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The Key to Building Value in Radio

This week Mediapost columnist Diane Mermigas summed up the challenge for media companies so succinctly, I wanted to showcase the core of her point so it doesn’t get lost:

The key to building value is using interactivity to create complementary or additive — not substitute — offerings that extend or reinvent traditional advertising, content and communications.

Read that again, because it’s vitally important.

We are in the middle of an unyielding cycle of creation and destruction.

We witness TV Guide and Newsweek sold for a combined total of $2, each buried in debt.

We watch as the revenues of both magazines and newspapers continue to slide.

And while broadcasters are cautiously optimistic about the future, that optimism is couched in the awareness that comps relative to 2009 are easy. Comps relative to 2010 may not be.

Still, this is a time of tremendous opportunity for media companies, but only if those companies recognize the seeds of opportunity and choose to sow them.

We will have to see opportunity for what it is: Not simply a non-traditional stream of revenue to add to our existing one, but a way to extend our influence and effectiveness for our clients and consumers in anticipation of replacing those traditional revenues before nature shrinks them for us.

We will need to leverage our influence to build new brands and new connections between consumers and advertisers.  We will have to move from radio to un-radio, where the over-the-air content becomes but a piece of our portfolio.

As Diane put it, we will have to “extend or reinvent traditional advertising, content and communications.”

We will have to envision our “radio stations” as something much different and much bigger.  We will have to invest in digital tools which do not self-liquidate their expense on day one.  We will have to embrace practices that will not be “best” until we have been practicing them for a while.

We will have to dance the dance of innovation and prepare ourselves to trip on our own feet on the way to success.

Recently, I was told by a high level broadcast leader that radio was doing a better job of selling what it has in its digital store than in stocking that store with stuff that attracts and engages vast quantities of consumers.  In other words, it’s not a sales problem, it’s an innovation one.  A content one.  The problem is not with our megaphone – it’s with how we’re using it.

I submit to you that the best sellers in the world can’t polish a turd.  As an industry we have set our sights tragically low.  We are still stuck in a mindset of non-traditional revenue or on justifying over-the-air buys with value-adds.  We are not stuck on leveraging interactivity with consumers.  We are not stuck on getting better results for our clients.  These are the only ways to increase value for media companies in the future.

I have had a few broadcasters contact me about the test video I did for a local auto dealer where I gave a discount redemption code good for 30 days.  The idea here was that any station could produce such a video for one of their clients and count the number of successes that resulted.  The question I get is always the same: “Did it work?”  Fact is, this was a test.  It didn’t run on any station, so I can’t answer the question.  But the obvious answer should be of course it will work if only you try it. That’s just one example that begins to leverage radio’s megaphone in order to reward interactivity and reinvent the advertising equation.

Stop analyzing and start doing.

It’s the thinking in radio that has to be changed.  It’s not about this or that digital ornament.  And it’s certainly not about pacing up relative to last year in traditional over-the-air agency buys.

It’s about what the whole thing adds up to and what that means for your consumers and advertisers.

Think strategically.  And invest with disruption in mind.

But by all means invest.

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