Satellite Radio’s biggest problem: Part 2

Last month I presented what I think is one of satellite radio’s biggest problems. Today I tackle the other one.

And here it is:

To appreciate satellite radio, you need to hear it. But to hear it, you need to subscribe. But to subscribe you need to hear it, and to hear it you need to subscribe.

A vicious circle.

The satellite folks have tried to heal this problem by installing magnetic talent and content, “star” content. Now I’m a big believer in this. But a star is a brand and a brand is based on how you know that brand.

For example, I know Howard Stern as a great radio personality – I have heard his terrestrial show so I know what to expect from his satellite one. However, I know Oprah as a great television personality – I have seen her TV show but have never, ever heard her on the radio and have no idea what Radio Oprah is.

Not until I hear it.

Meaning…not until I subscribe to it.

But to subscribe I need to hear it first – and more than a couple times.

And so loops the vicious circle.

To be sure, the spotlight of star-based attention creates an aura around a product, even where it’s unclear what you’re going to get by listening. Still, no amount of aura, no celebrity halo, can substitute for first-hand experience.

It is arrogant to imagine that great content will trump immense distribution and ease of acquisition.

The other way the satellite folks have tried to fix this problem is via free sampling. That’s what the online streaming and the new car trials are for.

And these are fine for the truly motivated satellite-seeker. But what about the great masses of passive radio users? The folks who want to invest only as much work into their radio experience as it takes to press an “on” button in their homes, cars, and at work?

The key to unlocking success for satellite radio is free trial on a massive scale. The key to unlocking success is to lower the “cost” of acquisition – not in terms of dollars but in terms of hassle. The key is to make it easy. The key is to make “experience” with the product impossible to avoid.

And “standard” equipment in new cars is only one such mechanism, and a slow and steady one at that.

Only through experience will listeners appreciate what they’re missing.

How can this be done? I know some ways, but that’s between me and my clients.

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