Traditional Radio's New Year's Revolutions

By Dave Van Dyke, Inside Music Media™ Contributor

More industry-changing has occurred in the granular level this year, I believe, than in any year in recent history. Based on what we're seeing through our media consumer research, radio of all colors has learned a great deal. It used to be that terrestrial radio was the cheapest, best-edited, most ubiquitous and most accessible music provider you could find. But today, radio on a schedule or by appointment is giving way to "on-demand". Radio is no longer the only best place to find new music. Radio now faces new challenges, the greatest is the fact that the last dominant domain of traditional radio (in-car) is now under siege!

In a recent study we conducted we asked the sample "Where do you listen to the radio?" While in-home listening was surprisingly strong - but not compared to 15 years ago - in-car listening, the final bastion of the original mobile media, is beginning to be worn down - across all demographics not just with our nation's youth. 46% listened in the living room, 45% in the kitchen, 32% in the bedroom. But in-car, by far, out-distanced all other locations with 76% of those responding. This figure is down from 89% just six years ago! In today's tech-enabled environment, radio's biggest challenge is listeners' choice; radio's biggest advantage? The paradox of choice! This is a keystone of truth as traditional radio faces an even more challenging new year. In a world of abundance, radio has new opportunities to help with the decision stress that comes with so much choice.

So, looking toward 2007, terrestrial radio's new year's revolutions should be:
  • Cut through the clutter
  • Provide context
  • Improve content
  • Ensure relevance
  • Be Personal
  • Be "people'
  • Radio should continue to embrace podcasting to satisfy these key points.
The mission for traditional radio now is to get out in front of a changing market place. Involve the audience and provide a platform they use often and easily.

What are some pieces of the puzzle of radio's future?
  1. Radio listening will increase with convergence as listening on cell phone devices begins to gain traction.
  2. Radio will need to become increasingly visual and interactive.
  3. Advertisers will try to engage listeners with visual content that stations will provide to digital radio screens, Internet radio players, etc.
  4. Time-shifted listening and downloaded content via DAB will greatly increase radio's functionality.
  5. New 'non-radio' brands will launch new radio services.
  6. Fresh ownership blood and increasing numbers of companies going private will energize the industry's creativity.
Contrary to some belief, traditional radio has not been derailed. It has more competition which is using technology as its primary weapon. There's much work to be done and the new year is the right time for the industry to step it up.
(Dave Van Dyke is President of Bridge Ratings)