The Death of Radio? Stop it.

    I
am really disgusted by the radio industry’s latest bout of self
loathing. I will never understand why there are so many in our industry
that think we are on the brink of collapse, regardless of the fact that
the amount of radio listening has never decreased. I have been in radio
for 12 years now, and every single one of those years I have heard the
latest expert reading radio’s last rites. But since the latest economic
downturn, it seems that those in the actual industry have started to
believe them! Layoffs have gone into the double digits, slashing long
lists of sales and programming. Every trade publication and consultant
firm has created special web pages, erecting walls to the fallen. Its
not just those who are under performing. Its people who have large
ratings and bring in buckets of revenue. Radio companies just slash
without any consideration for the quality of the product, insane with
panic because the industry will never be the same.

    Stop it!
Are you people serious? The most puzzling thing about the radio
industry in general is its own insecurities. The people who are in
radio seem convinced that we are the “other” media. We aren’t as
solvent as television or print, that we are on the brink of collapse at
any time. Have any of these people actually done some research? Study
after study shows that Americans consume more radio
than ever before. Of course the faces on television and print belittle
the radio industry, they have motive to! They are competing for the
same advertising dollars that we are! Yet when President Obama
identified his voice of opposition, was it a blogger, columnist, or
pundit? Nope, Rush Limbaugh because he is the biggest name in
conservative media. He arguably created conservative media, but we set
that aside. Has this industry been going out of its way to create the
next Rush who created a format that didn’t exist before he started? Of
course not. Part of radio self loathing is as soon as a star is born,
we think there can never be another. So we slash, eliminating the up
and comers to make sure there will be no more profitable stars.

   
Radio is a media unlike the others. Its the only one that is completely
one dimensional, and the easiest to consume. Radio doesn’t ask you to
stop what you are doing, commanding your full attention and patience.
Radio can be with you when you drive around, do housework, play video
games or exercise and its the only media that can do all of that. Radio
is designed to be enjoyed however you like, and however much commitment
you give it is how much enjoyment you get out of it. If you leave a
station on in the background, you will have noise to distract you. If
you wear headphones, you will hear a produced quarter hour of carefully
selected music that a professional stressed hours over. If they did it
right, the mix will give you a better experience than any random
internet stream will give you. If you are listening to a talk show, you
can also leave it on for noise, but you can also get up to twenty
minutes of free wheeling discussion that will either make you laugh,
think or make you angry. No other media at all gives
you twenty commercial free minutes of entertainment, and there are
thousands of radio stations that are doing it right now 24 hours a day
with absolutely no cost to the listener.

    Yes, ad revenue is down. Of course it is, we are in a recession.
But we still have a huge audience that we can give to our advertisers.
Now is the time to cultivate relationships with advertisers and we
can’t do that when we are radically changing the product that we are
selling. Remember, its not the 60 second spots we are selling, its the airtime. Radically changing the product does not help at all in getting
revenue up.

   
But yet we slash. We try to figure out how to cut corners, assuming
that the industry will never be the same. Network TV numbers are way
down, so they are cutting costs. Newspapers are cutting like crazy,
because less people read newspapers. The number of radio listeners
actually went up in 2008, but..

    Why are we looking to other
media whose numbers are declining for leadership? Why don’t we point
out that you must pay for digital TV boxes, you must subscribe to
cable, you need a subscription or a website account to view
periodicals. Why can’t we point out that we are the industry that
thrived during the real great depression, and we have
the audience that has never gone away. Why don’t we point out that the
rise of the Internet actually adds to radio, because it the one media
that you can enjoy at the same time as surfing the web? We don’t point
that out, we just slash. We assume that if television and newspapers
are doing it, we should too. These are the same outlets that excoriate
our business, calling us “shock talk” and look down their noses at us.
They shame us, call us names, put labels on us, have less of an
audience than we do, compete for the same advertising dollars that we
do, and yet we follow their lead.

    Don’t you see that now is
the time to act? Our industry is not hurting, it is thriving. The
Internet has given us the one thing we never had: a visual element. We
can take this one dimensional media and our listeners can enhance their
experience if they choose to. Plus, we can save huge amounts
of money on promotions cost by using free Web 2.0 services like
Facebook, Twitter and Plurk. We can reach listeners now and remind them
to listen in ways we never had before, and we think this industry is in
trouble?

    But still we slash. We devalue how important we are
to the audience. We forget that our industry is still a dominant media,
and people on TV have every reason to say we are less than that. Yet
still we slash, as if the radio side of the economic downturn will
never end, regardless of the fact that the audience still wants and
needs us. The death of radio? As with the most tragic cases of self
loathing, we’re committing suicide.

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