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The Value of Being Loved

Last week Nielsen released a study by the "Council for Research Excellence" which observed several hundred people over two days to determine (among other things) what media they consumed and how they consumed those media. 

I've been poring over this study during the past few days and I find it to be very compelling and quite sound, notwithstanding the way some of its results have been spun.

The radio industry has largely focused on the conclusion that radio's dominance as an audio medium persists, despite the public perception to the contrary.  And it has been especially notable that this dominance persists among 18-34's (even though a long series of studies by my company and others have made this point for years).

This has been viewed as cause for celebration in radio circles, and while it's certainly good news, we need to understand what it really means.  And that's this:

Two primary values of radio in a competitive audio marketplace are its ubiquity and its ease of use. It is, in other words, the perfect medium by far for passive listening.  When you don't want to fool with hardware, when you don't want to program your own station, when you don't want to re-sample the same list of tunes on your iPod, when you're in environments (especially the car) where alternatives are either scarce or require even a modicum of work to enable, then the radio and its popular content rules (note that I'm talking about music stations here; News and Talk stations are a whole different story).

This is not to diminish what radio provides in any way.  Quite the contrary.  Most of the music listening world will not want to self-program their stations most of the time.  Just ask them.  The audience for letting the content flow over you is certainly greater than the audience which insists on control.

But here's the thing:  The distance between "control" and "passive" is shrinking.  And the ease of use and ubiquity of "control" is destined to grow.  And as the value proposition of "control" grows, more people will want to be in control, even if control is limited to switching from the FM band to the Online Audio one which is most assuredly coming to a car near you (look at the picture below – closely).

So it's critical that we recognize something important:  Being used by many listeners is not the same as being loved by them.  Clearly, you can be used dispassionately until a more passion-filled alternative arises.  When "ubiquity" and "ease of use" are two of your key attributes you are skating on the thin ice of time and technology's good graces.

Being loved is not that hard, really, as long as we set out to achieve it.  

So let's!

I'll write more about this study later this week.

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