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AG News: Wednesday - 7/8/2009

Radio Industry is Pushing Against a Wave

Holding back a wall of water with an outstretched arm and hand fully-opened is a preposterous image. Thinking the radio industry will stop the wave of local online ad spending by countering with outdated claims is just as absurd.

I just read through the Southern California Broadcasters Association's "Radio's Unique Assets for Advertisers" handout. I walked away thinking these folks are (most probably) emblematic of the industry at large - which is why it stays in trouble.

Please, I urge you to look at SCBA's brochure. Read it carefully. Before reading, ask yourself a simple question: Who is this talking to? As you go through its 11 pages, notice on each page how this communique is constructed about "me, me, me."

This is a sell-sheet that lacks innovation at a time when advertisers and audience are demanding new concepts to bring them together with quantifiable returns.

The "Radio's Unique Assets for Advertisers" pitch offers no clue that radio is effectively riding the wave of new media. It does go through great pains to try and attach itself to it, though, by using keywords like "voiced consumer generated content," "virtual neighborhood," and "delivers the same unique content on the Internet as over the air..."

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to take a left turn and pull in additional pages, which you need to view.

Marketing Pilgrim has this story about ad budgets being reduced by 47% for traditional media. It also carries this line: "Regardless of where the money is being spent, marketers are feeling more pressure than ever to deliver results." Marketers are under-the-gun to prove their worth. How can they do this using radio? There are methods, but none are explained in "Radio's Unique Assests for Advertisers."

Over at is the headline "Borrell: Local Online Ad Market Will Be Bigger Than Expected This Year." Yet there is nothing to indicate that the radio industry is prepared to deliver a substantial presence online within "Radio's Unique Assets for Advertisers." There are references to radio: "Itís used live, in real time, and itís on demand, itís interactive." But aren't "live" and "in real time" the same? As for "on demand" and "interactive," there's quite a long trip before terrestrial radio can claim to offer these services in any degree that matters. People whose job it is to know realize that this claim is a bloated chest-thumping line.

Buzzwords are not needed. Implementation of concepts and proof they've been successfully deployed are the rabbits that radio needs to pull out of its hat.

Let it be known that my story had its start at Radio Business Report, where I was led to the SCBA report in a short article by Dave Logan titled, "We need more of this type of thinking." Please, we do not. Mr. Logan, who is a director at Focus360, introduces the report this way: " is a great "Radio's Unique Assets" presentation [by] the Southern California Broadcasters Association."

Then he points to a very real problem that doesn't seem to be addressed in the report: "Why spend a fortune writing and producing an excellent commercial that will be running in a pod of obnoxious 1-800 numbers?" This last item is of major importance, as it's been on the table for years without being addressed by the radio industry.

The "Radio's Unique Assets for Advertisers" handout shows more about what is not understood by radio than what it has to offer.

I assume that its audience is comprised of media buyers who - in a very generalized statement - are most probably in their late 20s and early 30s, and are part of a group that knows what's available online. They are also becoming more aware of how online is being tracked and analyzed. They know that radio and MySpace don't belong together, as featured in the RUAA graphic on page 9. They also know that although radio can be described as "...the only medium that is directed to YOU, that can talk, instantaneously, about whatís going...," it doesn't.

Radio is still trying to sell itself instead of speaking about the benefits it brings to audience and advertisers. It's pushing back against a new media wave using an outstreatched arm with hand fully-opened, and I imagine the other arm covers its face as a brace against impact.

New media is not a wave you stop with outdated claims re-worked into the parlance of the day. It's one you get on and ride.

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President, Audio Graphics
Ken Dardis
Online Since January 1997

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