Radio: Stop Making Excuses

Despite plenty of marked progress over the past couple years, I still don't think most broadcasters understand where we're headed.

We're headed to a place where boundaries between sound and pictures and text are dissolving before our eyes and ears.

We're headed to a land where ratings and reach matter less than what those folks you reach do when you reach them.

We're headed in the direction of advertising evolving into marketing, of messaging evolving into relationship-building and community-nurturing.

We're headed in the direction of consumers – not broadcasters – determining what's worth having and when and how.

When I hear broadcasters tell me they don't have enough resources to do what needs to be done in these areas, I am not sympathetic.  You don't build a house with three walls, do you?

There remains a fundamental misunderstanding – one which extends to radio's digital strategies all too often – that we can cut our way to success.

If you can't afford to compete in radio in 2009, then I say get out.

Recently a broadcaster asked me a perfectly fair question:  Why should we focus our efforts on digital when the likes of Will Ferrell can't make money there?

Here's my answer:

Will Ferrell doesn't own your radio station.  Will Ferrell doesn't have your loudspeaker.  Will Ferrell isn't in the business of connecting consumers with advertisers like you are.  Will Ferrell doesn't have the advantages you have – advantages that are the envy of most pure-play digital players.  Will Ferrell uses his digital activities to spark interest in Brand Will so that next time a Will Ferrell movie comes out, the line will form at the box office.  He doesn't need to make money online.  He just needs to make money.  You are not Will Ferrell and he is not you.

That's aside from the fact that if you asked Will Ferrell himself whether his online efforts have paid off, my guess is he would say yes.

Meanwhile, another conversation.  This one with a well known provider of premium digital pure-play video content.  For a short series of videos, a sponsor just ponied up $250,000.

So if the guy with no tower – no loudspeaker – can make a quarter of a million bucks with one series of videos, what can you do?

Now stop making excuses.

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