Reading the comments of my last blog and reacting to emails, as a communicator, I obviously failed, or perhaps some are reading between the lines and assuming some things I'm saying, that I'm not saying in the blog about Radio Disney.
In the interest of clarity....
1. Radio Is NOT Dead. The point of this article is that Disney is a respected media company, which is dropping radio because, as they say, radio is not what their audience is using anymore. I'm saying this FUELS our PERCEPTION problem with the media, with advertisers, etc who will MISREAD this announcement as radio being dead. Radio is not dead, nor do I believe it is dying. But Radio listening is eroding, TSL is in decline, and there are some others who are stealing SOME listeners. Its not over but there is an unfortunate PERCEPTION that it is over because WE as an industry are not promoting ourselves well.
2. Radio Disney is not the issue here. As stated I don't think this is really about Radio Disney. What I mean is that Radio Disney has always seemed to be a flawed concept when trying to reach young moms and younger kids with AM radio, whose demos are typically much older. The fact is that this was probably not a great strategy from day one, and now with them dropping radio, this concept of their research indicating that they are not getting audience from AM anymore (they only had one fm) is no surprise. The reality is their story is probably about a smoke screen to give a reason for eliminating their expense of station operations and a reason to sell off and raise additional capital. Had Disney been really committed to Radio Disney they would have bought FMs, which would reach young moms. The real issue, again, is that OTHERS will misread this as a "radio is dying" story. Radio isn't dying.
3. Its been suggested that I did not offer solutions.
Read again. Radio needs a PR effort and a sales effort that combats this negative press that continues at every turn. That is offering a solution when suggesting we need a budget, a PR firm, and Ad agency and a big promotion team. Pandora now has local sales offices in many markets and a large, well trained team and a powerful presentation about their business.
I've seem it and watched advertisers loving it as they showed what they can do that radio cannot do. I watched advertisers lining up to buy. Its compelling. The reality is that advertisers are NOT SEEING a compelling presentation about radio and the reality of our numbers. WE HAVE A GREAT STORY TO TELL. My recommendation is that we need a PR effort, we need a team selling radio that can match or exceed the size of the pandora team, and one thing I did not say, but should, is that we need a UNIFIED PRESENTATION ABOUT RADIO that dispels the rumors, shows our compelling research and overcomes some of these INCORRECT PERCEPTIONS. Bob Pittman has a great presentation and has a compelling pitch. (They don't call him Bob Pitchman for nothing). We need something like that for every seller in America.
As an industry we need to SELL RADIO FIRST, have a unified non-defensive message that is told at every pitch to overcome this MISINFORMATION. So in fact I am offering solutions. Should I take action and create this on my own? Perhaps, but the reality is I don't have $20 million a year to contribute to radio to do this, though I'd happily lead the effort and engage a PR firm and ad agency to combat this if I had the resources. In reality NO ONE has the resources. The big players are trying to get out of massive debt and contributing a few million each to RAB marketing efforts is not going to happen, even if it means we as an industry cannot fight this PR battle.
4. I'm Not Positive and pro radio. Last night I got a private email accusing me of being negative about radio. Sorry Im sending that message. I was told I should not raise these issues but should just be positive about radio all the time no matter what. Really? Leadership is not always about happy talk. Leaders help their teams deal with tough problems and solutions. Yes, perhaps they do so with encouragement, which I try to do, they know their teams have to deal in reality. This industry is filled with happy-talk speeches talking about how great the industry is. I've watched some people embarrass themselves and radio in front of a crowd of advertisers spewing a lot of positive pro radio stuff and watched advertisers mumble in disbelief and talk about how out of touch we are. Yes we still have a powerful story but it starts with finding a way to convince advertisers of this (see above). Its a fine line. Tough we must encourage our own troops, we cannot ignore perceptions we must overcome, even if not true.
This September I'm celebrating 45 years in radio. I love radio, this industry and the people in this industry. I have devoted my entire life to Radio Ink for the last 25 years, and I speak up when I see a freight train coming. I've done this dozens of times and been told I was being negative, yet once the train hits, I've been told "we should have listened." Sometimes I'm wrong, sometimes I'm right, and I'm usually early. Take it for what it is... one mans opinion about what could happen.
If I did not believe in radio, I would not have stuck with Radio Ink for over two decades, I would not have reinvested in our industry by buying Radio & Television Business Report (RBR TVBR), would not have bought and relaunched Radiodiscussions.com, would not have started five conferences including RADIO Forecast, RADIO Convergence, DASH Connected car RADIO conference, Hispanic RADIO Conference, and sports RADIO conference. Though I have other magazines and conferences in my business, the majority of my business is RADIO because of my commitment to radio. If I was not committed I would not speak out.
Signaling problems and issues is not being negative. When you see your kids in the road and see a car coming, you don't let them figure it out on their own, you scream at them to get out of the street, and if you can you grab them and pull them out of it. Doing this is not negative, it shows love. When I passionately warn this industry about problems or issues they need to solve, its the same. Its out of love and passion for the industry. Yeah, when I yell at my kids to get out of the street they will say "dad, you're yelling, stop being so negative." They don't think about how I prevented the car from turning them into pancakes.
If you're perceiving negativity, please understand I have a perspective, which sometimes see's things on the horizon that are problems. It does not mean I lack belief. There is a very real problem in radio. Our leaders love this industry and have passion, and even if they believe there is a serious problem, they have to keep a happy face for investors, employees and advertisers. Everything is fine, all of this is overblown, they say. They have to show belief. They cannot admit to problems and even perception issues even if they secretly believe it. Someone, therefore has to play that role of providing some reality. They cannot do it for fear of demotivating employees and investors. There are people who need to play this role. I'm not alone.
This is a wonderful industry. We have a GREAT RELATIONSHIP with our listeners, they love what we do. We change lives and build businesses with our successful ad campaigns. Radio works. Listeners are passionate about many of our stations, our personalities, what we do in our communities, our entertainment, our funny and informative morning shows, our fund raising efforts, our information in disasters.
Radio is not dying. But there is some erosion of TSL, which is a fact. And Pandora has managed to steal somewhere between 8-11% of radio audiences. Thats pretty big. Of course all radio people believe there is no business model there and it took them billions to get there. That may or may not be true, but its still creating a perception problem, as is Disney's decision to get out of radio because digital is where listeners are being harvested. If we don't combat the perceptions and help people understand how vibrant and alive radio is, they will continue to believe things that may not be true. Its our job to step up and tell our story with passion.
Historically in every industry people cling to the old ways and avoid trends and historically they are responsible for their own death because they refuse to embrace change. I am hoping this wont happen to radio. But when you are up against low or no commercial content on all music stations and we continue to run 18 minutes of ads and say we play the most music when we dont, at some point SOME of our audience will leave us for Pandora or Spotify.
I recently visited a young family in a rural small town where there is a strong local radio station highly community involved. The radio was on and I asked what station it was and was told Pandora. I learned they were paying the monthly fee to avoid all commercials. To them it is radio. The next day they had a different station on, Spotify. When I asked about radio, he said this is radio. When I asked about the local station, he said we sometimes listen to it in the car but usually they plug the phone in and play Pandora. I might have expected this in some big city but not in a small town. Ignoring things like this will mean it eventually catches up with us.
My intent is to point out ways we can combat this. Some listen, some don't. Some just think I'm being negative. If I did not believe in radio, I would not be stepping out and taking the heat. IF I did not care it would be much easier to keep my mouth shut and let the train flatten our industry.
I still believe that if radio were invented today people would climb all over it. This is a great product, but it can be greater and can become more relevant. Apple has great products, yet they are in different businesses than they were 10 years ago. They reinvent, they kill their own products with new products. The iphone killed the ipod. ITunes Radio is killing itunes. They are continually reinventing. Does that have something to do with being one of the biggest companies in the world? Absolutely. Do they fight internal battles trying to cling to success of current products? Yes. Do they worry that they might be wrong? Sure. Do they do it anyway? Of course.
All of this goes back to reinvention. We are so in love with what works that we stick with it for decades? Its not unusual to hear the same liners, sounders, jingles, etc. that were tested in research projects 30 years ago. We play it safe. Though it makes sense, it does not allow for much reinvention. No one wants to take chances (well thankfully some do.) Yet reinvention is the key to remaining relevant.
I've said enough. Bottom line, I'm not trying to be negative though it may be perceived as such. I still love radio and believe in its future, but we have to take action to have a stronger better future. And yes, I think we have to solve some big problems of perception, and we need to work to remain relevant. Thats all. I do appreciate all the opinions and comments, and i know that comes as a result of your passion.