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Tuesday, April 24, 2012
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Radio Industry Ramblings

In reverence to Samuel Coleridge and his poem "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" ("Water, water every where, Nor any drop to drink") - one could say "Guidance, guidance all around, yet not a drop of truth."

Let's dip into what folks learned at last week's NAB/RAB and the amounts of dubious information the radio industry is soaking up from "experts" with little-to-no experience in the field, who are writing words based on conjecture.

"There is plenty of information available for operating online; but, as with hoards of analytical metrics that are also out there, you have to know what to ignore." Maybe I missed it (and if so, certainly welcome a correction), but did anything of substance come out of last week's get-together in Las Vegas? Beside radio trades headlining 90,000+ in attendance (and I'm guessing only a couple of thousand were from the U.S. radio industry), I've scoured trade journals to see words indicating we have a new direction. Please forward anything you found 'cause I didn't see a blurb.

What I did see last week, and a few weeks prior to that, is a glut of information coming from newfound "experts" in everything from podcasting to online advertising and social media to search engine optimization. All gave advice on how to take your radio station to new heights with each discipline.

All share one thing in common; what they present is vague, incorrect information that mislabels the difficulty in reaching qoals.

I think we're having a problem with translation, as in Chinese products aimed at English-speaking consumers.

Only, what we have in radio is a systemic problem wherein a person reads about a subject, doesn't really do anything to bring that subject to life (or success), yet feels they have the knowledge to start guiding others with unsubstantiated claims of "you can do this, too."

What follows are a few examples, with podcasting being a good place to start.

Podcasting has been around since MTV VJ Adam Curry created the concept in 2004. It had a flurry of activity in the few years that followed, was laid to rest as a misunderstood element within radio, and has not been reborn to any degree of success.

Just to square away the definition, "podcasting" is the distribution of an audio file through Really Simple Syndication (RSS) or other distribution software. What the radio industry has been calling podcasting is on-demand downloading a file - nothing more. That's misinformation, point #1.

As for making money off of podcasting, there are so few people succeeding today that a claim like this is comparable to swatting a mosquito and pronouncing you've wiped out the insect population.

Public radio is at the forefront of all things digital, even it only has a few examples of on-demand programming (what the radio industry calls podcasting), and fewer - by definition - successful podcasts. I'm not aware of any broadcast operation that's making podcasting work, and I welcome anyone to correct this statement.

The other day I was reading a radio trade article about search engine optimization. It was filled with false promises. Yet, no one in radio has the ability to question the veracity of the information. Perhaps one view of the video (below) will give you reason why search engine optimizing is not just an extremely difficult item to do today, but it is also being subjugated by filtering techniques used by thousands of web sites and all major search engines.

If the embedded player does not show in your browser, use this link.

Another article printed in a well-known radio trade dealt with online advertising. I'm not sure where the author's information came from but it is nothing like what you'll find by spending a few minutes at the Interactive Advertising Bureau's web site. Mis-labeled ad formats, erroneous suggestions, no mention of reasons "why" conclusions were drawn were just part of the errors presented. Following these suggestions is going to guarantee nothing more than time wasted, yet it's there for all to read and heed - and not a person in the audience will question accuracy.

Finally, social media is something that we've seen printed about almost daily in radio trades. Yet, how many times have you seen words printed that define how you are to measure the impact of social media actions? If I've missed this, please forward the details because I know of teams of technology experts who argue over any company's ability to properly use Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc., effectively.

In the radio industry, though, we have "experts" laying out their guidance on how a station needs to work SM - with no metrics to back up their claims, just lots of words claiming they know.

Coming back from this latest NAB/RAB, everyone in radio needs to take a moment and assess what they heard. Recently we had a high level individual calling for registration of people at radio web sites with no acknowledgement that until station web sites are more finely tuned to the expectations of visitors, a request for registration is most likely to generate a "not me" response. Use your own reaction to requests for registration as a guide on this.

Gathering user information is something that's required, and it's effective if done over time. Getting minute bits of information about a user on repetitive visits is key, so let's first get radio industry web sites to a point where they have content worthy of a person coming back. Then we should concentrate on the mechanics of gathering data. It's not done the other way around.

There is plenty of information available for operating online; but, as with hoards of analytical metrics that are also out there, you have to know what to ignore. From what I've been seeing lately that includes most of the guidance being given in radio trades and at industry conventions.

What's been happening for the last 15 years in the radio industry is this: everyone wants to drink the Kool-Aid, with very few people knowing that it is tainted (I have multiple years of in-field experience for each of the above disciplines, and do know).

What radio is demonstrating is akin to being thirsty in the middle of the ocean, not understanding that all you see is salt water. But, you drink it anyway just because you're thirsty. After awhile, as any mariner knows, that makes you delusional.

Does anyone see a pattern here?

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