Mirror or Lead, Today's Audio Dilemma

There was a time when this question was asked regarding media: Is it mirroring the masses or leading them? In the early 1960s one of our local stations called itself "Color Radio." That was its way of connecting with the mass desire as TV transitioned from black & white. Think of how many stations attempt attaching to digital today to feel this approach. Another of our local radio stations back then had the "Wild" moniker. It led the masses into fun things which were enlightening and irreverent. Finding that in an audio-based online destination is difficult today; video, not so much if you subscribe to any YouTube channel like Veritasium or Ted Talks.

Bigger-than-life personalities, booming call letters, a station's branding statement, and the station image painted by theater of the mind programming would either mirror its audience desires or lead to "new." The one time crown radio wore as a music discovery vehicle exemplifies the latter.

             Infographic: The Internet Trumps Radio in Music Discovery | Statista

Traditional broadcasters are no longer a concern. Over-the-air radio is not going to die, but it will never be as relevant again. Its worth lies in mirroring now. Change in the vehicle entertainment system will soon increase the age of radio's demo while a "Format of Your Life" attrition carries audience numbers down. View RAB revenue figures for first half 2015 to see the direction of network and spot revenue.

Overall the broadcast radio sector is a -1% y-2-y, saved only by a 2% growth in digital initiatives and an 11% rise for the new category of "off-air." That last category went from $849.5 million to $943 million. The former from $448 million to $457 million. In perspective, they are hardly huge leaps.

RAB 1st Half Revenue Report

Ironic is how current RAB president and CEO Erica Farber's comment on this is so closely aligned with wording used by a former occupant of that same position, Gary Fries.

Here's what Ms. Farber has to say this year: "This pacing, coupled with a positive outlook for the general U.S. economy, sets the tone for a stronger second half for radio sales." Compare that with this statement from Mr. Fries in 2005: "The Radio industry is very actively and aggressively pursuing new technologies, formats, and platforms which will drive the business as we move forward into the second half of 2005 and into 2006."

Here's a bonus for you: The RAB2005 "Radio industry Media accountability study" handed out at, of all places, the industry conference in Atlanta ten years ago. Compare it with what's said at 2015 Radio Show in Atlanta GA, Sept. 30 - Oct. 2.

Internet radio stations aren't picking up the slack, either. While we find a substantial number of ears moving to music services, podcasts, download sites, Facebook and YouTube, few online stations can be identified with leading audience through new and exciting programming. And here's where the qualifier needs to be said: There is no lack of programs or web sites offering "new"; this reference is in weak attempts at imaging online audio offering a bigger than life portal to "new."

I'm not aware of any audio site that positions its "new" as a "must-have to make your life better." Most pose their "new" as simply "here's something different."

Algorithms play songs. Playlists are accessed. Podcasts pretend their degree of penetration has reached a point where it matters, and for a few podcasts they have.

Few, very few, online audio sources go beyond the basics of providing music or talk with a station ID.

Lacking is that which old media was built on, the hyperbole of excitement, a bigger than life persona. I believe you can trace that to today's desire for "natural delivery." Unfortunately, being natural is normal and normal is mundane.

As we continue fracturing media into a huge number of topic categories, deciding whether to mirror or lead becomes moot. The number of programs in each category grows, and fewer fans embrace individual shows. (Can we still call them a "show"?)

Do you mirror your audience members' desires, or build interest by offering "new"? Once that's decided, what type of promotional tools are used to implement either strategy?

It doesn't matter if you are mirroring or leading. How deeply you are vested in knowledge of what tools are available and the time spent learning how each works are where effort needs to be placed to win.

Friday, September 11, 2015      eMail to a Friend

Today's artist introduction is to Pop from Dolly Rappaport.

Dolly Rappaport
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