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Is Radio The New Blockbuster?

"All 'SEVEN SONG SUPER SETS!' must Goooo!

Yes. Well, maybe but definitely not what it used to be.

Yeah, it's easy to write this post off as a 'You're just bitter that you got let go!' type of post but I'm reasonably thinking about what radio is and where it's going.

Long before my services were no longer needed at 'the old station' there was, at least in the company I worked for, a feeling of sameness, non-creative thought and focus on bottom line economics and revenue. And sometimes even a flat-out devaluing of creative thought.

I thought maybe this was just the company I was working for but, lo, it is not.

Since being out of radio for a while I've talked to a lot of former and current radio people and the feeling overall is that radio is not doing well and, worst of all, doesn't know what to do.

It seems like there's another article coming out like this one that focuses on either 'How radio can win again?' or 'What's the matter with radio?' and the like.

Over 10 years ago, HD Radio was supposed to be the next big thing that would draw ears and attention spans (all 9 seconds of em!) to terrestrial radio ("it plays the song AND shows me what the name of the song and artist is? WOW!. HYUCK!")

It didn't really work out.

All the thousands of dollars invested in installing HD Radio STLs and internet STLs and nowadays all they're used for is a cheap, no-jock, barely monetized 'internet station.'

'Blatz 102.3 on 102.3.2!'


Now, if they knew what to do with those HD Radio stations they'd be frigging goldmines but the lack of utilization of these HD signals is ANOTHER example of radio becoming the next Blockbuster Video.

For years, the digital world has put it's Bill Gates'eian hands on everything we do in life. Reading, calling, watching and of course: listening. There are so many choices and so many players and media available now.  Podcasts, streams, youtube, blogs, social media, your living room window (yes, that's digital now too!)

And what have radio stations done that's embraced any of these? Well, basically, just re-post stuff. 

That's it.

Of course, we did it too when I was at the old station but as we were moving forward we had our eye on more that would expand our show and our brand. But a 'different direction' prevailed so we weren't able to enact that forward movement.

But radio and it's digital realm consists of mostly re-posting the interesting conversation or bit you did on-air.  For the most part there's no original content there. SOME stations are getting it. For instance there's a co-host on a morning show (can't remember which one) but he's kind of a tech nerd. So instead of him doing a segment on the morning show about his tech passion, which might alienate half the audience who doesn't give a shit about the new graphics card that just came out, they gave him his own podcast on the subject. Easy, right?

Apparently not. As this is the exception and not the rule.

I remember when Netflix came around and Blockbuster video was still the main player in video rental. There was sure to be no competition from this little DVD mail-order-rental company, right? Wrong. We all know HOW that played out right? No need to get into it here except to summarize that Blockbuster is gone (except for the podunk store in Oregon)

What are the parallels? The similarities are that you have a legacy entity (Blockbuster/radio) who refuses to look forward and see the writing on the wall written by the sea change that's happening in the industry (Netflix/on-demand original content).

Like Blockbuster, radio is late to the game. They don't want to take chances or innovate. This is no more evident than in the sales side of things. I can't tell you how many times we had a creative brainstorm to help our account executives push an undecided client into advertising with us, come up with at least 3 great and 'purple' ideas, only to be told later that the client just wants to voice their own spot and talk about the discounts they got going on.

'AND you want to put in the address, huh?'

In the end, I'm pulling for radio. I actually am. Do I have some hard feelings? Yes but the distinction needs to be clear: hard feelings for a place is not the same as feelings for an industry. There are lots of great people in radio I want to see continue doing what they love. Hell, I even wouldn't mind getting back into it myself, I've even applied for a few jobs. I want radio to evolve and do better by the digital age but as it stands now, it is not doing anything close to that.

And, if not addressed soon, it'll be like Blockbuster:

Dead and irrelevant.

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