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Radio is Ignoring “Pre-Awareness”

In Hollywood, they call it “pre-awareness.”

It’s the idea that you’re already familiar with the concept of the movie, thus the studios don’t need to waste those precious marketing resources making you familiar with the concept. Even before you see it, you know enough about it to know you really want to see it.

It’s why so many of our cinematic tentpoles are followed by roman numerals, and why international territories in particular (the source of 70% of Hollywood’s revenues) are eating them up.

In television, CSI spawns CSI: New York and CSI: Miami.

In music, hits are produced by stars whom we look to for more hits.

And in radio?

Lots of our music has pre-awareness, of course. But the music portion of radio is the portion most easily substituted by other media and other platforms.

There are personalities who carry with them pre-awareness, but they are precious few and far between.

Rush Limbaugh? Mr. Pre-awareness.

Howard Stern? Ditto.

Dave Ramsey? Sure.

Ryan Seacrest? You bet.

And the list goes on, but the list is remarkably short.

Most of the “pre-aware” personalities in radio are in local markets where there’s zero pre-awareness outside those markets. Who in Tulsa knows about San Diego’s Jeff & Jer? Who in LA knows about Philadelphia’s Preston & Steve? These successful shows and dozens like them are parochial brands with limited pre-awareness.

In some cases, of course, we try to import these brands into new markets through syndication. But we are importing a brand without pre-awareness and have to depend on the quality of the show, the sense that “it worked in Peoria,” and the appetite of the market for options beyond its borders about which it knows nothing at all.

It seems to me that radio has all but abandoned the idea of exploiting pre-awareness, leaving this to other media or leaving it to the talents and brands themselves as they explore digital platforms which allow them to circumvent radio altogether, a move which makes radio that much less relevant to potential fans in search of familiar talents, brands, and ideas.

For example, how is it that the most popular entertainment-oriented podcasts have no place on the radio?

I did an entire Q&A with Kevin Smith on this topic, and to this day, Kevin continues to lead his podcasting empire. He’s a major “get” for any morning show lucky enough to host him, but still decidedly not a regular radio staple.

Sure, radio has ESPN, but how is it that when “pre-aware” brands like Comedy Central and Entertainment Weekly and Rotten Tomatoes create radio products, they do it with SiriusXM, not with you?

These are national brands, fully “pre-aware,” and exactly the things radio needs to create a future where fans flock to content they love – content that is unique, compelling, built for audio-centric platforms – and already familiar.

It’s content which has a tremendous introductory boost because, out of the box, we are “pre-aware” of it.

You can be in the utility business or the content business.

It’s your choice.

But if you choose content, a little pre-awareness can go a long way.

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