Radio’s Future on the iPad

If you are like most radio CEOs – assuming they are thinking about the revolutionary iPad that will be available at Apple stores this week – you’re looking at a way to channel your existing radio stations into the new portable Apple device.

Game over.

That’s exactly the worst strategy to have, but my readers know better than that because the iPad is about mobile content not becoming a terrestrial radio – nothing personal.

Radio CEOs when they are not thinking about ways to cut costs, firing people or filing for bankruptcy protection are about ready to miss the next revolution.

You already know how dire the situation is. Radio growth even at estimated rates over the next few years would be lucky to average 2% and it would take a decade to get back to 2008’s flat growth rate.

What’s more troubling is that older listeners are also joining the youth generation in enjoying digital products. These baby boomers and older Gen Xers are not just radio, TV and print consumers any longer.

The iPad is significant because it marries the portability of the mobile Internet with cool and improves upon the media it will eventually replace.

Let’s just say it – even a print newspaper lover will have a hard time not being enticed by the beauty, connectivity and intuitive aspects of the iPad.

Apple’s iPad is not going to be just the game changer but the entire game – offering video, audio, mini-computer advantages, print, social networking, mail, pictures and on and on. Sales have been driving Apple stock higher. Pre-order deliveries will ship later due to heavy demand. This product has all the signs of a winner.

If you have a chance, view this video to see how one magazine intends to breathe life into print and then when the video ends ask yourself if you really think consumers will want to go back to one-dimensional media. I ask you to do this because I’m going to get specific about how radio can actually ride the iPad revolution. Click on the video here.

If a digital magazine with a motion cover can be so alluring, imagine what content providers from television, radio and the record industry can do with the iPad platform.

So, let’s imagine:

• News stations can be mini-television stations on-line and mobile 24/7. Instead of hearing the AccuWeather five-day forecast. See it. See the weather. Then read it. Because rule one of iPad is that reading is in again. Next to pictures, video and communication. Someday KYW, 1010 WINS and WTOP will be on-demand gateways right there on your iPad. News segregated by zip code. Mashed up by interest. Communication on site that will rival social networking sites. And wait until outsiders figure out that this is a Renaissance for news radio.

• Sports stations can be local right down to the high school football team with video of games, stats, and interviews with players. Are you getting excited yet? I want to go shake some of our traditional media CEOs and tell them to open their checkbooks. I know. There is a recession, but somehow Clear Channel managed to spend $800,000 plus in the fourth quarter of 2009 – that’s just a three-month period – on lobbying. Three to four million dollars right there to get started. Just sayin’.

• The iPad is a bonanza for music radio stations. They can do videos – and the labels can provide them and make money and stations can get a piece of the action or else stations don't have to run them. More interesting to me is the ability to address the music sub culture in say, Madison, WI – featuring royalty-free performances. Sell music for contributions. Dig deep into music discovery. See it. Hear it. Read about it. Set up social networks about it.

• Speaking of social networks, one of my favorite topics – the radio site becomes the social network. Twitter and Facebook are only two means of communication in that social network.

• And radio stations have nothing to do with iPad content. That's called a radio. But station brands will transfer over so if you own country music in Nashville, you build new and separate iPad mobile media sites (note I said sites) that you can see, read and hear and connect with other fans.

• The ad potential is off the wall. The New York Times has already sold all its iPad inventory for 60 days prior to launch on the iPad edition. Yes, that’s a newspaper (like in the “dying” newspaper business). I’d isolate the 100 best advertising prospects in my market and be on their doorstep on day one. Radio isn’t factoring in the loss of advertising to this platform which will leave stations more vulnerable going forward.

• And there will be a stream of subscription money available for some types of unique and compelling content. Within a year many of you will be reading me on your iPad and connecting with all sorts of people and ideas wherever you are, whenever you want.

And, all of this needs to be locally generated.

Headquarters acts as an enabler – not the source of local ideas.

Corporate funds and rewards innovation and revenue production. It does not feed from headquarters to localities – that, too, is game over.

More to come on the potential for radio in the digital space as iPad takes hold. And the role of radio talent as well.

Rule one: Put the best terrestrial programming on-the-air (you don’t have that right now. Everyone has made cutbacks that have compromised quality). Don’t lose even one more listener by offering less.

Rule two: Don’t confuse good terrestrial radio for the content you will need to generate as a producer of programs for the iPad and other platforms.

They are very different.

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