Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Radio: Beware of Con artists
First, the good news.
The radio industry recognizes that its stations need a presence on the Internet.
Now, the bad news. It doesn’t understand the presence its radio stations need.
Lately, we’ve been reading some bass-ackwards commentary from supposed radio “experts” comparing the web pages of newspapers to radio stations.
What they fail to comprehend is that most users aren’t won over by the jargon, imagery, photo ops, and streams from most radio web sites.
Comparing newspaper and radio sites is just plain stupid. Newspaper sites generate revenue by attracting and holding viewers. And it's done by assigning compelling content to a second medium.
There’s that word again. Content. C-O-N-T-E-N-T.
It’s something that too many in this industry undervalue.
Garbage in, garbage out.
Stream a lackluster voice-tracked station whose playlist is chosen by two buttons – one, schedule and two, print - on line and it’ll sound just as dreadful as it does on terrestrial radio.
Radio used to be the “last great illusion” until the Internet became an essential part of our culture.
Radio, as a medium, still has an edge, since it can provide a soundtrack, information, and, done correctly, play upon one’s imagination with creative narrative and production. It can be active, passive, or both.
Even the TV networks know that they can’t depend on traditional viewers. They’ve realized the need to attract people with a number of different platforms, and the need to survey and rate those viewers.
Eventually, all TV shows will be hybrids and dependent on a web presence that digs deeper into a plot and provide opportunities for audience involvement – even in determining the direction of a show’s storyline.
But it starts with the show. If the show on television doesn’t have the goods – viewers aren’t going to go on-line for more.
Some of you will be in Minneapolis for the Conclave this weekend. Have fun. It’s one of my favorite cities.
Judging from the mood of those attending last year’s Conclave, being in radio station management has joined ice road truckers, crab fishing in the Bering Sea, and personal assistant to Naomi Campbell as the world's deadliest professions.
I’m passing on the Con this year. With budgets being what they are most of the industry people I know are passing on it, too.
You are correct, sir, in your hypothesis that you’ll hear many an “expert.” spend too much time being officious about building a successful radio web presence. You know the drill: a little cut-and-paste text here, a few photos of the jocks and station promotions there, a jock blog or two, a stream or two…. Need I continue?
Their repertoire is a bad as a Jack station’s playlist.
After they scratch out all the logical solutions to radio’s problems they go after the illogical.
You wonder why radio managers fall for these con artists until you realize that Caesar considered Brutus a good friend and loyal advisor.
What these self-proclaimed specialists won’t tell you is that net surfers view thousands of sites daily and have learned to tune most of them out.
Even if your site is the web equivalent of a Lexus – if your stream is the equivalent of a Pinto, do you think anyone’s going to spend at-work or at-home time on it?
Surely, another hot topic at the Con will be about getting radio streams on mobile devices. The same rule applies. Crap is crap no matter what mode of delivery you choose to use.
The irony of these radio “experts’” squalid descent into obscurity is that it’s usually during dark economic times that con artists thrive.
In reality, it’s Occam’s Razor: The simplest explanation that covers the facts is probably the right one.
Profitable sites deliver – not promise. Most radio web sites promise – but can’t deliver. It’s not what a radio station says it is that determines whether it’s successful. It’s what it does that counts.
I hate to keep bringing his name up – but look at Steve Jobs and Apple. He created a brand that went from a cult to mass appeal. Apple has evolved from a handful of graphic artists that proudly announced that their creations were “Made on a Mac” to mass millions that proudly boaster their iMacs, iPods and iPhones.
Here’s what you won’t hear from those chicken you-know-whats at the Con.
Radio is failing because of the poor relationship it fashioned with younger demos.
The rise of hyperconnectivity and interactivity must be recognized by radio. To endure, it will have to deliver a standout quality product to create excitement to translate into time spent listening.
Programming functionality is the only component that can bring listeners back to radio. But the longer it takes for terrestrial radio to improve, the less likely consumers will return and trust the medium.
Spare me the “things have changed” line about radio listening allegiance. Tell that to the millions that pay to hear radio by subscribing to XM or Sirius.
Because of proliferating social networks, chat rooms, and blogs, it’s easy for radio listeners find alternatives. Illegally downloading music along with Internet and satellite radio listening is supplanting terrestrial radio as a source for new music.
Radio doesn’t need re-branding. The product needs re-inventing. Start there.
And don’t get conned at the Con.