Radio companies have always operated as separate, competitive entities -- every company for itself. Though there has been cooperation on initiatives like legislation (as broadcasters support the NAB) and advertising/training (reps and stations working with the RAB), it's been rare to see radio companies working at a deeper level of collaboration.
But that changed at the end of 2011, when Clear Channel and Cumulus Media announced their collaboration on SweetJack, designed to help radio grab its share of the multibillion-dollar direct-couponing market.
This is a monumental change, and it will result in a complete transformation in how our industry thinks of itself and operates. It's a courageous move, competitors working together -- something we in radio have always been opposed to. Yet when radio's two largest players synch up on something like this, it sends a signal to the industry that it's OK to collaborate. It's not only smart, it's probably critical. Radio will be stronger linked arm-in-arm than with each competitor trying to survive alone.
It's crucial that each of us look at our own limitations and ask ourselves where our weaknesses lie. Who possesses strength in those areas? What would business look like if we found ways to collaborate? After all, no one can be good at everything, and the combination of multiple strengths contributed by different parties will move your business forward exponentially.
Collaboration with competitors may make sense in your town. That might mean collaboration with other radio stations -- but there could also be opportunities to work with other media, or with other companies that have valuable tools and services to offer, in partnerships that make both partners stronger.
Seeking convergence is the other tool that will take your business to the next level. Watch for tomorrow's Radio Ink Daily Headlines -- we'll be featuring a video and an audio interview with Tom Davis from Williamsburg, VA, who has truly figured out how to converge with other models.
We may not be seeing revolutionary change in our business, but we must see gradual, evolutionary adaptation to the world our advertisers are demanding we operate in. Though your primary cash flow stream shouldn't be messed with, I believe broadcasters small and big must seek convergence to deliver what customers need.
Radio stations are becoming so much more, in so many towns. In reality, we've always done it: Radio converged to create shoppers, magazines, events, all of which have become valuable revenue streams. Digital convergence is really no different.
Think of it this way: Iron and carbon become steel. You have a powerful tool that reaches a lot of audience. Why not use that tool to draw revenue back from those that are trying to take it away? Why not control other forms of media that you've melded into your own operation?
Who says you're in the "radio business"? Seems to me your job is to help clients sell or brand products and make the experience for your audience the best it can be. Period.
Collaboration and convergence are a lot alike. One is partnering, the other is finding ways to create new solutions, even if it means becoming other media -- video, print, online -- for the good of your advertisers or listeners.
"Don't do business with competitors" is something radio has heard for decades. But those days are in the past, and collaboration is critical to future success and growth. Same with convergence. We used to sell people on how bad newspapers or television were, and now many of us are in those businesses in some form.
You may be a "radio person" first, but you may wish to consider broadening your scope and becoming a "media person." Look how much Clear Channel has changed in one year by not considering itself a radio company. Who would have thought Clear Channel would be partnering with Ryan Seacrest and investing in the creation of cable shows? You can bet this is the beginning of a giant Time Warner-like media empire, as I discussed in a previous note. It is smart, and it is good business.
What about you? Where should you be converging and collaborating? If you imagine the possibilities, you'll see a new world open before your eyes.
P.S. We're in the midst of crafting what may be the smartest Convergence conference ever. We always try to stay three steps ahead, and I think you'll find we've done so yet again when we announce our lineup.
After two years of holding Convergence at Microsoft, we wanted to reinvent again and started thinking about where so many of the great ideas of our time have emerged from. We determined that Stanford University has been ground zero of the digital revolution for the past 20 years, so we'll be on campus at Stanford this May.