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Friday, August 15, 2014

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Facade of Digital Coverage Won't Help Radio


This starts with an article at Radio Ink. It is about Saga CEO Ed Christian, and contains this quote: "There's a lot of misleading information about what's going on in digital." Followed by "I ask anyone to tell me, other than the name of a company like Yahoo, what was created as a result of Internet advertising?"

I responed in the comment section with "If at this late stage you need someone to tell you, you have not done the work necessary to understand."

As stated, this is where it starts.
"Debating Mr. Christian in front of a radio-only audience will do no good until that audience educates itself on the possibilities of taking data driven action."

Dave "Giff" Gifford also responded in the comment section with "I dare you to challenge Ed Christian to a debate on this issue in front of a jury of your peers." I agreed, with "I'll take you up on that challenge - providing "your peers" include people who also KNOW the digital end of radio's competition."

I then sent an email to Radio Ink's Ed Ryan explaining why "peers" need to include people who know digital. Radio Ink was gracious enough to post this, for about 24 hours - though, not sure why, as few people will be exposed to it in such a short time. (I thought this strange because this publication will keep a fluff piece about social media up for a week.)

Here is my answer, as Ed titled it: "RADIO INK IS NOT THE PLACE TO DEBATE DIGITAL." Viewing comments about Disney's announcement to sell its stations, and BMW excluding AM radio from its new electric car, shows this audience will continue to refute evidence of a "share shift," which just happens to be the statement made by Saga's Ed Christian.

To Ed Ryan, Editor, Radio Ink:

Thank you for offering to host a debate, and for the link to Bob Hoffman's talk at "Advertising Week Europe 2014." Let me address this in reverse order because even the way Mr. Hoffman's talk was introduced, by you, shows why Radio Ink is not the platform on which to place a debate of this nature. ([Ed's words:] "You should all check it out, especially if you think Digital is winning the day. You may be surprised.")

In my opinion, Bob Hoffman was talking of advertising from a position of not understanding the analysis of online data. In his preamble (around 6:30 in), where he ties scientific "proof" to online prognosticators, he states that "knowing something, it turns out, is completely different than thinking you know something." Much of what follows is void of his "knowing something"; though there are a few stats, they are general and not focused on the change taking place with youth. He says multiple times "...this is what I think" with no supporting data.

[The next 5 paragraphs relative to Mr. Hoffman are redacted here, but may be read at Radio Ink]

Now, my reason on why Radio Ink is not a place to hold an impartial debate that's judged by its audience: The digital proponent loses before opening their mouth because there are many nuances of the digital arena that will not be understood by the audience.

This is not saying stupidity reigns, but too often I see radio people discussing "being digital" when what they mean is "we have an online presence." (I just wrote about one conversation with a large market radio general sales manager on July 31.)

If the audience is distributed between traditional media and new media types, the debate will be judged in a more impartial manner (which is why I requested that "your peers include folks who KNOW digital"). Think of a politician and their objective in saying what the crowd wants to hear.

If it's a radio-only audience, such as Radio Ink serves, you'll find many people shaking their heads in agreement with Mr. Christian - simply because they lack an understanding of the digital side of this equation.

Let me bring up one more comment from Mr. Hoffman; it appears around the 32-minute mark in his talk: "Attending an advertising conference these days is like going to an insurance seminar. It's full of bland, jargon monkeys who just repeat the overcooked cliches of the same experts we see at every conference." This is preceded by: "We have developed a terrible habit of telling half the truth, half the time. We speak in dreadful jargon that obscures what it pretends to clarify." Replace advertising with radio as a reference in both sentences; that's reality.

I've attended too many radio conferences and have heard the questions from audience members, which are less than novice and embarrassing when taken in the context of what should be asked at this time of digital's growth. I've also never had this question answered: What is it that you learned about digital at this past conference and took back to your station and implemented? I'm not aware of anything. Are you?

Debating Mr. Christian in front of a radio-only audience will do no good until that audience educates itself on the possibilities of taking data driven action. It is possible to track movement from ad to cash register. I've done it. It is possible to give definitive ROI figures on ad spend; I've done it. What is not possible is to discuss the promise of going digital with a group whose majority is begging to stay the same.

And so we leave with this quote from 1911 Nobel Prize Laureate in Literature, Maurice Maeterlinck: "At every crossroad on the road that leads to the future, each progressive spirit is opposed by a thousand men appointed to guard the past."

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