Sometimes in our effort to 'keep up' with all the new technology and the 'cool of new' we forget a lot of the real advantages our media has.
Radio is simple to operate. For the most part you turn it on, simply adjust the volume and select the station from your favorites already punched in. No need to download anything, remember complicated web addresses, or try typing words on the numeric keyboard.
It's portable. You can take it anywhere and get solid reception for the most part. The radios are as small as I Pods or big as a wall - take your pick.
Quality. Compared to the small speakers in a laptop or always using earbuds the quality is really much better than most streams and reception is really more reliable.
We know the technology. A 5 year old can work the average car radio with little instruction. Even the 60 year old computer novice can easily get the radio to work.
There's a long ways to go to get WiFi everywhere and reliable. Look at cell phones where they have been trying to get a reliable network up for over 20 years. They still struggle, as we've all experienced, and still have one of their big advertising points around reception. What do you think it will take to WiFi the world? It could go even slower. We don't have the frequency bandwidth to auction off that we used to.
In the end perhaps radio's problem with the image we have now with the younger audience and with clients of not being 'cutting edge', or 'hip' lies in our presentation both on the air and on the streets.
On the air we haven't really evolved much - the same tactics, formats, and imaging styles have been around for decades. The look of the new radios isn't much to marvel at either - this is one of the big keys in the failure of HD radio to catch on. You don't see much new in radios, like more display screens for the RDS data. How about a system to send pictures and more data on the RDS system - just having a few text lines is very limited. While we can't push the set makers much we can work with the on-air sound and start exploring new imaging, formatics, music rotations, personalities, and promotion tactics.
On the client side radio seems to be trying to do some Internet integration into the packages and maybe a few new power point tricks in the presentations, but is that our real advantage? No doubt we need to integrate the power of our brand into the Internet, but it might be more important to sell our real advantage. That is the large reach we still have. Radio reaches over 90% of the market and it covers a specific territory. A local business or location can rely on radio to deliver an audience that is within the reach of the store or stores. Not in Russia. Is there a great website that reaches that much of the market where you can advertise on? Maybe the Google start page, but the only thing on it is their logo and the blank box to search with.
It's also a big audience. PPM has pretty much proven that you can take your CUME audience and double it for a conservative estimate of the real reach of your station. For most that's a big number. Perhaps we need a new number here - instead of the CPP or CPM how about CPC (Cost Per Cume). Take a market like Madison WI where the top cuming station is around 90,000 in Arbitron without PPM - the number in PPM is probably closer to 200,000. That's nearly half of the 1/2 million that live in the metro. Even at $200 a spot the cost per Cumer is $.00125. Now that's pretty cheap - probably less than any Google Adword that hits that many people in your market.
I know selling with CUME is probably harder than doing our pitches in Latin, but CUME will be evolving to the be the new advantage of radio and perhaps the new currency of selling tactics. It's going to take re-trainng the buyers, clients, and most importantly the sales teams. Cume is going to be our new friend and we need to learn how to use it in sales.
We have a lot going for us in this new era, but we need to get our confidence back and make the most of our positive points as we also explore ways to work with the new media opportunities. Right now our industry looks like we are surrendering and whining towards depression. Let's get our head out of the sand and realize that we're still above ground. Let's vow to make radio about the future not the past.