This New York Times piece has gotten lots of distribution around the radio industry, and for good reason: It’s actually a positive story about our industry in one of America’s most influential newspapers.
But also for another reason: The news gatekeepers at the Times evidently found the blurring of lines between radio – an audio medium – and video to be newsworthy.
So what are the lessons of this early trend towards the use of video for radio stations?
There are a few, at least:
1. Too many radio stations are squandering their web efforts. That’s because virtually no money is invested there. And if it is invested it tends to be dumped into clunky and dated templates designed more to minimize expense than to maximize effectiveness and brand potential, let alone revenue. You can’t enter the video world unless you get serious about your web effort. Not because it’s particularly expensive, but because it requires talent and management and know-how.
2. Tons of radio stations still don’t stream. Video is a great element of the branding mix, but until I can hear your station online who are you kidding? You might as well not be online if I can’t hear you there.
3. Video is a great way to deepen the relationship of listeners with your radio station. And a great way to generate tons of page views which, of course, can, should, and will be monetized. How many times have I heard stations kvetch about the lack of “reasons” why listeners should visit their websites. The reasons are right there in front of your face. It’s the ingenuity, the drive, the will, and the funding to plug them into your websites that’s lacking.
4. Deep vs. Broad. Video is “deep” in the sense that it further immerses listeners in the radio station’s experience. Your obligation is not only to go “deep,” but also go “broad.” That is, to extend your content into every nook and cranny of the listener’s daily life (to the degree that they want it there, of course). This, for example, is why YouTube enables the ability of consumers to embed videos in any old web page. They don’t force folks to go to YouTube to experience the content. The listener is in the driver’s seat. We need to be wherever they are, not vice versa.
5. Radio stations tend to stubbornly resist the idea that their audiences are communities with a common interest in the radio station and instead view those audiences as pawns in a game of Arbitronic chess. The way to move listeners is by facilitating and motivating their movement, not by “forcing” it. So, in other words, if you build a community worth participating in, they’ll come. And if you don’t, all the contests in the world will only nudge you along a path to progress. Video is a magnet. A big one. Use it.
In answer to the Times’ question: “Is Radio Still Radio if There’s Video?” I would ask, “Is a media brand still a media brand if it can’t be experienced and consumed in every medium and every place?”