Now, Online Radio IS Real Radio

This could be a dangerous attitude to have.  Maybe it’s just positioning radio against competitors.  Maybe it’s indicative of the “head in the sand” attitude that some of us have about Pandora (and other online listening choices).

Look, I get that she’s working hard to be supportive of radio.  And she’s positioning radio versus Pandora mostly from a sales standpoint.  And … I don’t personally know Mary Beth Garber of the Katz Radio Group who was quoted in All Access yesterday saying that Pandora’s not radio.

I have no argument with her numbers.  Is it possible that Pandora is making their ratings info look at spiffy as possible for all the new local advertisers they’re going after?  Heck, yeah.

Beyond that, Mary Beth is making some dangerous assumptions.

WHAT IS RADIO?

We can try and define what radio is all we want.  We may say that personalities, great promotions, local content and engagement are what make radio … that the music is a part of it but not all of it.

Unfortunately, the marketplace gets to decide what radio is.  If they decide that a steady, predictable, customized music stream is radio, guess what?  It’s radio.

Do we broadcasters have a fondness for and an attachment to the things that make us feel good about our medium?  Of course.  We just can’t get caught falling in love with our tools if technology and new attitudes move away from our territory … or just grow more inclusive of things we don’t do.  It’s a wild, fluid time, and we need to be ready to jettison our most cherished beliefs.  It’s what we’ve believed all along that’s most likely to slap us upside the head at an inopportune time.

NICE DREAM TO HAVE

In addition, I have to call out Ms. Garber for this bit of wishful thinking:

Radio stations enable instant, active ongoing, emotionally based engagement between their personalities and their listeners. Radio stations talk about and relate to your community, its weather, traffic and gossip, and many stations select and play music for you. Radio personalities engage with you on multiple platforms and at events.

There are still some great radio stations where that happens.  But there are also entire markets where it’s tough to find a station that fits that description.

I’m not one of those people who slams the broadcasting industry, or claims things used to be better in some bygone halcyon era.  Still, you just gotta drive across the USA to know that Mary Beth’s description of radio today is a goal to be aimed for and an ideal to be realized.  It is not, however, reality.

JOCKS … MORE EMOTIONAL POWER THAN A SONG?

Finally, why do we say that a DJ engages with people where a song doesn’t?  Have you ever watched someone who gets the instant gratification of hearing a song that she or he loves?  It’s like a drug.  It’s a mood-changing service that we … and Pandora … offer, when we play great songs.  I have some friends who are talented personalities and do an excellent job, but … we all know that the average listener does not tend to crank up the radio when the jock comes on.

We can try and shore up our defenses instead of seeing the marketplace as it really is, or we can embrace the new media reality that exists today.  I applaud Mary Beth Garber for standing up for broadcasting.  I just would hate to see us start to believe our own press releases.

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