Should Radio talk about iPods on air?

Here’s an excerpt of the comment from Dwight Douglas, via RBR:

[When stations say they are “like an iPod on Shuffle,”] they are saying this to their listeners, “We know that you would rather be listening to your iPod right now, but because you can’t, we are going to try to be like an iPod.” That would mean that an iPod is clearly better than radio and what you should be listening to. Radio makes a lot of mistakes in marketing, and this is just another one. Same as putting down Satellite radio in the spots they recorded. The analogy would be a guy keeps talking about his old girl friend while trying to get to second base with his new date. Why talk about her? Why keep throwing this up in her face? Why not just play lots of great music and sound like you are having fun doing it. I am missing something, or has radio gotten a little defensive in its old age?

I have great respect and admiration for Dwight, but in this case I think he’s mistaken.

Everyone understands the primary functionality of an iPod – that it jumbles songs in random order on demand. Radio has been trying to commuicate this for years using terms like “mix” and “variety.” The iPod reference is a metaphor (or, technically, a similie). And metaphors are useful because they allow our minds to make connections they wouldn’t otherwise make.

The fact that the iPod makes “variety” tangible accounts for its metaphorical power. Thus it’s perfectly valid for Radio to draw that comparison. It’s good communication and good messaging and improved comprehension of the fundamental message: There are lots and lots of songs here and you’ll hear them in an unpredictable order.

It doesn’t at all suggest that an iPod is “better.” No more than me saying “he’s running like a bat out of Hell” suggests a bat is better than the guy doing the running.

None of this means Dwight is wrong in his assertion that, indeed, we should be “playing lots of great music and sound like we’re having fun doing it,” but I take all that as a given.

Nor do I read any defensiveness in Radio’s use of the reference. Acknowledging one of the most important pop cultural trends of the new milennium is not “being defensive,” it’s being awake.

If you ignore iPods they will not go away. In today’s media landscape they are a more potent force than Radio. That’s the way it is. USE iPods, don’t ignore them. And if it makes a useful metaphor, have at it.

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