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Is Radio Asking the Wrong Questions?

One of my clients is a local media company with assets in broadcast, digital, and print.  It is what used to be called a “newspaper” company.

And the differences between the conversations that happen in those halls and the ones that happen in many broadcast company conference rooms are stark.

In the “newspaper” company hallways, almost every conversation I have is about new ways to create, deliver, and extract value for the benefit of customers and clients – business model conversations.

In the “radio” hallways, almost every conversation is about Arbitron ratings.

Ironically, the local media company that evolved from “newspaper” and the one that began as “radio” are largely in the same business, but they tend to see that business differently.  One sees the future as a dramatic departure from the past while the other tends to see the future as a more complicated version of the past with the same customers, the same clients, the same ratings methodologies, and the same business model.

This is an oversimplification, of course.  There are many broadcasters who are experimenting with the future, but it remains far from the norm.

I don’t know how to say this in any clearer way:  Radio-like music options will proliferate.  The exclusivity of music radio – its dominance of our ears – is over.  Advertisers have new and ever-more-attractive choices.  This is not about “better PR” for radio.  It’s about solving today’s problems for today’s customers and today’s clients in a field of technology-driven choices.  Radio’s future is in the hands of its practitioners.  Its future is in your hands.

I believe there are two key questions broadcasters should ask themselves as they play with their own business models and plan for a future where Arbitron is not nearly as important as it used to be.  And here are those questions:

  1. How will your clients attract and deliver value to customers in the future, and how will they spend the dollars to enable that attraction and delivery of value?

  2. How will consumers get entertainment and information in the future, and how can you provide the kind of entertainment and information in the forms and places they will want to get it?

Note that I didn’t use the terms “advertising” or “radio.”

It’s time to ask the right questions.

It’s time to rethink the same old business model that worked great when the only mobile advertising platform and the only way to hear new music was “radio.”

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