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Wednesday, October 12, 2011
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For Artists & Advertisers: Radio's New Reach

"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." - 1911 Nobel Prize laureate in Literature, Maurice Maeterlinck

I refer to the above multiple times each year. It keeps me motivated when old style radio industry techniques continue, despite evidence that new media opportunity is great if radio approaches digital with thought.

"What if radio had created the couponing craze, or was first on the 'texting' bandwagon a decade ago?" Old style radio managers have a lot to lose with this shift to today's way of reaching people. Just look at Pandora-caused angst to confirm concern.

Then, now that another NAB/RAB RadioShow has past, ask yourself what new concepts you've seen come from it.

Radio trade publications are just beginning to highlight that digital will save the radio industry. The last couple of quarters have shown double-digit digital revenue gains aside low-single-digit broadcast gains. People who warned of this transition years ago are given no credit for being out in front with this news. But everyone now knows those "naysayers" had a point.

Now that radio appears to be leaning more towards digital, there are three items to keep in mind: 1) "App" is easy to say, but its power to increase an individual station's reach is minimal; 2) Social media is easy to setup just, if you're a radio station, don't look at the metrics or analyze ROI of time invested in SM. Chances are that results would itself cause anxiety; 3) Couponing is like selling ringtones. We all saw how quickly these coupon sites rose and we'll all now watch the market constrict to a niche consumer group.

On the music side we have another form of angst. Online, new music discovery is increasing with the same degree of success as digital radio revenues. Artists know that their time is better spent finding exposure on the internet, instead of trying to get commercial radio stations to play their songs.

In a short time our RRadio Music has placed 708 new songs on 120 radio stations, moved 440 "Intro to Indie Artists" programs across 172 radio stations, and played the "Intro" series of programs 42,000+ times to visitors at our RadioRow. Internet radio is a backbone to this growing new music distribution system.

Youth, those people who the broadcast radio industry has seen use less of its programming each year over the past decade, are now using the internet for uncovering - and passing on to friends - new music.

It's not all doom for the radio industry, though. "Resurgence" is a word it can use, but only if radio creates its own way of using the internet and stops jumping into the footsteps of other companies.

What if radio had created the couponing craze, or was first on the "texting" bandwagon a decade ago? What if radio executives had tried to build a single "country" web site that all of a radio group's country formatted stations could have pushed listeners to, to find unique content. Instead of being creative, the radio industry followed the "build a web site" plan, where each station sent listeners to hear its same content online.

There's now a chance for radio to use a station's stream for introducing new music, which it can promote over-the-air and sell sponsorships too. Radio stations could also be selling a chance for businesses to query its audience, through surveys (old example), and gain valuable insight to consumer desire.

The radio industry could, if it chose, start over-the-air campaigns that lead to online destinations - which allows radio to offer accountable advertising packages.

Radio's new reach for advertisers, and artists, is provided by the internet. To stay with the thought that the radio industry's power is best used by emphasizing a broadcast antenna will only lead to eroding revenue.

Opportunity is reaching out to all media through the internet. Not grabbing hold of it, simply because you are part of those "thousand men appointed to guard the past," does nothing but postpone the inevitable. Change.

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