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TV is going Social and Interactive; What about Radio?

It is estimated that 23% of American consumers will own a tablet by 2012 (up from an estimated 12% now).  Tablets are built to be interactive media devices (among other things) and their penetration will only promote the transformation of TV into an interactive experience, including interactive advertising.

And the explosion of apps powered by mobile devices and tablets alike has enabled a slew of startups built around the proposition of socializing the TV experience.

For example, Yahoo’s IntoNow listens to what you’re watching:

IntoNow makes engaging with your friends around your favorite television shows easy and fun. Just tap the green button when you’re watching, and IntoNow will identify the show, right down to the episode. Once identified it’s easy to share with your friends on Twitter or Facebook.

XBox, with 35 million members, will add voice and motion interactivity to commercials for Kinect owners.

Lost Remote spells out this new world:

Until now, the only real metric has been TV ratings, and the promise of interactive TV has never reached scale. Too many technologies, set top boxes, cable/satellite operators. But as mobile apps grow in scale, they live seamlessly away from the traditional confines of TV technology and competitive lines.

In addition, TV will soon be organized not just by what’s on but by what your trusted friends are watching that you might enjoy, too.

These developments and more will make TV programming and advertising more social and more interactive.

But the key thing that makes this possible is not that TV is digital per se, but that the way consumers relate to TV is digital.  In other words, the interactivity and social engagement happens on digital platforms which are not on the “channel” itself but rather exist around that channel. XBox is not a TV channel. IntoNow is not part of the TV box itself.  There is no GetGlue chip inside the receiver.

In fact, all of these tools are independent add-ons – apps, if you will – that thrive in the ecosystem that swirls around the content that makes all this conversation worthwhile in the first place.

What radio broadcasters must understand are the following points:

  1. All the social media in the world don’t matter unless your content is fundamentally worth talking about and sharing

  2. Too much radio is built on the proposition of “reaching” a “passive” user. Yet the world of advertising (and the world of television) is increasingly catering to the active user, the consumer who wants to proclaim her attention in the form of engagement with your content and advertising. Radio is at risk of being left behind.

  3. “Reach” is the wrong metric. “Attention” is the right one.

  4. Ratings are insufficient to make the case to advertisers who want deeper and richer levels of engagement metrics – the kind that interactivity provides.

  5. TV is going interactive and social; The content is the context for the conversation but the creators of the content don’t own that conversation. Talk to anyone in TV and they will tell you how critical this type of conversation is to them nowadays, yet few in radio view this as much more than an inconvenient expense and distraction.

  6. TV does not own the tools that enable this conversation and interaction (the apps) – they only provide the content which makes those tools work. Radio should surrender the notion that all the interactivity we seek with content and advertising should be owned by the industry providing the content (HD radio, I’m talking to you). Instead, let a thousand flowers bloom.

Where is the social layer of radio?  Where is the interactivity with content and advertising?  Where is it about “me” and my friends, not about you?

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