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The Secrets to Reinventing Radio

Here’s a provocative piece on Radio’s “reinvention” from Triton Media’s Mike Agovino.

Mike makes this challenge:

…the clock is ticking. Radio’s distribution advantage is weakening. We will no longer simply own the car and the office. Radio brands are going to have to win a war of relevance in a sea of new competition. We will have to close the accountability gap between traditional and new media and provide proof that our campaigns move product and services. We’ve got to eliminate our legacy bias, systems and practices that impede our evolution. We’ve got to get past the intramural mindset that has locked us up for far too long. We will have to rationalize and optimize our inventories. We will have to entertain and engage in new ways that retain and enhance the affinity of our audiences. If not our brands will be worth far less than they are today.

Read Mike’s comments for a top-level view of what’s ahead. Also, check out the podcast I did with Mike many months ago.

And here are some thoughts I’d add:

Edison’s finding that “convenience” is the number one reason to listen to the radio illustrates the magnitude of our vulnerability: As long as we are most convenient, we win. But when we are either less convenient or when other technologies are equally so (as in, when they enter the cars), the number one reason to listen to radio will be dramatically diminished.

While radio remains ubiquitous, the fraction of media time occupied by radio is diminishing. In fact, as long as radio remains everywhere I would expect usage to remain virtually universal – but as long as options grow and proliferate I would expect the intensity of that usage to diminish. Meaning that we’ll be used less and less more and more.

One way for us to fix this problem is to provide fewer utilitarian experiences (i.e., cheap content that theoretically gets ratings – for now at least) and more passion-filled experiences (i.e., the expensive content that makes radio unique and worth listening to no matter what else is out there – Rush Limbaugh, Howard Stern, Ryan Seacrest, Play-by-Play, etc.).

And certainly we must keep investing in our products – the talent, the content, the research, the expertise – which is always close at hand and far cheaper than the cost of one bad decision.

The profit potential for radio in the future is a function of three things:

1. Unique and compelling content which can’t be duplicated easily 2. Strong relationships with listeners (which are dependent on point 1) 3. Strong relationships with advertisers, which include meaningful evidence of accountability

You want answers. There they are.

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