If a person doesn’t understand the present, what chance does he have to understand the future?
The future of radio is a case in point. We hear a lot about how radio is falling behind and has to quickly adapt.
We’re told broadcast radio will soon fade away. No one will be listening over-the-air. Everything will be streamed, streamed to your car, streamed to your iPad, maybe even streamed through your refrigerator.
No one will own music anymore. Apple will own every song every recorded (except the Beatles) and we will all stream from Apple’s cloud. (And it really will be a cloud, because Steve Jobs will create his own iAtmosphere.)
Pandora will have 300 million registered users. Their $10 billion IPO will be a great success, and they will buy Clear Channel, CBS, and Entercom so they can turn them over to all the artists they’ve snubbed by refusing to play their music.
See how easy it is? Predicting radio’s future is easy. You can pretty much make up anything short of little green people, and no one is going to question you.
The hard part is explaining the present.
We recently pointed out the disconnect between what pundits say about the health of local radio, and the reality.
There is no credible evidence that people are abandoning broadcast radio. None. Yet we hear time and time again that radio is dying because it isn’t embracing new-media.
If radio isn’t dying--which it isn’t, then what does new-media have to do with local radio's health?
Based on the logic of those crying wolf about radio’s slow response, one can make the argument that maybe local radio is healthy because of radio’s slow response.
We believe a digital strategy is essential for radio, but not because radio is dying. It is essential because radio’s convenience and ubiquity has always been its greatest strengths. A digital strategy will simply keep it that way.
So next time a new-media salesman offers his vision of the future, and tells you why radio needs his services, ask him to explain the present.
What is the essence of radio’s continuing success?
If he really understands why despite all the new alternatives that 93% of Americans continue to listen to broadcast radio every week, and they continue to spend over 17 hours a week listening to it, then pay attention to what he has to say.
If he sputters a bit and then starts talking about how little time radio has to adapt, walk away.