Radio's Discovery Channel

I want you to know that the word discovery and the concept that it embodies is emerging as a key factor in the media needs of the next generation.

Again and again I'm hearing it and discussing what it means with members of the next generation. It's worth your attention.

Generation Y -- the social generation -- relies on each other in ways previous generations could not imagine. Through Facebook and MySpace and the lesser known social websites, this generation learns about music, performers and ordinary people of interest just like themselves.

Do you know that when they date and obviously rank high on their mates list of favorite people, some college students I know actually worry about being dropped from their mates list when they break off the relationship. It doesn't pay to be a jerk when breaking up -- your favorite friend ranking may be at stake.

While the radio industry has mined a very effective term in "fresh" for branding content aimed at generations who still listen to terrestrial radio, "discovery" may be the word that represents the concept that unlocks Gen Y.

Of course, there are several problems:

If radio or television embraces "discovery" the way they usually use and abuse key words and concepts, then they might as well not try. I can just hear some radio station becoming Discovery 101.5 with the usual tight playlist, hyped liners and the same old, same old.

No. No. No.

If radio stations looking to attract young listeners can use the term and back it up with a large playlist of new music, for example, then they will do what stations like non-commercial KCRW in Los Angeles do everyday. Actually Gen Y discovers new music, new genres, new artists. KCRW does it naturally without the terrestrial radio hype, but what if...

What if some brave commercial broadcaster actually developed a station based on discovering new music, new trends, new things, new people. They would be doing something the next generation is telling us they really want. Let's not get too excited, radio is so 90's to this generation but remember that their beloved KCRW is broadcasting on an old-fashioned -- radio dial.

What if these same terrestrial broadcasters tied their discovery channel into the Internet and mobile worlds delivering extra content in ways most terrestrial stations cannot or will not currently do?

What if discovery was marketed differently. Less reliance on spots and more emphasis on user-generated content including commercials. That's right -- many of you ask me again and again how can you make changes that would matter to the next generation -- you can start with user-generated content. Check out Current TV. You may not like it but increasingly Gen Y is liking it because it is about their favorite people -- themselves. And Gen Y if it is anything is about -- you guessed it -- Gen Y.

What if discovery meant becoming a social network. Don't let the technology get in the way. There's plenty of good technology that can help you make your product a social network. Facebook and MySpace aren't the only social networking concepts that will fly with this generation. Without a social networking component no media company can endure with Gen Y.

I get sad and mad at times when I see the sorry state of the record business and radio industry these days. Failure is rewarded at the highest levels and content providers, marketers and salespeople are being pink slipped because of incompetence at the top.

Those of you that know me personally know how excited I remain that providing content will be a huge business in the years ahead.

Not just radio -- that's merely towers and transmitters -- but content.

Not TV -- but video for mobile devices and user-generated video.

I'm not a big believer in Google. Sorry, I know that is politically incorrect and this site is a Google site so if it somehow disappears, well...

Nonetheless I get this feeling that in the next five years or so advertisers are going to wake up and see that Google ads are like, well -- spot radio -- inefficient and ineffective. You know, Google may even be thinking like me if you watch how they are plunging into so many new business areas in an attempt to keep the growth coming. They are rolling out their own version of Wikipedia with users being able to attach -- you guessed it -- their own ads.

I'm not wild about traditional advertising for the future. There are so many other ways that will be needed to sell to the next generation.

What's next?

User-generated content supported by revenue models that do not include spot commercials. 99% of all radio commercials -- and this is my opinion -- are awful. Ask the great Chuck Blore, who knows how to harness the medium effectively, what's wrong and you'll see why radio has little chance of selling anything to a young person.

And don't fret about whether user-generated content can sound good when the radio industry is forcing boring voice tracking into their listeners ears. How bad is that -- even with professionals cutting the tracks?

So for what it's worth, it's all about "discovery".

The next generation is into it in a big way and this is your chance to go to school on them.

Unlike TV, Radio's Discovery Channel is not really a channel -- not a place, a destination or a brand.

It is a means to re-approach the next generation with something they crave.

For those of you who would prefer to get Jerry's daily posts by email for free, please click here. IMPORTANT: First you must check your mail or spam filter to verify your subscription immediately after signing up before daily service can begin.
Thanks for forwarding my pieces to your friends and linking to your websites and boards.