Tom Taylor offered up some questions for radio to ponder in 2014. I thought I’d take this opportunity to answer them:
1. Connected car – friend or foe?
Both – and neither.
The connected car doesn’t care about you, radio. It cares only about the consumers on the buying end of the auto transaction and, of course, the automakers on the manufacturing end.
Radio will be of value in the connected car in direct proportion to the value radio brands provide to consumers. In a world crowded with choices, consumers will embrace them and even seek them out. Without doubt, this will come at the expense of your radio brands, but some brands will suffer more than others. Which radio brands will rise above the rest? Those with the greatest magnetic value to their audiences – the ones with the most unique and compelling content.
While the connected car can provide music brands aplenty, it can’t do nearly as good a job at covering the value proposition of non-music brands. Look for the continuing transition of radio to non-music.
Look for smart broadcasters to quit demanding their shelf space and to start earning it.
2. Spotloads – will radio finally do something about them?
Sure, there’s lots of pressure from alternatives with lighter loads. But with short term pressures ever greater, asking the average broadcaster to lighten the spotload is like asking your alcoholic uncle to drink less because he’s at a party of teetotalers.
Good luck with that.
Indeed, the reason why supersized spotloads is such a problem for advertisers and broadcasters is not because the commercial volume per se is bad, but because like-formatted alternatives to traditional radio can offer similar content and similar reach with fewer interruptions, which is a plus both to advertisers and consumers. While one solution to this may be to match the lower spotload, the other solution is to differentiate the programming – to dramatically paint the difference – to de-commoditize your content.
Offer advertisers a unique context for their ad and all points of comparison vanish. There’s only one Superbowl, after all.
3. Will some groups bust up their AM/FM simulcasts?
Once AM stations migrate to FM and give their listeners a chance to figure out the migration has occurred, the only reason to retain a simulcast is because there’s no higher use for the AM frequency.
Those groups which bust up their simulcasts will do so only in the presence of a justifying business model. Most, however, will not – because the future of AM radio is relatively dim. Not only because of rising competition. But also because every time a radio station leaves AM for FM it takes a chunk of audience with it. And even in this era of the connected car – of “radio without dials per se” – less audience traffic on AM today means even less audience traffic on AM in the future, and so the spiral down will accelerate. Just as a restaurant dies when it’s no longer the place where “everybody goes.”
4. At network/syndicated radio, how much consolidation?
As much as the market will bear.
5. Will stations making major changes do the necessary marketing?
“You no longer expect listeners to find your station on ‘scan,’ the marketing experts say,” writes Tom.
Actually that’s not true. Scan still happens and people still use it.
But isn’t it incredibly lame to “assume” that listeners will discover your brand at random – by chance? Particularly for a medium that makes its living off advertising dollars. This type of non-marketing is the refuge of media platforms that have a lock on consumer attention – something radio no longer possesses. It’s a two-faced posture has always been inauthentic and will only be more so in a world of abundant data and easy targeting.
Look, stations making major changes need to spark word of mouth no matter how it happens, no matter the platform in which it happens, and no matter whether we call it “marketing” or simply “the only way to do business.”
So there you have it. My take on Tom’s questions for 2014. Now, what do you think?