Is commercial radio short-sighted?


I got a big reaction a couple of days ago to a blog I posted called, “Radio needs a Steve Jobs”. I pointed out that commercial radio is being run by sales and marketing people and their focus is not on delivering great content.

In an interview recorded in 1995, Steve Jobs said that sales and marketing people have no idea of the craftsmanship required to take a good idea and turn it into a good product and they have no feeling in their hearts about wanting to help their customers.

Instead of looking for new content ideas and ideas people, radio companies have only been looking for ways to sell and market the same tired old product. That’s why radio isn’t coming up with great new content ideas.

Since I posted that blog, I’ve realised, it’s not just the content radio has missed out on. It’s also missed huge, money making distribution platforms.

iTunes, Facebook, Twitter and Youtube are the current big success stories on the web. All of them should have come from radio, because radio had a head start.

iTunes started when Apple did a deal with the record labels. –  Radio already had a relationship with the labels AND a relationship with potential customers AND a way to showcase their product.

While Facebook and Twitter were harnessing the power of large groups of people with common interests, radio stations were getting their jocks to read out texts on the air. Radio had ready-made fans and a database of their most active users but instead of making that relationship stronger, radio decided those people were “sad” and called them names like “anoraks” and “Prize Pigs”.

Youtube was built on user generated content. – For years radio had been getting their most loyal listeners to perform, write and create in return for mentions and prizes but radio never thought to put that content on the web. While YouTube was growing, radio station websites were filled with wall-to-wall banner ads and bios of the air staff which included a picture of them with their mouth open and lame Q&As like “What’s the most you’ve ever paid for a haircut?”

The next big thing is out there but commercial radio won’t find it because radio is run by sales and marketing people. They’re very good at what they do but they aren’t sensitive enough to understand what moves people and how you connect with them long term. They didn’t get where they are today by understanding their audience. They’re not bonused on enriching their listeners lives, they are bonused on the amount of money they bring in. They got to the top by focusing on their next target for the month or the quarter.

Don’t believe me? Just imagine if Facebook, Twitter or Youtube didn’t exist and you pitched them to radio station management. Would they embrace them as ways to make deeper connections with their listeners and make it part of their long term online presence or would they come back to you with, “But how do we monetize it?”

Craic on!

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If you enjoyed this Craic, please click “like” and tweet a link. If you’d like to talk to me about it, call me on +44 1438 422106 between 6 and 9 weekday mornings (UK time) on BOB fm.


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