The Future of Radio with New Media

The attendees at this year's NAB radio gathering in Philadelphia heard over and over again that new media is accounting for more and more of their advertising revenue.

No one seems to know how much of radio's ad pie new media will eventually eat and it appears to me very few of the big bosses (the only ones who are attending this conclave among the major consolidators) care.

Avoiding bankruptcy -- sure, they care.

Reinventing the wheel -- absolutely, they are into it.

Meanwhile, the companies that pander to the radio industry (I could have said sell things to the radio industry), are cranking out happy horseshit at a record pace at a time when they need to get real.

For example, Nielsen saying that radio usage is strong among younger demos -- 18-34 in 52 markets they rate. An amazing and unbelievable (and I accentuate unbelievable) 21.5 hours of listening each week in line with people aged 12+.

And Nielsen wants you to believe their audience measurement with conclusions like this?

Go out and look around -- which 18-34 year old is listening to a radio in lieu of an iPod or instead of texting? But happy horseshit plays well at radio conventions -- to some people, not all.

To those who know something is seriously wrong, they aren't buying this stuff.

Arbitron did no better.

They issued the usual "90% of all people are listening to radio" edict -- well then, damn, why is everything so grim? Are we to believe things are okay while new media is stealing radio ad dollars?

Is it just the recession or what?

Or the findings from a survey Vision Critical Radio conducted that has anointed the new Apple Nano with a built in FM tuner as the most encouraging thing to happen to radio since the iPod.

Isn't the Nano rumored to be replaced within a year by a new product as iPod sales continue to decline at the expense of iPhone sales?

Anyway ...

The survey of 3,000 consumers 18+ shows "encouraging interest in the interactive features of the FM tuner among the younger listeners who are the heaviest users of mp3 players".

The research asked the question "might be interested" and they give you this premature and misleading conclusion.


Let's get real.

If new media is eating radio's lunch as the bankers told us yesterday, radio cannot be business as usual.

You see, radio is barely involved in new media. They spend nothing or next to nothing on their digital future. Where it exists, smaller radio operators are beginning to generate revenue. They call it non-traditional. I call it non-B.S. revenue.

You can't have it both ways -- is what I am saying.

If anything made my visit to this year's NAB worthwhile, it was that there are so many smaller operators who attended -- and even sent associates -- who already know that what they hear from the so called experts is tantamount to pandering.

Pandering serves no purpose. It's okay to admit a problem and radio has a big one.

No, not that one!

It has lost the next generation.

To regain the next generation, successful radio brands will have to invest in serious new media initiatives while it is improving its local terrestrial radio service.

Radio has five to seven years left as a free cash flow gorilla.

But with 80 million Gen Yers coming of age who prefer and expect content on demand, radio broadcasters will have to become content providers where this generation now gets their entertainment or else they will head into the sunset with their towers and transmitters.

There is nothing to be upset about. No reason to pander to you.

Radio is the most prolific supplier of 24/7 content on the face of the earth -- now.

We can add video.

Create new streams of programming for the Internet and mobile spaces.

Build popular apps that have nothing to do with replicating our terrestrial signals.

For example, a high school sports app that covers every scholastic sports event in your region. Don't look now but ESPN is already testing that concept. They are hiring. Are radio stations?

Same for news -- 85258 is my Scottsdale zip code. Some day I will type 85258 and get a radio content provider who gives me news, pictures, videos etc for where I live.

Music -- well, we're working on that once both sides come to their senses and encourage the use of music by broadcasters in new spaces.

And the social networking aspects are loaded with possibilities.

What we can't do is only 24/7 broadcasting or streaming and call that the future.

The people I stood with at the back of the meeting rooms during the NAB sessions or in the hallways know how to do this.

The handful of misguided and ego-inflated CEOs who have lost their self-respect and are now on their way to losing their radio groups are the obstacle -- not radio people.

Churning out happy talk to pander to people who aren't buying it makes companies look like fools.

The joke is on the consolidators -- not the good and talented radio people -- some of whom I met at the NAB who are shaking their heads in amazement as to how such a good business wound up in the hands of a few bad apples.

The good Apple has a capital "A" -- and they get it. We need to think more like them than the bad apples who have put a serious hurt on radio's ability to be part of the digital future.

(By the way, I had an interesting talk with Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey at the NAB. I will tell you my impressions soon if you check back)

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