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Make Radio Relevant All The Time

1-7-2013

Sandy is gone, but her effects still linger. What a terrible, tragic event; one that wreaked havoc on far too many people, and one that serves as yet another reminder that Mother Nature can turn our world and our lives upside down, anywhere, any time.

Its hard to ignore the role radio played in helping victims of the storm in a multitude of ways, from warning and advising before the storm struck, to informing and facilitating communication in the following days. Once again, radio was the king of all media when people were facing hard times and needed what only radio can provide. Why? Well, radios ability to be available when other technologies arent is a big reason. Also, radio is obligated to serve its communities during these times, per FCC rules. Further, radio as an industry knows that its the right thing to do.

We can help, so we do. And some in radio have learned from situations like Sandy that being involved in the community isnt just the right thing to do, its the smart thing to do. Radios unquestionable successes
in disaster coverage continue to prove that local radio wins. If part of the content of a radio station is information, then you want people to know that when they need it, your station has it. It solidifies the stations brand. It gives members of your community a reason to tune in. And that doesnt apply just to News/Talk stations, which are the most likely to see large audience increases during the worst of times. People also need entertainment during bad times, to serve as a relief to the situation theyre in. That entertainment can come in the form of music or personalities, but, if listeners know there will be a certain amount of information available, that adds to the opportunity for radio to make itself indispensable during bad times.

Radio is the default medium during disasters. Its relevance and indispensability are unquestioned during a hurricane, snowstorm, or tornado. But how does all that apply when there isnt a disaster to deal with? Unfortunately, some of radios best qualities are seriously  in question in normal times. What causes that gap, and what can be done to eliminate it? To that, I respond with one word: local. I read Eric Rhoads recent editorial Radios Next Big Disruption, where he predicts there will be a great deal more centralization at the largest groups, with countless local jobs eliminated. It was painful to read, and Ill bet it was painful for Eric to write. I think he may be right about much of what he predicted, especially with respect to the larger radio companies. But I think his thoughts about the opportunity for stations that are hyper local to survive and flourish are the most accurate predictions of all.

When the last version of consolidation happened, back in the 90s, I was of the opinion that the best reason for the new rules allowing companies to own more stations in a market was that groups could gain greater local scale and be better able to compete with newspapers and television on both the content and sales sides. How cool would it be to offer a larger platform to give advertisers better solutions? What a great opportunity to use one of your frequencies to develop new formats and personalities while the others in your cluster subsidized that innovation.

Unfortunately, that never happened on a broad enough scale for consolidation to achieve its potential. For the most part, consolidation became more of an efficiency and expense play than a content and revenue play. Now the environment requires radio operators to reconsider their current direction. Local is the last silver bullet left in our guns. Look at the logic: The big operators will increasingly refuse to compete on this level, driven by their new business model and financial pressures. Digital and satellite platforms either cant or wont compete. That would leave hyper-local stations in a space all by themselves. The smartest of operators will learn how to turn this into a sales advantage, especially with local advertisers, and results will once again be the most important factor in the mix.

Here are some easy but effective examples of ways to incorporate more localism into your daily broadcasting life. These are certainly not new, but are tried and true because they pass the three tests: They are hyper-local, they benefit local residents, and they create local water cooler talk which in todays world is called social media.

1. Fundraisers that benefit children, such as children whose parents are injured or killed in the line of duty in the military or police, or kids who have personal challenges like cancer.

2. Government excesses or abuses, whether silly or serious. And always remember to name names.

3. Scams and ripoffs directed at local residents.

Nothing Ive written here is cockeyed optimism. Its brutal realism. But that realism is driven by a few undeniable truths: No matter the device or distribution method, people will still want information and entertainment, and advertisers will still want to sell their goods and services. Radio has always been in the center of that reality. Is there still an opportunity for radio to stake a claim there?

Marc Morgan is the former SVP and chief revenue officer for Cox Media Group; he retired in 2011. He can be reached at marc@marcmorganconsulting.com.




(1/7/2013 3:40:03 PM)
"Brazil: Tests Tech Before Implementation"

"After extensive testing of both HD Radio and DRM, the Secretary of the Ministry of Communications Electronic Communications, Genildo Lins, said the tests of the two technologies have had poor results, especially high-power FM."

http://www.engineeringradio.us/blog/2012/12/brazil-the-place-where-they-test-tech-before-it-is-implemented/

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