From the Corner Office
This Month’s Topic:
To Stream or Not To Stream: Is It Even a Question?Hello Everyone,
Recently, while attending the RAB Conference in Orlando, I overheard a conversation between two broadcasters comparing the potential cost-savings they could reap by turning off their simulcast online audio streams. I know that times are tough, but everything about this conversation seemed wrong to me. We are in danger of cost-cutting ourselves right out of business.
These broadcasters appeared to have no worries that their audience is being seduced by the personalization and convenience of the digital entertainment world. Some may pretend that it does not matter, but we all notice when “civilians” (non-radio types) start demanding applications for Facebook, Pandora, MySpace, even Twitter. Last year, it was the under 30 demographic; this year, it seems like everyone is asking about them. The stark fact is that radio now has to share the stage with an ever-expanding toolbox of communication and entertainment.
It is vital for radio to follow our audience, to make ourselves available on new platforms and in new forms as the digital environment changes. If we don’t, we jeopardize our future as an industry. If we are not moving forward, we are losing ground. The car has traditionally been radio’s stronghold. What’s going to happen when our listeners get behind the wheel with a wireless internet connection in their next car? Farfetched? Not at all, Cadillac has one available next month. Better yet, ask your “civilian” friends how they plug their iPod into their car stereo. You will be surprised how many of them have figured out a way to get what they want, when they want it.
The radio industry is so fixated on the past that it cannot see that the future is now. Sure, some of these are early-adopter gizmos and the audiences will be small at first, but adoption of new technologies is moving forward at breakneck speed. We cannot let the current economic slowdown serve as an excuse to not invest in the future, nor can we let our immediate problems – acute as they may be – smother long-term strategic thinking.
During this economic squeeze, the total cost of streaming is high when you include Sound Exchange fees and bandwidth costs. We are competing with thousands of internet-only stations, many of whom have found exotic niches. We are competing with Pandora and others who customize the music mix to individual tastes. And yes, streaming spots are selling at a “dollar a holler” or worse. That’s today; but what about tomorrow, next year, or 2020? We are actively searching for the proper business model for streaming audio and we cannot abdicate that search to the internet-only pure play operators. The extension of our established, local brand names onto digital devices is just another chapter in radio’s evolution to a multi-platform local media company. And that’s our future, whether we embrace it right now or fight it every step of the way.
For Greater Media, streaming is a mandate; we will be where our listeners want us to be. Our iPhone streaming platform will be joined by a Blackberry platform in the near future. We will be mobile, on the desktop and on the air. We will be ubiquitous, and we will expand and enrich our on-air, digital, and interactive communities every day.
We will also offer these enhancements to each and every advertiser who is interested in more than a traditional radio spot schedule, who wants to find their audience where they work and play. We will educate and inform our advertisers, because just as our audiences are changing their habits, so too are their customers; they are one and the same.The future and the opportunities it holds are upon us. The only question is whether we want to be a player or a spectator. Please feel free to e-mail me by clicking on the “Ask Peter” icon posted below. I would love to hear your feedback or answer any questions you may have.
Best regards,Peter April 2009