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Wednesday, August 22, 2012
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Radio's Place Online Not a Stream

Just a quick comment from left field before getting into the meat of today's radio industry based discussion. If ignorance is bliss, it's contagious and spreading; bliss is everywhere today, as those who choose to hide behind anonymous names speak with idiotic words - online and off. This approach is usually defended by calling it "free speech." To anyone capable of thinking on their own it's humor, like watching "Dumb & Dumber" in HundredFold-Vision.

Two examples to the above are Rep. Todd Akin's attempt at explaining why abortion should be outlawed for rape, and Hank Williams Jr's recent comments at the Iowa State Fair. Let's not use these two eccentrics' words but those of their supporters, who continue to echo whatever is placed in front of them (as long as it coincides with their own beliefs). Thoughts wrapped in ignorance work better for these people. They carry a motto of "Letting truth get in the way only muddies conversation."

"The radio industry belongs online, just not in the way it presents itself over-the-air." I bring up this topic of unfettered comments because they appear to be uttered throughout the radio industry, too. Whenever items that go against radio traditionalists' beliefs pop up, defenders open their mouths and display an ignorance similar to early Southern arguments against ending civil rights infractions.

There's a strange similarity to what's happening now and Governor Wallace's standing in the doorway of the University of Alabama and his comment: "The President (John F. Kennedy) wants us to surrender this state to Martin Luther King and his group of pro-communists who have instituted these demonstrations."

Be a critic of how the radio industry is approaching this second decade of the 21st century, and whackos come out of the woodwork - hiding behind "anonymous" or made-up names - with inane arguments using plenty of spurious words.

I've taken arrows and, frankly, don't worry about attacks. My concern is the radio industry's new place online. I only write about this when having data to back up my points to ponder.

For nearly 15 years we've heard radio executives' and lower level employees' conjectures, based on wishful thinking. The packaging of radio programming online began around that same time, as hundreds of stations tried repurposing their over-the-air signals via It was a bust.

Yet we're revisiting an earlier year's approach as Saga Communications announces a plan to regurgitate its airwaves into its streams. Again it won't work, because radio's place online is not what it is offline.

There are only a couple of things to consider when the radio industry uses the internet: 1) What is the user looking for? 2) How do I quanitify that my station is delivering it? Everything else is superfluous, yet this "everything else" is what we normally find when radio goes online.

To anyone in a radio industry executive suite who believes radio is perceived the same way online as it is over-the-air, look at the numbers while leaving your gut feelings behind.

In all but the top cities, a station's stream is going to deliver so few individuals from your own market that it's not worth pursuing. Analyze the number of people coming from other markets within your state, or the nation, and you'll find a totality being so low as to make delivering advertising impressions from this a lost cause. (Add analytics and metrics, which radio does not, and we have a different story.)

Radio's place online is to use what the internet offers to expand limitations of over-the-air content. NPR does this in a remarkably successful way. So why do we not hear it being done by commercial radio industry groups?

The internet is not a place to replay what was aired during your morning show. Few "bits" warrant the effort of posting.

Online is a place to expand on what your advertisers offer. It's also a good spot to play new songs you'd like to expose your audience to, or a place to ask important questions about programming or advertisers (emphasize "important").

There's also nothing wrong with a station web site having a separate section dedicated to helping advertisers. But that latter suggestion is not done even remotely close to how online companies approach helping advertisers. (A catalyst to why so many ad dollars are moving to the internet?)

The radio industry belongs online, just not in the way it presents itself over-the-air.

Radio cannot afford to ignore a growing apathy among youth, succinctly shown in one listing of the 2012 Beloit College "The Mindset List." This annual call to what's important for freshman collegiates has this fact about the group: "Having grown up with MP3s and iPods, they never listen to music on the car radio and really have no use for radio at all." Want more evidence? Read this.

Radio industry traditionalists are apt to start calling this absurd and claim Arbitron has a different opinion. I'll probably receive a few emails telling me to quit the BS, too. But what Beloit College is saying rings true, and all those in radio need to watch youth and see how they interact.

The ignorance of denial is what usually enters the conversation around points like this. I've witnessed it hundreds of times over the years, during this shift in how audience and advertisers use radio.

It's almost as if we've hired Hank Williams Jr. as a radio industry spokesperson, and everyone who holds power in radio is standing at the Iowa State Fair - where a bigoted idiot speaks and the crowd cheers.

Governor Wallace finally admitted "I was wrong." I'm waiting to hear those words from radio's major executives. Until they are spoken, the industry remains in trouble.

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