Radio In Its Many, Many Forms

This post was also published on Sounding Board, a blog from The Radio Agency where I serve as a Marketing Consultant.
For nearly 80 years, commercial radio was delivered in one simple form: radio waves broadcast by a tower and collected by that little receiver in your car or on your desk. AM/FM were your only choices, but that still provided people in large cities with 20 or 30 or 40 or 50 stations.
Then, the Internet happened and changed the way everyone talks about radio. We went from 50 choices to 50,000 and the way we receive radio also changed. It’s now available on just about every device connected to the Internet, including some refrigerators. That also means that more and more companies are “doing” and “making” and “selling” radio.
In the last few weeks, we’ve seen three developments that epitomize the rapidly changing landscape:

  1. First, we heard that Tom Wilson (a long-time radio vet with a solid history of success) plans to launch a new Rock station in Cleveland on a low-power FM license. Their goal is to hire local personalities and tie them into the community at events like rib cook-offs and county fairs, to differentiate the station from playlist-services like Pandora or SiriusXM. “We just can’t play music because anybody can go anywhere to pick up music,” says Wilson. “We want to be a station that everybody talks about at Starbucks in the morning because of our programming — because it’s different, it’s entertaining and it’s fun.” Here’s a established professional attempting to launch a profitable radio station on a low-power signal in a major market.
  2. Next, and more interesting to me, is the news that Boston.com (which is run by The Boston Globe and owned by the New York Times Company) has agreed to launch a live streaming radio station. The station will feature Alternative/Rock music and the personalities and staff from 101.7 WFNX-FM/Boston, which was recently purchased by Clear Channel and is rumored to become a News/Talk station when the sale is finalized. We’ve seen similar attempts to convert a broadcast station to a live streaming station with legendary rock radio brands like WOXY in Cincinnati, Y-100/WPLY in Philadelphia, and Q101 in Chicago, but never from a print company. Here’s a newspaper attempting to ride a wave in their local market and turn hype into real revenue.
  3. This announcement came on the heals of news from Pandora that they have developed a program that allows local media companies (read: newspapers) to sell Pandora inventory bundled with their own (read: print and digital) advertising products. Pandora has struggled to enter and compete for sales at the local level and this gives them a direct pipeline to large sales teams and companies eager to find new revenue streams. Most newspaper companies have struggled to maintain any growth at all and this will give them a chance to hitch their wagons to the cool kid on the block. Here’s an advertising darling courting an entire industry in transition.

So, what does all this mean for you? More choices? More variety? More sales reps calling on you? More pitches to decipher? More chance for failure? More chance for success? Yes to all of those. But what it really means is that you need to be even more thoughtful about what radio is, how it works, and how it can deliver a return on your investment. Radio has many, many forms. You just need to find the one that helps your business grow.
Follow me on Twitter @Kondylas for insights and inside information about the radio industry.