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Why Content Matters More than Technology


Worried about technology crowding out your radio brand?

Freaked out about the car dashboard and the latest mobile gadget?

Maybe you should worry more about the content you bake into your radio brand that makes it desirable in the first place. Especially when your industry has invested 100 years in content expertise, not flashy technology.

Leave it to storyteller extraordinaire Malcolm Gladwell to sum up this point.

In a recent speaking gig at the Inbound 2014 conference, Gladwell took the audience back to the beginnings of radio.

It was 1921, a time when few understood why they should own a radio and fewer owned one. Radio was a luxury, not a necessity.

But even at the dawn of the ’20’s, Americans loved boxing. Excitement raged at the prospect of the heavyweight championship match between American Jack Dempsey and his French challenger, Georges Carpentier. It was, as newspapers of the time described it, the “Battle of the Century.”

Huddled in his lab, David Sarnoff was an RCA engineer with a bright idea: What if his employer, RCA, would broadcast that match on the radio?

Such a thing was unheard of. In fact, a sporting event had never before been broadcast.

The bosses at RCA thought this was nuts, of course, and rejected the idea. The thinking at the time? “The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to no one in particular?”

But rather than surrender, Sarnoff decided to get busy: “He went outside the usual channels, stealing a radio transmitter from the military and cobbling together a network of bars, union halls and other gathering places where people could listen to Dempsey fight Carpentier.”

The result?

“The largest audience in history” – 300,000 people listened to the first radio broadcast of a sporting event, and perhaps the first broadcast of any event.

No longer was radio an expensive luxury that mimicked the content you already had in the daily newspapers. No longer was it a hobbyist’s toy. All at once, radio brought the world into your living room – live.

Within six months, more than a thousand companies entered the business of making radio sets for consumers.

Radio sales exploded.

Radio had gone mainstream.

Not because it was cool.

Not because it was the newest technology.

But because of what was on it.

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