The value of “Free” – or not

Now that Infinity has launched a slew of stations with the word “Free,” that word has moved to the forefront of the radio industry’s lexicon.

I noticed, for example, that Mancow is now referring to himself (in a banner ad, anyway) as “King of Free Media.”

On one hand “free” is a clear and definite advantage for radio over many other media. And one with a strong listener benefit.

On the other hand, “free” has, does, and always will signal “low value.” The expression “you get what you pay for” is a longstanding one for good reason.

I am not arguing that calling your station “Free” is a mistake. I’m only saying it should not be the primary way you brand your efforts.

“Free” is the obvious extreme of “cheap” and we know what quality that word communicates.

For the Infinity stations, “Free” is a nice reminder than the great quality content (they hope) is available without strings. But it’s certainly all about the content, not about the “price.”

Listeners will not be hesitant to pay for value if the “free” content doesn’t measure up. “Free” may be necessary for terrestrial radio, but as a benefit it’s not sufficient.

So use the word, but not in place of what really drives the value of your product.

Don’t let “free” go to your head.

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