WARNING: ANOTHER ONE OF MY RANTS
A few months ago I wrote a post stating that terrestrial radio was heading towards its doom primarily due to all the commercials, lack of local programming, and ignoring the warning signs. New delivery systems – especially internet radio – will overtake the dinosaur AM & FM’s if they don't open their eyes.
Several days after the article ran, Tim Conway Jr., the nighttime host on KFI Los Angeles devoted an entire half hour of his program to ripping me and the piece. Yes, it was a very slow news day. Tim is a good guy and I took no offense. I’ve been ripped on the air far worse. But by defending the health of terrestrial radio he sounded like a company shill. KFI, in fact is a Clear Channel station.
I find it amusing that he had to interrupt his tirade for a six minute commercial break and he took no listener calls. (God forbid someone would agree with me.) I have offered to go on his show and debate the issue. You can guess his response to my invitation.
Now Ad Week Magazine has come out with the results of a survey that show internet radio is indeed on the rise. Here are the major findings:
• Internet radio is used by the majority of online Americans (53%). (And who isn’t online these days?)
• The total time spent with audio is clearly expanding as people are now enjoying more audio from more devices in more places.
• 83% of smartphone owners listen to some kind of Internet radio on their mobile devices. (And who doesn’t have a smartphone?)
Mark Cuban also said as much last Friday on SHARK TANK.
Clear Channel itself is trying to get a seat at the table with I Heart Radio. But they’re competing with Pandora, Spotify, Tune In, and now Apple has entered the fray with iTunes Radio. Additionally, you have thousands of great homegrown internet stations that feature any kind of music format you could imagine. Pat Boone singing heavy metal is available if you’re willing to search for it.
How will terrestrial radio react to this survey? They’ll ignore it. Say it’s irrelevant. Boast about all the revenue they’re making, although the money is mortgaging their future and coming from such sources as half hour informercials on colon cleanser. They’ll finagle numbers to show that audiences still listen primarily to terrestrial radio (ignoring the fact that those numbers are dwindling both in total number of listeners and time spent listening).
And Tim Conway Jr. will have another half hour topic.
Every year it’s getting easier and easier to access the internet on your car radio. You can already program stations on some and more vehicles will be equipped with that capability soon. Thanks to Bluetooth and auxiliary patches, you can plug any smartphone of tablet into your dashboard. Thousands and thousands of options are now at your fingertips that weren’t there years ago. And they take only a minute or so to set up. Even I can do it. Does terrestrial radio seriously believe people would rather hear 20 minutes of commercials an hour over no commercials and music they specifically have chosen? Let’s see their study that shows that. (They probably have one.)
Make no mistake -- I love terrestrial radio. I grew up on it. Some heritage stations are sacred to me. I’m not rooting for their demise. I just want them to get their head out of the sand and fix the problem. And the first step is recognizing that there is a problem. (Is there a Greedy Broadcasters Anonymous?)
Then fight back. There are 50,000 whats you can do. Charge more for each commercial then play fewer of them. Hire personalities. Be local. Provide the programming that Pandora can’t. And if you’re an AM station you might let listeners know where they can still get an AM radio. Why let a radio station that you’ve paid millions for be rendered less successful than one some kid has put up in his bedroom with a used laptop, a microphone, and a music program?
Radio wars used to be legendary in the '50s and '60s. You know how to fight. And you know how to win. Put down that colon cleanser and pick up a sword!