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When “Feel-Good” News Hurts Radio

One of the biggest mistakes the radio industry makes is to embrace and encourage "feel-good" statistics from Nielsen, Arbitron, and others that look for and find the good news.

There's nothing wrong with good news, of course.  But the world knows when you're not telling the whole story and it damages the credibility of the story-teller and our industry, both.

Take this piece from MediaPost, which reports on Nielsen's pronouncement that radio is still "tops with teens worldwide."

Not only does the article poke holes in the argument but it points to the weakness of the argument itself:

Indeed, the Nielsen study ended up damning radio with faint praise. For example, Nielsen's observation that "teens may find themselves in older cars not yet equipped to play from their MP3 player" hardly inspires confidence, suggesting a residual audience held in place by technical limitations that will eventually be lifted. Likewise, Nielsen's assertion that "radio still serves as an information source for local social happenings of extra relevance to teens" describes a function that is marginal to radio's overall business, and also an easy target for disintermediation by online media.

Too often, our industry is so hungry for positive spin that we leap into obvious traps – and I'm talking about companies (Nielsen and Arbitron) who should know much better.  With friends like these, who needs enemies?

Here's the headline I want to see covered in MediaPost:

"Radio broadcaster launches bold initiative to reinvent industry."

Don't look for that headline to come from Arbitron or Nielsen.

Please, Arbitron and Nielsen, save your "good news."  You're not doing yourselves – or the rest of us – any favors.

Rather than assure me I'm not ugly, how about announcing my makeover?

Our industry desperately needs a public relations effort with teeth – one which is about the truth of our progress and plans, not about false images of momentum full of more holes than swiss cheese.  This is really pathetic, gang.

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