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The End of Radio’s “Zero-Sum Game”

Some years ago I invited noted tech evangelist Guy Kawasaki to speak at a broadcaster meeting, and his topic then is as relevant today as it was at the time.

"I don't understand why radio thinks of itself as a zero-sum game," Kawasaki said, and that's exactly how radio thought of itself then and, to a large degree, still does today.

The zero-sum game is the one where I win only when you lose.  The pie is limited and the slices are either yours or mine.

Ratings, for example, are the province of the zero-sum game.

If you feel success is defined only be victory in ratings, those ratings can, by definition, come only from another radio station.

If, however, you feel success is defined by revenue, then only that fraction of revenue locked in the ratings ghetto is part of the zero-sum circus. 

The key is to open to new solutions, new platforms, new strategies, new connections between audiences and your clients – virtually all of which will rise and fall based on the ingenuity and effort invested in them, regardless of whose ratings are what.

This is not idealistic prattle, it's an explanation of why some fraction of marketing dollars are vanishing from the ratings pie altogether, never to return (and make no mistake about upticks in spending here and there – some of those dollars are gone forever).

These dollars are not lost to radio, however, they are only lost to radio ratings.  They are lost to faceless impressions directed at faceless consumers with no measurement or expectation of effectiveness.

If, as Kawasaki pleaded years ago, radio focuses on creating value for the clients rather than simply splitting the advertising take with its industry competitors, there will be more value to go around and more revenue, too.

Our clients are fast-becoming their own media outlets.  Who better to kick-start their marketing effectiveness than the local media companies with decades of experience in content and connection?

Plan beyond the zero-sum game – or prepare to play by somebody else's rules.

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