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Friday, August 31, 2012
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Feeling Safe - Being Stupid

Older radio industry vets will get this faster than the youth. Not because of a lack of knowledge on youth's end, but the lack of experiencing one of the greatest examples of "feeling safe - being stupid."

In the 1950s, due to a fear of communism and "the bomb," we had millions of homeowners digging bomb shelters. It was the antithesis of Facebook, and everyone was looking to isolate themselves in their own bubble of safety. Sci-fi movies were made about keeping guns in your shelter to protect your family from the attacking, frightened mobs. Sharing wasn't on anyone's mind.

Then there's this other item my wife and I discussed a few days ago. Another humorous aspect of that time concerned school drills of "duck and cover." Duck under your desk and cover your eyes, so you could supposedly be safe from that atomic blast which just blew the city of Cleveland off the map. Being six miles down the road from the Nike (missile) site aimed at Russia from Lake Erie's south shore, the activity seemed futile even to our (then) fourth grade brains. "Explain one more time how this desk is going to save me?"

"The radio industry is looking to feel safe at a time when there is no such thing as 'safe.'" Feeling safe yet being stupid is witnessed again and again within the radio industry today. That is, feeling the safety of sticking with selling commercials on a broadcast signal (diminishing in relevance to new generations) against the being stupid of not acknowledging the speed we are seeing transition occur.

Ad Insertion software doesn't work is one claim that's getting press today. Another is how royalty rates make doing business online impossible. Sound quality isn't equal to what's produced over-the-air is one protectionism statement I've also recently heard. These topics force us to ask if we're so ready to shout objections, what are some reasons that the radio industry should be diving into digital? And, if executives cannot see these "reasons," should these people be sitting in an executive's chair?

I don't get the part about a fear of ad insertion software not responding as needed. Observations like this come from people who don't know anything about the software available today.

I get, however, that broadcasters are protecting their turf. It's why the radio industry was absent when we (folks like me) were calling for help from radio in battling huge royalty rates (1998-2005). It was warned many times: "If they get high royalties from internet radio, the music industry is coming after radio next." The feeling of safety came from radio executives thinking that high rates would wipe out online radio as future competition. To paraphrase a Republican campaign line: "How's that strategy working for you now?"

I also get that fear invoked by "I don't want to cannibalize my broadcast audience." Only, this safe feeling doesn't last after realizing youth are uncovering what's online in an attempt to get away from what's offered over-the-air. The "being stupid" part here is choosing to stream a broadcast signal; those six-minute spot breaks won't work online. You're offering the same product that folks are fleeing. Online, you must deliver "new."

The internet is over 20 years old. Radio was first heard online around 1996, though buffering problems kept it to "*philes" through 2006. (Look up the software significance of that asterisk. There's a clue to how much you don't know.) Just keep in mind that "online" for radio doesn't mean only a stream.

The radio industry is looking to feel safe at a time when there is no such thing as "safe."

With the speed of technological change, "being stupid" is staying with a boat that is sinking. And this "BS" (being stupid) is magnified by not noticing the digital dashboard will blow a much bigger hole in the hull in short time.

If you're not learning the options, adjusting your approach, or swimming with the tide yet, there's not much that can be done. Your career in the radio industry will last only a few years as broadcast radio shrinks due to influences it has no control over.

As an industry there is too much desire for feeling safe, which requires - as interest in mobile grows - being oblivious to a changing environment. That latter part is being stupid.

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