The Tipping Point for Radio

Radio will be left out of Steve Jobs' new mobile tablet device that he is expected to announce next Wednesday.

Malcolm Gladwell in his book of the same name defined the tipping points to be "the levels at which the momentum for change becomes unstoppable".

My friends, we are about to witness history next week when Apple provides the electronics, the infrastructure and the consumer confidence (no small thing) to save traditional media.

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal alluded to Apple's goals. No one will know until Apple CEO Steve Jobs comes down from high to announce the next big thing, but speculation is running rampant.

The tablet could allow for cable television subscriptions customized by the user and billed to their Apple account. Music may be streamed and safely tucked away on a "cloud" for instant access anywhere on any device -- again, for a monthly fee.

Monthly fees have failed miserably in the music sector but Apple could pull it off with a cool new device that allows consumers to read books, save the newspaper industry from itself, access school textbooks, read PDFs, go online, use apps from Apple's app store, play video and movies at a whim, listen to Internet radio and Pandora and on and on.

But what appears to be left out is radio -- terrestrial radio.

You see, the tipping point has already been reached in radio and the momentum cannot be stopped. Consolidators and their followers have killed off local programming and local personalities. They've done this with a smile on their faces (after all, remember a year ago when Clear Channel laid off almost 2,000 people and said that was going to fix the industry?).

Maybe it would be better to rename the tipping point the Dipping Point in the case of the radio industry. Turns out less was never more. Any idiot knows less is not more.

Even an alien from Mars would know that to dilute local radio for the economies of repeater radio, Imus in the Morning, syndication, voice tracking and cheap programming is compromising the industry's future.

And now, next week, radio will see just what bean counter planning earned it -- a footnote at best on the most fabulous new consumer device and entertainment platform ever devised.

Radio is not necessary to people other than radio executives.

Yes, I know -- 236 million people listen to radio every week according to Radar and big CHR stations still pull in millions of listeners (if you count People Meter metrics as listeners).

I would respond, if radio is strong at 236 million people, why was the industry declining even before the recession? I know from my work teaching the next generation -- radio has by its own hand removed itself from the soundtrack of its listeners' lives.

Radio studies layoffs and new ways to get health care companies to buy spots while consumers get their news and entertainment online and from mobile devices. And advertisers are now telling radio stations what they think of them by driving the price for commercials down to the lowest levels ever.

Steve Jobs studies sociology and then invents the technology.

Radio studies "layoffology" and then invents a breed of radio that is easily left off the next must have media device.

We've got it all ass backwards.

The Wall Street Journal article's only mention of radio is Internet radio.

Here it is:

"People familiar with Apple's plans say a central part of the new strategy is to populate as many Web sites as possible with 'buy' buttons, integrating iTunes transactions into activities like listening to Internet radio and surfing review Web sites. "

This is what we talk about in this space all the time and what I will cover at my Media Solutions Lab next week.


Yet, the radio industry is content to sit still and miss the next wave after having denied its way through the Internet revolution for the past decade. Why do you think every major broadcast company budgets less than 3% at best for Internet/mobile and digital operations? Isn't that wrong? The Internet will be the thing historians look back on 50 years from today -- not towers and transmitters.

Not good for companies whose money is tied up in FCC licenses and old transmitters.

One of my readers points out,

"When Google retreated from trying to sell radio advertising, radio companies saw that as a victory. I saw it as a defeat. When I ran radio stations, I embraced dMarc and then thought it was great when Google bought it. Pfft. Gone".

The Dipping Point for radio is next week -- when all the foolish, selfish, destructive things consolidators and their equity holders have done to the industry comes home to roost.

But the Tipping Point for new media also arrives on the same day. This exciting future -- creating content, marketing brands, selling things -- becomes a growth industry.

This growth industry isn't going to come to us -- we have to go get it. Learn about it. Retrain ourselves. Certainly, we must become adept at understanding generational media. (I am doing an impactful and entertaining module on generational media at my Lab next week. It will give attendees a sense of how to see the similarities and differences in generational media and what to do with them).

Radio people have all the raw talent to learn skills for the era of new media content that will be institutionalized next Wednesday when Apple speaks. The ones that sit back and refuse to think differently (as Apple would say) will most certainly be left behind.

The long-awaited digital future is days away. Let's watch it develop together and find ways to become a part of it.

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