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Radio’s Short-Term Emphasis May Be Fatal

I’ve been writing a lot lately about the tie-breaking value of doing the “unnecessary” – The idea that doing what’s not necessarily “important” (at least not yet) can eventually become the decisive difference making your brand more desirable than all the others.

Doing what’s “unnecessary” means doing what you don’t have to do.

Or do you?

Witness the astounding number of “unnecessaries” in Jeff Bezos’ most recent letter to shareholders, including this:

When we’re at our best, we don’t wait for external pressures. We are internally driven to improve our services, adding benefits and features, before we have to. We lower prices and increase value for customers before we have to. We invent before we have to. These investments are motivated by customer focus rather than by reaction to competition. We now have more than 15 million items in Prime, up 15x since we launched in 2005. Prime Instant Video selection tripled in just over a year to more than 38,000 movies and TV episodes. The Kindle Owners’ Lending Library has also more than tripled to over 300,000 books, including an investment of millions of dollars to make the entire Harry Potter series available as part of that selection. We didn’t “have to” make these improvements in Prime. We did so proactively.

Amazon does what it does “before it has to” because it is focused on its customers.

In so doing, Amazon has frequently and brazenly disappointed the short-term investors who tend to dominate Wall Street, investors who forever grumble that Amazon should be “making more money.”And, in so doing, Amazon has built one of the most dominant, enduring, and valuable enterprises that the Internet boom has yet produced. Meanwhile many other promising companies that rode the Internet wave have stumbled, in part because they put too much emphasis on short-term profitability and failed to invest enough in long-term value creation.

“…too much emphasis on short-term profitability and failed to invest enough in long-term value creation.”

That phrase should be familiar not only to many in broadcasting but to many in all aspects of business. Profitability is, as the saying goes, an outcome of doing the right things, not the “right things” themselves. Consumers don’t care if you are profitable or not, they care only that somebody’s out there fulfilling and anticipating their desires.

This is why my upcoming hivio radio ideas festival will feature zero sessions on better monetizing what we have, but lots of sessions on creating more stuff that satisfies and anticipates more desires and thus attracts more attention and usage which enables monetization as an outcome, not an input.

Radio’s got it all backwards.

We sweat the auto dashboard because we don’t want to get lost on it, but we forget that the most important ingredient to our relevance on that dashboard isn’t the technology which brings us there, but the content that pulls consumers in.

We obsess on the challenges of monetizing our streams without asking the obvious question: Will consumers embrace audio streaming en masse whether or not radio chooses to participate in the process, whether or not radio can monetize its wares on that platform, whether or not radio delivers the right products and services the right way to consumers who desire them on their terms, not ours?

Consumers don’t sympathize with our problems. They expect us to sympathize with theirs.

Relevance in the consumer marketplace is the sum total of investments in long-term value creation.


If a broadcaster can’t make a living out of those long-term investments, then he or she will have to make room for innovators and disruptors at the edges. Or for those broadcasters that see the Big Picture and act accordingly.

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