...don't even ignore 'em.
-- Samuel Goldwyn

Friday, December 24, 2004

Radio doesn't get it, even now.

As RadioWorld reported this week, media analyst Jack Myers says:

"Local radio declines will accelerate as stations suffer from a declining reputation among advertisers, insistence on internal competitive warfare and slow response to clutter concerns."
All media industries are always in trouble, somehow. Recent years have multiplied radio's potential external threats--Internet radio, XM and Sirius satellite radio services, cellphones, the Ipod. They're all new in the past ten years, are all achieving critical mass, and all threaten radio's personal relationship with its listeners.

Radio has not responded to these competitive threats. For years, the industry has been focused on one goal: get deregulated and consolidate station ownership. They got their wish with the Telecommunications Act of 1996. While they've been fixated on creating new, fast-growing stocks in a swirl of station purchases and cost-cutting, the world has been changing. Radio's millennial motto: stay in denial and take the damn profits.

Last July, Clear Channel, radio's biggest station collector, announced it'll reduce maximum commercial load on all its stations, effective January 1, 2005. They didn't say by how much. You can look how they're promoting this new policy here, and download (right-click) or read (left-click) the PDF press release here.

Meanwhile, the new satellite radio services look a lot like the existing local station universe--except for more variety, fewer commercials (including many no-commercial music channels). Clear Channel, taking no chances, owns a piece of XM.

Radio actually could use a mind reset. In the interest of accomplishing this, radio folks, here's a little required reading. Go out and buy a copy of the January Fast Company. Read about Malcolm Gladwell, a freelance writer-cum-business guru who's the darling of the big companies right now. You might even want to--shudder--read his new book. Read particularly what he says about focus groups.

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