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Radio’s Attention Deficit

Why doesn’t radio get more love given (as we’re always reminded) that almost everybody listens to it almost all the time in almost every place?

This is one of the industry’s greatest frustrations, and it’s particularly frustrating when advertisers and others in the know echo themes popular in the cultural ether.  Themes like “Pandora is really cannibalizing radio” and “Sirius XM is really eating your lunch.”

This is a problem I discussed at length with marketing blogger extraordinaire and best-selling author Seth Godin in a conversation that will post to this blog soon.

Usage, Seth told me, is not the issue.  Attention is the issue.  And attention is shifting and shifting fast in large part because attention follows novelty, as anyone who has ever listened to or programmed a Top 40 station knows.

Attention follows novelty.  Consumers hunger for what’s new even if their habits have yet to catch up with their attention.

The problem is that “habit” is about history while “attention” is about the future. Attention points the way for future habits just as a car’s future is where it’s heading, not where it has been, no matter how long it has spent there.

Attention is what we see reflected on the lips of agencies who profess the myth that Pandora is more important than radio. Attention is what we see reflected in stories on CNN and in the Wall Street Journal.  Attention, powered by novelty, is what consumers spread amongst themselves, it’s what they talk about with each other.

Radio’s vast usage is at risk as long as its attention deficit persists. And its attention deficit will persist as long as radio clings to vast usage as its best story.

It will persist as long as radio surrenders novelty to startups and streaming pure-plays and innovators whose primary concerns are the passions of consumers rather than the demands of an industry which takes those consumers for granted.

If you want to fix radio’s attention deficit, forget about vast usage.  Instead, open to novelty.

Open to a militant spiral of innovation.

Drive forward.

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