “clunky stream” is the norm, let alone the state of the art, is wrong. A clean stream is as close as some simple best practices available from the streaming provider of your choice.  A “clunky stream” is typically the result of station inattention, not technological insufficiency.

Second, If you want to kill the stream, kill the stream and stop looking for rationalized excuses to do so. But be aware: Maybe Pandora and Apple and Clear Channel know something you don’t know.  Maybe the proven radio industry case studies from markets large and small, U.S. and International, illustrating actual, real ROI are just too much work to bother with.  Maybe we can turn back the clock to 1983 when radio recorded its peak time spent listening (and it has been declining ever since).  I guess we’ll see.

Third, the bottom-line answer to Radio Ink’s basic question – Can we simulcast the station on the stream without having to do a lot of extra work, one advertiser at a time?  – was “no.”

Fourth, the bottom-line answer to Radio Ink’s other basic question – If we do it anyway will you catch us? – was “maybe.”

Fifth, I recognize that the biggest attraction to simulcasting the station is the lottery-like chance a PPM device will encounter a stream in some dark radio alley somewhere registering a random blip here and there in the station’s ratings, and thanks to PPM random blips are the new black.  Fair enough. But is this any way to serve the interests of our clients, let alone our consumers? Is this the way to stage radio for a future where ever-more consumption happens online and radio competes not only against Pandora and its kind, but also potentially against streaming services from Apple, Google, and Amazon? All of whom will squeeze every ounce of value creation out of technology for the benefit of advertisers and listeners alike.

Sixth, the real problem most broadcasters have with streaming (besides the absurd rights fees) is the business model built around it. This is a business model problem, folks, not a stream problem.  And the stations that excel in streaming are ones that directly attack and solve the business model problem.  These solutions are as close as your streaming partner.  Ask them.

So here’s my recommendation:

Let’s not try to turn back the clock.  Trends move in one direction:  Forward. Just try to trade in an iPhone 5 for an iPhone 1.

Let’s see the world – and the audience and the advertisers – as they are, not as we wish them to be.

Let’s acknowledge that the hard work of better business models is more productive effort than the easy work of simulcasting our on-air product, dodging SAG/AFTRA cops like some petty burglar, and hoping we hit the Arbitron lucky lottery numbers.

Let’s ask the question:  What’s an effective streaming strategy, and how do I make money with it?

It beats imagining that its 1983 and moviegoers are flocking to see Tom Cruise in Risky Business.

The real risky business is the the one that denies the reality around us.

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