Monthly Archives: April 2018

Radio isn’t dead yet, but it may be committing suicide

AM-FM Radio

Pandora released its 2018 Definitive Guide to Audio recently, and the verdict is clear. Broadcast radio as we’ve known it is on its way out.

The music streaming service released its first guide in 2017; the second annual edition, in their own words, is “chock-full of helpful insights on the state of audio advertising today.” Among the key insights, as if you couldn’t predict, is that audio streaming has entered the mainstream.

53% of us stream audio weekly (I’m streaming a radio station right now…does that count as streaming or radio?). In fact, we stream audio more than we play our owned music (CDs, digital music files, etc.)

But what caught my eye is the continued decline of radio.

Radio was my first career, my first love. I’d still go back and do it again today if i could support a family through radio. But broadcast radio as I knew it doesn’t exist any more, and if it isn’t dead yet, it may be committing suicide. AM/FM radio listenership has fallen by 34% in the last 10 years, and commercial clutter is the self-inflicted wound. According to Pandora, major market stations cram as many as 10 ads in a break, which is bad for both listeners and advertisers.

Radio listeners are willing to wait only so long while ads play before they tune out. It’s a simple push of a button and they’re off to another station or to the aux input where their phone is connected and ready with their favorite playlist. Let’s be honest – too many commercials just p*** listeners off. It was the No. 1 complaint I heard when I was in radio and nothing has changed.

Now, we all get it. Advertising is how stations pay the bills and stay on the air; radio is business and that’s how business works. But advertisers don’t like endless commercials either, because it makes it harder for their ad stand out. After all, one spot in a cluster of four stands out better than one in ten. And that’s if the listener even stays through the whole break.

Our tech follows us into the car

Radio listening is declining in cars as the adoption of alternatives like satellite radio and car connectivity continues to increase. We get real-time traffic updates from Google Maps, and according to the Definitive Guide, “Pandora is the dominant installed brand in connected cars, and its active user base has grown at triple-digit annual rates over the last six years.” Shocker.

Everybody under age 65 spends more time using smartphones apps than we do with radio. As that trend strengthens we’re more and more likely to keep listening to music on the smartphone when we get behind the wheel than to switch to the car radio.

How does radio survive?

Chip at WENC-FM

Me at age 18, playing 45 RPM records on FM radio

Don’t count radio stations out just yet; the industry has adapted before when pundits rushed to pronounce the medium dead. From the 1920s AM powerhouses were the singular source of dramas, comedies, and variety programming until television overtook radio as the dominant broadcast medium in the early 1950s. Having lost their original market, radio stations turned to music and news/talk, where they found a new and solid audience. If broadcast radio is to survive now, it must again learn to adapt.

In fact, the Pandora guide suggests that for radio to stay relevant, it must embrace mobile apps and other methods of online delivery of their content. Strong digital platforms have already demonstrated their formidable strength in the media marketplace and they show no signs of retreating.

If radio was forced to splinter into niche programming to keep its audience 70 years ago, the mandate is even greater now. There really is no such thing as mass appeal any more, as cable networks, streaming networks, podcasts, and more  lead the way by catering to niche audiences. Radio must continue learning to tailor its content to more narrowly targeted audiences.

And for crying out loud, radio has to figure out a better balance between sales and programming. Granted they are like two wings of an airplane and you can’t fly without both of them. But the current imbalance will leave the airplane spiraling downward until it crashes and burns.

Failure to adapt could leave radio in the past, a distant memory just like the 45 RPM record it leveraged to survive in a long forgotten lifetime.

See Pandora’s full report

 

Radio receiver photo by Anthony from Pexels
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If the service is free, you are the product

If the service is free, you are the product - article by Chip McCraw

We’ve witnessed a little hyperbole, hand-wringing, and uninformed political posturing in recent days about data breaches and online privacy. The latest, and surely not the last, has Facebook squarely in the cross-hairs. But I think some of us are overreacting a bit.

If the service is free, the customer is the product.

That’s an old saying often attributed to the IT community. Not much is free in this world; somebody has to pay for everything. (After all, the lights have to stay on and web hosting providers aren’t charities.)  Facebook and other “free” social media juggernauts are paid for by ad revenue. That’s why they can be free to us users. Therefore, the users are the “product” being sold to advertisers. That’s never been a secret. I’m just surprised that anyone is surprised by that.

Generally speaking, nothing you do online is private. I completely understand there are necessary exceptions like your financial records, etc. But what you do on Facebook (the hotel you stayed at last night, what you ate, what you like, how much you hate the president, etc.) by its very nature, is very public.

So my unsolicited advice, with all due respect, is get over it. Here’s why:

If you post something online, it’s now there for advertisers and everybody else to see. If you don’t want everybody to know it, don’t share it online. Even if you answered questions in an online quiz, did you really think your answers would be private? It would be terribly naïve to think so. But I firmly believe it all can be a good thing.

As a marketing person, I love it.

I can spend my limited advertising dollars much more efficiently by targeting an audience that’s likely to respond to my message. Who doesn’t want to use their money wisely and effectively, and get the best possible return on their investment? Granted, I don’t need or want your name, phone number, or address in order to do my job. (That information is easily findable online in public records if somebody wants it badly enough, though.)

But if I can find out that you have a greater propensity to buy what I have to offer – without prying into what’s truly private – then I can try to engage you with something that’s more likely to resonate with you. I don’t waste my budget and risk annoying a lot of people by getting in front of folks with zero interest in my product or service.

As a consumer, I love it.

I really don’t need to see ads for industrial supplies or Japanese beauty products, but I just might be in the market for new tires or stock images for a website. I appreciate seeing ads that are actually relevant to me instead of just random noise. It’s a better experience for everybody.

My wife figured out the game and now plays it to her advantage. A while back she wanted a new cell phone cover. Instead of buying the first thing she liked, she did a Google search for cell phone covers, clicked on some of the results, and then waited. In fairly short order, ads offering better deals on cell phone covers started popping up in her Facebook feed and following her around as she moved on to other sites. She got what she wanted, and at a better price.

That’s at least partly due to a practice called remarketing (or retargeting, depending on who’s talking). Marketing professionals understand that 96% of visitors don’t convert to buyers the first time they visit a website. Remarketing is an effective way to connect with people who have already shown interest in their product or service as they browse elsewhere.

We can fret over the illusion of online privacy, delete our social media accounts, and try life off the grid. More power to you if that’s what you decide. I’ll miss you on the interwebs.

But the better approach, in my opinion, is to do our homework and understand the technology for what it is, beef up privacy laws as necessary to close real holes, and take ownership of the information we put online. In doing so, we can leverage that information to create a better experience for ourselves and the people we choose to do business with.

Now it’s your turn. How are you dealing with online privacy?