Radio, it seems, likes to embrace technology, but often for the wrong reasons. Our embrace of HD Radio, for instance, gained steam at a time when the media was evangelizing iPods and satellite radio. It is my belief that radio CEOs were sick of all that and decided HD Radio would give us something new to talk about. Then we put all these HD subchannels on the air, but most were badly programmed and sounded like afterthoughts. We told our PDs to program these new stations, but we allocated minimal resources, automated them in most cases, and tried to have something on the air at the lowest possible cost.
Then we wonder why HD Radio has not been embraced. Could it be that consumers considering the technology find that what's on the HD dial is less than compelling?
Sadly, we’re doing the same thing with our streams. Though in most cases we’re streaming our actual broadcasts, which means the overall quality of content is better, it seems to me that most broadcasters lack full commitment. Listen to many streams and you’ll hear that the inserted ads are mostly filler PSAs. Often stations are running outdated promos (as if they forgot they were still on the stream), and transitions back to music are bad, often cutting off spots, or spots come on when the music is playing.
It’s sloppy broadcasting.
What if your stream was your primary source of audience? Would it be an afterthought then? Of course not. But radio is foolishly ignoring streams today, when streaming will be your primary source of revenue. Yes, I said it. By some point in the next few years, your transmitter will make up only a small percentage of your listening. I predict by 2016, and there are stats to back it up, which I’ll write about soon.
Recently Warren Lada at Saga announced the company was no longer going to use ad-insertion technology because it made the stations sound sloppy, and revenues were weak anyway. Of course Triton’s Mike Agovino defended the technology. Both made valid points.
No one really knows if or when Apple’s new patent will remove commercials in a streamed environment, so that is a moot point at the moment, though it needs to be kept in mind as a possibility.
Radio must understand that the transmitter is no longer its only form of distribution and that it could become irrelevant in the future. Our world today requires you to be everywhere your listener is, which means on every device. If you’re not streaming, don’t have a mobile app, are not on aggregators like TunedIn or iHeartRadio, if you cannot be found in every possible device, you’ll dilute the impact of your brand. If people want to listen and you’re not there, they will find someone else.
Not only do you need to be everywhere, you have to sound great. It starts by paying attention -- making sure everything is current, and not filling your ad slots with the same four PSAs in every break and driving audience away. It’s inexcusable at this point not to have your technology finely tuned.
Radio must put its best foot forward in everything it does, including HD Radio, but especially in the streaming environment, because that's where everything is moving. Ignoring it is ignoring millions of listeners, and they all have other alternatives.