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Friday, September 23, 2011
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Following Trends, Even When They're Negative

The radio industry is known for following trends. Listen, and you'll hear hosts talk of whatever is trending popular. The folks who program and sell radio sweat bullets prior to each of Arbitron's trend-reports being released, usually pointing to what's reported as sure indicators of a station's direction.

It's curious that, with the way radio is caught up in trends, we don't see people in the industry following online trends more closely.

"The search for online digital audio content is not going to shrink...." I attended a gathering of Cleveland area broadcasters yesterday, and the words "ROI," "metrics" and "analytics" each only came up once (glossed over as if they were side-notes during this one-hour session). Nothing in radio seems to have changed over the years relative to these words.

I believe the avoidance of these three online mainstays indicates a trend in broadcasting; it still does not understand just how tied to measurement the whole action of marketing has become. Marketing has been trending towards measurement of campaigns for years now, with literally no response from those in the radio industry (and very little from their television-attached cousins).

For radio, here are two items that I feel also show what needs to be acknowledged and accepted as "trends."

1) CNet News reports "iPhone 5: 20 most-wanted features." It shows what consumers are wanting in their smartphone. Guess what did not make the list - a radio tuner in an iPhone.

2) More telling is this graph from Google Trends - which indicates the degree of public inquisitiveness on any topic you wish to research, like radio stations in the United States.

Neither of these signs is good. But let's add another trend and hope someone in the executive suites of a radio industry group - or at RAB - is listening; let's add Pandora, iHeartRadio and Spotify to the Google Trends graph above. This is what you get. (iHeartRadio is that little blip of red in the lower-right corner.)

We can no longer afford to simply talk about how the radio industry is involved with technology, while ignoring what's being accepted by a quickly-growing group of consumers. Even the terms "online radio" and "internet radio" are not fairing well, relative to the numbers of people searching for these services online.

The tentacles of technology stretch far deeper than the simplicity of exploring searches for the term "radio stations." For this I'll use a graph showing how the term "analytics" is gaining attention. View this as an indicator that people - perhaps the very clients that advertise on radio - are becoming more interested in gathering data for marketing.

The search for online digital audio content is not going to shrink, yet it appears that the radio industry is doing little to take advantage of its growth. Nor is it apparent that radio is showing interest in analytics to understand consumer response.

The radio industry needs to make its move now. To think otherwise is only placing all persons and properties involved farther behind this mass of technical knowledge.

Publisher's Note: I join tens of thousands of Northeast Ohioans who mourn the passing of WGAR air personality Chuck Collier. Having worked with him, I am proud to call this truly gentle giant a friend. I cannot recall one time in our thirty-year acquaintance when he said anything negative about anyone - even during those most anxious times of consolidation. The radio industry has lost another legend.

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