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You are not in the “Radio Industry”

A couple years ago, radio industry vets would have scoffed at the idea that a leading broadcaster like Radio One would ever consider erasing the word “radio” from its name.  But that is exactly what’s on the table for the folks at Radio One who are finding that more of their revenue is coming from local media activities and less of their revenue is coming from radio advertising per se.

If and when they make this change it will not constitute “giving up on radio.” Rather, it will represent a realization that “radio” today is “media” (specifically, local media). Just as “TV” is “media” and “print” is “media” and ad agencies are “media” and even many of our most popular brands are “media.”

“Radio” isn’t the industry you’re in, it’s one channel of distribution for your content.

Yes, you are the only folks in “media” who are selling “radio spots,” but in the long run advertisers will not be buying “radio spots,” they will be buying some measure of results.  Historically, one could only get results through advertising. And there were only a few options for doing that. Today, it’s quite another story.  Just as Clear Channel recently inked a deal with an outside provider to power its social media efforts, every one of your clients has that exact same power through those exact same social media channels.

Pandora’s edge in this world isn’t just that it ranks as high as it does compared to other radio “stations.”  It’s that every user of Pandora is known by age, sex, location, and the degree to which they do or don’t respond to the ad presented to them.  This, of course, is why online radio is so important to “radio’s” future.

What you have that other media don’t is the added power of your on-air “megaphone” to invite interested consumers to destinations in line with those interests (note I used the term “invite,” not “drive” or “force”).

The significance of this world-shift is dawning on more than a few broadcasters, yet some still seem immune to the message.

I have written often about the rising importance of accountability among advertisers – marketing is increasingly about result metrics, not promises of reach and frequency, and not vague song-and-dance routines that were at their most effective during an era of three-martini lunches.

So how to explain the fact that many broadcasters explicitly disallow their clients from measuring the accountability of their campaigns?  If I’m your client, don’t tell me your job is done when you run my campaign.  I want to know not only how many ears you supposedly reached, I want to know what actions resulted from that reach.  How many folks went to a customized landing page?  How many called my 800-number with your trackable code? How many sent a TXT for more information?  Etc.

Yes, many broadcasters, if asked, say “no” to accountability tactics like these. “Proof of performance is not our business,” they are effectively saying.


“Radio” is now “media.”  And “media” are increasingly about accountability metrics.  Whether those metrics are measuring a change in attitude about your client’s product or brand, an increased intention to purchase that product or brand, bonafide leads for more information, etc.

If we are not helping our clients to achieve their goals explicitly, then who are we really helping?

And how, exactly, is that going to help us over the long run?

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