As we head into 2012 there are a number of 'trends' developing that are worth noting. I don't want to call these predictions - just some areas that affect our audience that are emerging and worth watching:
- Social Networks - They continue to grow and occupy the lion's share of most people's on-line time, which seems to grow even more as more smart phones and mobile apps allow you to be on-line all the time. The big trend in 2011 was the evolution of the networks to complete mass acceptance. There are nearly a billion FB accounts and the marketing/branding world is out in full force. FB going public in 2012 will dominate the news. Those who don't master social networks for building their brands, and realize how to integrate the potential of radio's huge reach into a social network strategy, will be ones that hold back our industry. Right now it's a 2 team world - the rest of the networks are small niche players at best - to play you have to look at these 2:
- Facebook - Will continue to grow and evolve but it's not the new kid on the block and every change will be widely challenged. Marketers and brands are also taking up lots of content space here and could hurt FB if they are not careful. The minute FB seems more like corporate hype and one big un-creative banner ad it could be replaced.
- Twitter - It's the service with momentum right now with 400 million users in sight soon. Marketing in a 140 character world is a challenge. This will be the opportunity in 2012 much as Facebook became a force for radio brands in 2010 and 2011.
- The Election - We have SO MUCH media space to fill that this election will be a pretty tiring event for the audience. Look at the developments as they relate to radio content here:
- Super PAC and PAC money - The high court ruling that PACs can spend as much as they want has set the stage for a nuke explosion of dollars to be spent.
- More Talk FMs - While we haven't seen them pull shares yet - they will pull in lots of dollars and we can also expect to hear a lot about this election in the commercials. Just look at Iowa where the airwaves are flooded and it's only a Republican Caucus.
- All over the Net - On the social networks, on your phone, all over your searches and dominating any web site you visit with targeted political content. Your radio station breaks, computer and your TV will look like this for 6 to 7 months:
- Content - We have tons of political web sites, news services, networks, TV stations, cable news services, network news, bloggers, on-line news sites, newspapers, magazines and PAC sites disguised as news sites all searching for the big story to draw all eyes their way. And they have to do it over and over again with the onset of each news cycle. Is it any wonder that any story can suddenly become a 'crisis'? Is some of the grid lock in congress coming from too many sides to any issue and a media so fixed on everything that everyone is afraid to move?
- Overload - This all sets up radio for a complete overload of our airwaves.
- PPM - As we gather more data and see more of the PPM listening trends expect to see more programming ideas and rules change. Bow Tie clocks, quick fire entertainment/personality, tighter show prep, an evolution in imaging tactics, and lots of concern over sample size. Gaming PPM will come up with new ideas and tricks as we keep pouring over the MScore data every week.
- Research - The industry needs a full overhaul. We have so much data from the web, PPM, On-line surveys, Facebook Metrics, and web searches that the old music test or perceptual seems like super slow motion in a hypersonic world.
- Being Local - Even as we see more trends to syndicated and voice tracked dayparts remember that just because we don't have someone local behind the mic doesn't mean that a brand or station cannot be a HUGE force and have a BIG local presence. Take an honest look at what the 'local personalities' did to really be local (on and off the air) - there are more people who are just voices on the transmitter here than real people in the community.
- Being Authentic - The real key to marketing our clients products/services and building our brands is CONTENT. Having creative content that is authentic and draws the attention of the audience is the only way to build any momentum in today's marketing universe. We have so many delivery options from broadcast, the web, social networks, going viral, You Tube, billboards, print, product placement, sports tie ins and who knows what else that the audience is drowning in hype. The only way to rise above the hype is to have some authentic entertaining content. If we'd start to focus on building this into the campaigns we sell (both on the air and in the digital world) we will become a huge force in marketing again.
- New Web Gadget/Gimmicks - Last year we saw the rise of Pandora and the lure of Groupon. In the end we can see how both are fairing in the stock world. Pandora went public and is pretty much at 1/2 it's opening prices. Trying to mount a local sales force for Pandora in every market and living in a royalty world that will limit their income as they grow is not a model that will sell on Wall Street. Groupon is too easily copied and really ends up being just another hyped up marketing model and it's stock is about 1/3rd less than the opening. Really radio answered these threats pretty well - the advance of the CBS and Clear Channel into the streaming world is a good answer. Groupon is being hit a lot by local stations that have built their own answers for clients. There will be new gadgets next year - maybe one of them will be RADIO!!! We do have lots of advantages that are being ignored.
- Music - A big transition year. Rap/Hip Hop is getting pretty extreme in the language and topics. The pop world has been living for a long time on the young world of Katy Perry, Taylor Swift and Ga Ga and their LPs from 2 years ago. What will evolve? Indie Rock with unique instruments, lyrics, and presence? A new breed of rocker that isn't a copy of Nickleback? An authentic country voice that isn't really a pop singer in boots? A singer songwriter that impacts the Hot AC and AC world - or is that Adele? Watch for new music on your desk this year -- the audience is ready for the Next Thing not a rehash of the last thing.
The real note here is that we have a restless audience. They are ready to 'occupy anything' because they are ready for something different and perhaps new. But, in the end they are looking to be entertained and being a part of a community. Even with hundreds of TV channels, millions of web sites, endless on-demand video, thousands of streaming stations, lots of local broadcasters in every market, huge social networks - we are still mostly looking for entertainment and information. The other challenge is a world where there are new product distribution options all the time - staying on top of them and investing quickly and wisely will keep our brands in front of the audience. If we can keep those areas as our top priorities making money, building EBITA, hitting budgets and keeping Radio a strong player in the mix will happen automatically. Happy 2012!!!!