June 03, 2005

Radio on the Rocks? There’s something magical about radio. Everybody has two or three favorite stations. Radio is comfortable. Radio is convenient. Radio does it for you even though every so often you have to endure a track you don’t like. Many of us have a genuine friendship with or a genuine animosity toward Howard, Imus, Rush and other personalities we’ve come to know through repeated daily encounters. Most of us have radio sound tracks embedded in our memories and rely on the radio as a free, mood-enhancing utility. Yet radio is and has been the Rodney Dangerfield of media for sixty years. Every new thing seems better than radio. Every new media grabs dollars from radio. Every new device will kill off radio. The latest radio killers are satellite radio and podcasting. Both have generated huge hype. Though neither has yet collected significant or measurable audiences to threaten radio’s revenues. Plus the real benefit of both is the availability of niche programming and the absence of commercials. But with almost predictable regularity the radio industry feels compelled to defend itself. And so the Radio Advertising Bureau (www.rab.com) , where I worked as CMO for five years, just put out a “Quick Guide to Dispelling the 8 Major Myths About Radio.” Confronting “allegations” about commercial clutter, interactivity, reach among youth, creativity, branding, listenership and business practices, these two sheets make the case for radio using all kinds of data, some of which is ancient but still true. It reads like a desperate defense. And while the conglomerates that own the majority of radio stations won’t win any popularity contests, the medium is much more entrenched and enduring than you might otherwise think. If this crisis runs like every other one, radio stations will adapt, convert and subsume the latest trends and hottest technologies. Some have already introduced podcasting formats. For addicts, paying for Howard, will be well worth it for others it will be a blessing to get him off the public airwaves. And radio will go on loved but underappreciated.

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

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