(By Mike McVay) It’s the start of another New Year. We’re certainly blessed to be here to see it as we’re almost at the second anniversary of the start of the Worldwide Pandemic known forevermore as Covid. It will be years before we know the psychological impact, the economic impact and the familial impact of the pandemic. We do know that, because of the alteration of lifestyles created by a worldwide lockdown and quarantining, use of media has changed.
There are many that believe the changes that were likely going to occur with evolution, occurred faster than normal, because of the way people are using media. It’s logical, but I don’t know that any of us really knew what would happen, except that change was bound to happen. Change is constant. Nothing stays the same. Everything changes. How we react to those changes is what determines success or failure.
Competition is increasing at a faster pace than in the past and will continue to do so. Over-the-air (OTA) media (Radio & Television) require a license from the Federal Communications Commission. The internet, mainly streaming, has not such restrictions on it. Digital Streaming Processors, known as DSP’s, are OTA radio’s biggest competitor for ears. Social media, YouTube, TikTok, Clubhouse, Gaming and Virtual Reality are all competitors for time.
Satellite Radio falls into the DSP category, but depending on the channel, their content is either mass or niche. They offer a smorgasbord of content from the sky. While subscription radio was thought to be a negative and an attack that OTA radio use to compete, consumers are not hesitant to pay for an app that delivers the entertainment they want, so why wouldn’t they pay for SiriusXM?
Spotify is moving beyond music and working toward becoming the Instagram and TikTok of audio. Pandora continues to add commercial-free stations … keeping in mind that they’re now owned by SiriusXM. Amazon Prime enables you to listen to thousands of songs and almost limitless channels on Amazon Music. Apple Music is showing continued growth with their Apple Radio channels slowly adding audience. Owned by Google, YouTube is showing growth in the music streaming arena, but the fastest growing category for the video service is Sports content.
iHeart, Audacy and TuneIn are just three of the companies that have developed nice digital platforms that enable an audience to stream their favorite radio stations, podcasts or custom audio channels. Many love the rewind option and the on-demand option. These are all competitors to OTA Radio. It raises the question; will we see a time when we no longer need a transmitter and antenna to broadcast? The bigger question is, will it matter? If all radio does is use their digital streams to provide another outlet for current OTA content, without improving the listening experience, it won’t matter.
The approach, if I could craft one for radio, would be to run two tracks at once. One would be to develop podcasts. Developing them as an On-Demand content provider as well as creating unique podcast content. The other would be to focus on how to create compelling content for OTA radio (also streamed online) that’s delivered by entertaining personalities. Connect to your community. Be a part of your community.
Master the technical aspect of streaming or Total Line Report by airing a 100% simulcast of the OTA and online product. There’s no reason for upcuts and interruptions that are all too common on radio’s digital streams. There’s no reason to load every hour with such long commercial breaks. There’s no reason to sound as if you have no, or little, connection to the market. Manage the commercial load to play fewer commercials. View the stations overall product as a part of the brand by being creative with your imaging and production elements. It’s showbiz. Sound like it.
It isn’t your birthright to be high rated. The competition for your radio station is coming from more than radio. The audience wants something more and better. Some national and local advertisers are abandoning the platform. Radio hasn’t been “cool” for more than a decade, yet it can deliver for advertisers, and it can still grow an audience, but not without change.
The changes, beyond addressing radio’s high commercial load, need not be painful. They are possible. Someone has to decide to do it, though. A decision has to be made. Show success and the lemmings will follow.
Mike McVay is President of McVay Media and can be reached at [email protected]