The battle over online audio is one everyone wants to win. Everyone, it seems, understands what radio has had in terms of deep audience relationships, and they continue to seek ways to "own" that audience. Last week was an especially big one for the space.
- Over the weekend, Clear Channel hosted its giant iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas. It was the biggest concert in company history, promoted and supported by all Clear Channel stations. The goal was to create significant visibility and adoption of iHeartRadio as a competitor to Pandora.
- The festival followed right on the heels of Clear Channel's relaunch of the iHeartRadio app with new, "Pandora-like" features.
- Pandora's Tim Westergren spoke at a media conference as the service launched a redesigned website and removed the 40-hour monthly limit on free streaming-
- Facebook got everyone’s attention with a flanking move to introduce music sharing a la Spotify.
Facebook also announced deals with Slacker, iHeartRadio, and others.
- Emmis and Jelli announced co-branded online stations with more listener interaction.
- Everyone wants a piece of radio, and there are loads of big, well funded companies seeking to steal your audiences.
What are you doing about it? What can you do that will retain your loyal customers?
When I launched our first Convergence conference in 1999 my belief was that music radio stations need a deep emotional connection with their listeners, and that hasn't changed. Music itself is a commodity, and whomever can play it in the way best pleasing to the consumer will win that battle. Commercial-free environments are tough to compete with, as are self-selected playlists.
Therefore it is my belief that radio should enhance what it does best. If radio relies on playing the most music, it will be vulnerable to others who perhaps can do that better. Make your music-driven stations deeply rooted in your audience, with localism, entertainment, and a deep bond with your air personalities. Take advantage of the recession and knock back your commercial loads (as one broadcaster told me at the Radio Show, fewer spots adds inventory pressure and drives prices up.)
When everyone is gunning for a piece of your action, it means you’ve been doing something right. But they will stop at nothing to steal your audiences and advertisers, so radio should not be complacent, should not assume it can’t happen, and should continually reinvent to be better.
Radio has the upper hand, but that could change rapidly if you don't become proactive and realize the competition is no longer just other radio stations, but other audio services as well.