Auricle Productions

Remaking Radio

Amy MartinComment

I'm a radio nerd. My lifelong addiction to public radio began in middle school and has not abated to this day. In high school, I knew the formats of all the stations my super-cool boom box could pick up, and how to twist the antennae around to clearly tune in each one. I knew the names of the DJs. Sometimes I called the DJs. Radio was a constant for me, and even today, whenever I drive into a new city, I flip through the dial, figuring out which types of stations live where on that comfortingly familiar 87 - 107ish spectrum. Knowing where the pop, country, Latino, hip hop and public radio stations are located helps me locate myself, somehow. It helps me feel like I'm a tiny step closer to knowing the place, to fitting in.

Given this radio love affair, it is not with glee that I join the chorus of people proclaiming The End of Radio As We Know It. But I am part of that chorus nonetheless. Maybe in another post I'll give my two cents on how and why radio is changing -- or must change, if it wants to stay remotely relevant. For now, I'll just note that as with most changes, I think this one brings some things to mourn, but also many things to celebrate.

One of those happier parts of the transformation we're in is that there seems to be a growing push for more and better content. As a devoted (obsessive?) listener, and as someone who is committed to creating interesting content, this is great news. Mark Ramsey has some interesting perspectives on this in his recent blog post, titled "What Many Broadcasters Still Don’t Understand." Here are a few excerpts:

"When I read trade headlines like “who will lead Radio?” the implication is that there is this silo called “radio” which is independent from and not subject to the constraints of every other silo in the media space known by every other label."

"...the competition for radio isn’t simply other radio stations ...[it is] is every media brand that isn’t traditional radio. Video games, YouTube phenoms, podcasts, e-books, even the Facebook newsfeed. Competitors to “radio,” all.

This is why it’s so important for radio brands to focus on content which compels and not simply obsess on diminishing assets like habit, ubiquity, the long-time dominance of the FM band, and what that FM band will look like in cars yet to be made. As choices on the dash become easier and more attractive to use, consumers will embrace them. And “radio’s” share of the usage pie will naturally decline, just as today’s top-ranked TV shows are only a fraction as popular as the top-ranked shows from bygone days when number one meant a 50-share."

"The founder of Evernote, Phil Libin, famously said:

People [who are] thinking about things other than making the best product, never make the best product.

Too many broadcasters work backwards from what “the radio industry needs” or what will sustain and protect the distribution channels powered by towers. Instead, the challenge is to work backwards from the customer, because it’s the customer whose attention is being fractured. It’s the customer who is now in control.

The customer doesn’t care about the future of FM or AM. The customer doesn’t care about “radio” per se at all, in fact.

The customer only cares about what’s on it.

Because she loves the brands she loves.

And it’s up to you to create them."