(By Buzz Knight) I was recently honored to collect thoughts for the Radio Ink issue of The 40 Most Powerful People in Radio. The column I penned was called “40 Ways Radio can be stronger in the next 100 years.” For that column I spoke to many great people.
I probed an anonymous cross section of business leaders and I was struck by all of the passionate and very candid responses to the question that touched a lot of nerves.
For that reason I decided to share some leftover responses that got minimized or left on the editing floor. These thoughts were too good to leave to vanish in thin air. I broke the thoughts out by general topic as there were many recurring themes.Content
“What do people want that radio does really well? Human voices telling stories, reflecting our own lives in conversation. Radio stations/ talent stables/on demand audio channels can remain relevant destinations where the best hosts are found. Yes think about the amazing music hosts that mix stories and songs.”
“Throughout the pandemic we’ve found that people have been home for much longer than ever before and they have discovered that Spotify and Pandora and Apple TV and Netflix are not only easy to use but enjoyable. The Consumer is in charge and the only way radio can differentiate itself in this crowded media landscape is to provide something that others aren’t, that’s a local story with local information.”
“What does Radio have to do in the next 100 years? Reinvent!!! And understand that it is not in the Radio business but in the content/product business! Every industry has been challenged in their life cycle because of new technology, changes in the marketplace dynamic, a shift in consumer desire and consumption. Those that don’t adapt and reinvent themselves suffer a fateful end! Radio must realize it is in the content business. Consumers have too many choices for content which is exactly why Radio must produce content that serves a purpose for the consumer. Too much of what airs today is bland lifeless content that lacks unique appeal. Stop and think about it, why does the industry continue to spend money to air great content that airs one time! It makes no sense! One of the things ESPN did so well in its heyday was getting the content on as many platforms as possible. The radio industry has attempted to do that but gotten bogged down with concepts like podcasts rather than understanding where the consumers are: You Tube, Twitch, Instagram, Facebook and others. All of these are simply platforms for distribution. And there will continue to be new ones. Radio is a platform to deliver content.”
“Radio industry leaders need to stop being cheerleaders for radio. In the 2000s, newspaper executives were cheerleaders for print. It made them look defensive or worse, daft to what everyone else knew what was happening. Their response to losing about 10;billion in print classified advertising within four years was to create and trademark a logo called “Bona Fide Classifieds” showing a 1930s style newspaper carrier holding up a newspaper. They asked all newspapers to put it on their classified pages, stating “classified ads in newspapers are REAL and online classifieds are not.”
“Too many groups will not walk away from any piece of business. Buyers don’t respect the industry. They know they can get whatever they want and continue to drive pricing down. There is plenty of demand for radio, however we keep selling more spots for less money.”
“We’ve got the all important local connection, we influence our community and deliver for advertisers. Too often those in position to buy radio advertising perceive radio as second fiddle. We need to shift that perception to crystallize our position as the most powerful reach medium available.”
“In 2001, newspaper publishers were engaged in strategic planning for the future. They picked the futuristic year of 2005, which would be the equivalent today of doing strategic planning for 2025. While it sounds great, the problem is 5 year planning hangs on short term trends. In 2001, the dot com bubble had just burst giving credibility to publishers who felt the internet was mostly a fad. Today, the equivalent of the dot com bubble burst for the radio industry is Proctor and Gambles reported retreat from radio and the abandonment( for the time being) of Facebook advertising by Unilever, Starbucks, Ford and others. If history repeats itself(it will)these advertisers will return to Facebook or find other forms of “social media” that are most acceptable. Radio dollars will continue to erode.”
Buzz Knight is the CEO of Buzz Knight Media and can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]