Facebook Radio

Facebook is exploding.

In an era where everything seems to be on the decline, Facebook is picking up millions of new users every day.

It is not only just the fascination of Millennials. It is becoming addictive to Gen X and baby boomers as well.

It's simple and complicated at the same time, but I think it's worth a discussion.

How big is the social network Facebook?

Over 175 million active users.

The fastest growing demographic is 30 years and older.

The average user has 120 friends on their site.

There are 3.5 million new users signing on each day.

It is growing while there appears to be a general downtrend for Internet radio.

The growth of the mobile phone is spiking the popularity of Facebook.

It's more popular than radio or television or -- you name it. Facebook has become a real growth industry -- but with no proven business model -- at least so far.

Traditional media has yet to figure out how social networking fits in to what it does. Radio stations think that asking listeners to text in for tickets is social interaction. If it is, it is the most primitive form. Radio thinks a website is the Internet and that carrying a terrestrial stream online is new media.

That is not the future by any means.

It takes some getting used to but to understand how transforming Facebook and in fact social networking will be in the future, you've got to first look at generational media.

Baby boomers
• Radio
• Raised on TV
• Newspapers
• Cell phones to make calls
• iPod as a fascination
• Social networking just breaking through

Gen X

• Radio (but it sucks -- their words)
• TV and MTV
• Get their news online not in print
• iPods, Blackberries
• Social networking -- frequently for marketing purposes and business connection

Gen Y

• Radio only when there is nothing else
• TV is better on a laptop or computer and even more desirable without commercials
• Forget newspapers
• iPods are standard equipment for this generation
• Mobile phones are built into their hands
• Text messaging is obsessive
• Spying on each other over social networks is a right of passage
• They want to be involved in their media
• Want to stop, start, time delay or delete on demand

In the early days when the only choice consumers had was radio, listeners actually sat as families around a radio set to listen to programs. Over the years this model was adapted to include in-car listening and transistor radio or Walkman-type portability.

When television broke through in the 1950's, families again gathered together in front of their sets to at first basically watch radio shows. Then came development of various genres. Color TV. Sets in every room. Flat screens. But you watched it when it was broadcast to you -- until TiVo and DVRs came along.

The Internet allowed young people to gather their own entertainment -- at first in a rudimentary way -- and add the dimension of interactivity. E-mail, chat, instant messaging and texting evolved as time for traditional media options became scarcer. Then video, music downloading and social networking. Watching shows on the PC or laptop. Who needs a radio or TV?

In all of this, the game changer -- in my opinion -- is Facebook, the biggest town meeting that takes place in perpetual motion.

Radio can't be Facebook but it should have long ago formed its own social networks based around news, music, locality and the possibilities are endless.

In the future, listeners will not listen to broadcasts which is why I am not wild about business models that exclusively emphasize streaming radio at the expense of modular programming.

Podcasting will be the new radio because it can be compacted. It's portable. It readily fits into social networking schemes. Can be monetized without on-air commercials (yes, it can). And can grow through viral word of mouth.

There will never be a Fagreed Suleman or Lew Dickey or John Slogan Hogan again to fire a podcasting star because they will own the franchise. They take 100% of the profits. The cost of doing business is minimal.

That's why I try to encourage radio people to build 100 podcasts -- local podcasts, not national -- that can be sold in packages and generate free cash flow almost immediately. Cluster managers hate the idea. They like the old way. (Here's a YouTube preview of me explaining the compelling nature of the digital future here).

There will be no more morning drive -- and I'm not just speaking about how the consolidators have fired some of their best morning talent. There is no such thing as 7:20 in the morning anymore (the most listened to radio time in AM drive) -- at least with the next generation.

Future morning drive is when you drive -- anytime. If you are interrupted by phone calls or text messages, you won't miss a thing because you'll stop and then resume play when you want to. By the same token if you want to skip, you can. Delete it -- absolutely. You, the listener, become at the very least an "assistant program director".

And back to Facebook.

If you don't have a strong connection to a social network, you will not be a viable media business.


Inside Music Media, my own lab experiment, is not really a blog.

It's a social network -- interactive, two-way, spread by viral growth with the feel of a kinship to a cause and it's unique. It is far bigger than Inside Radio ever was when I owned it. And whatever it is to become, it will depend on social networking.

Just like radio will.

And music discovery.

So, if you can separate the image of radio having to be broadcast programming and Facebook having to be just messaging -- you can see where all of this is headed.

A new world, connected by a simple concept -- organized by interests and needs -- with video, audio and text available at every moment.

Radio people can create such content and provide marketing and sales and that is precisely the biggest miscalculation radio consolidators have ever made.

Not running radio into the ground -- that's bad enough.

But not budgeting to be part of a future that is ever so slightly beginning to show itself to us in the monumental growth of the world's biggest station -- Facebook.

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.