(By Mike McVay) After a few weeks of articles, from me and others, acknowledging the challenges that radio is facing, it seems to me that we need to put on “rosy glasses” for a while and look the other side of the radio dilemma. Definition of pink glasses; favorable opinions: optimistic eyes see the world through rose-colored glasses.
We can “oh, it’s not bad” all day, but it doesn’t change anything. Many of my articles elicit responses from people using fabricated names who challenge something I wrote, and they lament that radio isn’t what it used to be, and never will be what it was. she was. They’re right. Many of their opinions are real, unvarnished critiques that assess the erosion of radio. What is not emphasized are the many positive aspects of our business, the services we provide, and the void that would be created if radio disappeared.
Until someone is willing to reduce their commercial load and charge more for messages, the over-commercialization of radio will continue. It doesn’t seem like anyone has the financial ability or courage to take short-term losses for what could be long-term gains. The radio hasn’t bled enough yet to bite the bullet and take that step.
We can talk about giving more accountability to local markets, providing more talent coaching, doing more research with your audience, and aggressively promoting and marketing. Until we stop talking about it and do it, we won’t see any change. So let’s leave that there, tucked away for future discussion when people are finally ready, and do more of what we know the public expects of us that we can do now and do well.
The radio provides localized information. Even in markets where there is voice-tracked and networked/syndicated talent. If executed correctly and talents prepared, you can be connected to your community. News-wise, social media is faster and sometimes as accurate as radio, but smart broadcasters aggregate social media and report on local trends.
The radio entertains. It comes from the music we play, the content of the conversations we present, and the personalities who entertain. The march of time continues to amplify the need for engaging, entertaining, informed and memorable personalities who can attract an audience every day. In many markets, on-air talent is seen as local celebrities and has an edge if they are in the market, they can entertain and connect at a high level.
During the pandemic, we’ve heard of stations losing 40% of their revenue, except in many smaller markets where many have remained stable and a significant number of stations have seen revenue growth. Their growth is due to local purchases and relationships. Radio sells services, products, materials, health, wealth and hope. We play what the advertiser wants to play, and in many ways small market radio is akin to the community newspaper. The radio does it well.
The radio has a great range. It’s not what it used to be. It will never return to the old levels. Too much competition. The radio is listened to by 85% of the United States each week. It’s less than in the past, but it still has a reach beyond all other media. It won’t erode quickly, but it will continue to erode. Like all media.
Radio is portable and ubiquitous. It can be found everywhere. Over the air, online, on smart speakers, smart phones, on aggregate apps and individual station apps. The radio is especially practical. “Mostly practical” are the specific words I use here because in newer vehicles it takes some discovery to find the radio hidden deep in a smart dash. That’s why, as Jacobs Media pointed out in its recent tech survey, apps have resurfaced as important to broadcasters. People with built-in Bluetooth listen to what they want, when they want, on their phone. This includes listening to the radio. If they have a radio station app, they can just tap the app on their phone and the station plays through their radio speakers. Forget they could just turn on the radio. It’s not practical enough and it’s not a habit developed among young listeners.
Despite all the changes over the past decade in the way Americans access music, AM/FM radio remains the most profitable advertising medium today. It’s an inexpensive way to reach your existing and potential customers. There are three main variables you want to control when radio announcement programming: scope, frequency and consistency. When it comes to music discovery, while less important than it once was, it’s a dead end with DSPs and it’s the difference between a song being a hit and not. Radio remains the main engine for creating stars and success.
We cannot forget that companionship is the number one reason people listen to the radio. It goes back many years when people listened to music on AM radio. The radio offers companionship. It’s something we do well. This is something we can capitalize on without these pink glasses.
Which radio works well:
- Provides local information.
- Connects to a community.
- Entertains, informs and engages using personalities.
- Sells products, services, materials, health, wealth, fantasy and more.
- Provides convenience.
- Is a companion.
Mike McVay is president of McVay Media and can be reached at [email protected]