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Is Radio’s Primary Benefit that it’s FREE?

RBR Observation: What’s missing from the new radio campaign? Satellite radio has been pitching two things to consumers – – lots of types of music and no commercials. Terrestrial radio doesn’t have the channel capacity to match satellite’s offerings of niche formats. But when it comes to the big audience draws – – CHR, Rock, Country, Urban and such – – terrestrial and satellite radio are playing the same artists. Satellite’s pitch is “no commercials” – – but, you have to pay 10-13 bucks a month for the privilege. Terrestrial radio’s value proposition is obvious. It’s even better than Wal-Mart’s “Always Low Prices.” Radio is FREE! It costs the consumer nothing, nadda, zippo, the big goose egg. What could be better than that? But there’s nothing in the new PR campaign to tell the public why terrestrial radio is such a great deal. In truth, the new campaign is not so much for consumers anyway, but to assure Wall Street and Madison Avenue that radio is doing something to combat the “threat” of satellite radio. Actually, as Jeff Smulyan noted again last week, iPods and the like are more of a threat, since they keep young people from developing the habit of listening to radio.

My take:

I disagree.

The notion that we have to remind folks that we’re free and it’s better to pay nothing for what Radio provides than to pay something for what is presumably of greater value (otherwise they wouldn’t pay for it) is taking the low price position to an absurd extreme.

And by the way, with all due respect to Wal*Mart, does Radio really want a slice of the audio entertainment/information pie no bigger than Wal*Mart’s slice of the retail pie?

I don’t know about you, but I have no desire to work in an industry that has to rely on “low price” as its primary differentiating listener benefit. We should be thinking just the opposite: There’s stuff on Radio that’s so good you don’t HAVE to go pay for it somewhere else. THAT kind of mindset pushes us to do better, more innovative, more entertaining and informative Radio. The “no price” mindset pushes us to strip out costs, diminish quality, and hope that listeners see the logic that getting what they pay for makes Radio worthy of their attention.

I don’t think so.

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