Sticks and Stones, Rubber and Glue
June 20, 2014
For once, there are radio conventions going on and I'm not attending them. It wasn't deliberate -- I had to remain in California for reasons too boring to outline here -- but I couldn't go, so the world is being deprived of my usual irritated tweets from the back of the room. (In other words, no great loss.) And, of course, very, very few people at radio conventions bother to tweet about them, so I had to do some digging to see what's happening, which turns out to be... I can't tell, to be honest with you. Nobody's tweeting. Since the agendas are the same as always, I'm thinking I'm not missing anything new.
But I did catch a little of what happened at the New Jersey Broadcasters Association's annual convention and pep rally the other day, and I'm... you know, I'm not sure whether I'm appalled or amused. Here's the short version: A panelist from Pandora canceled, so they made fun of him and Pandora and called them "chicken" and "making sh-t up" and that kind of thing. Because, you see, radio people think that's how you do it, rip the competition. Convince advertisers that the other guy sucks and it's back to the good old days. Easy.
Which, of course, is... I guess appalling is the word that works best, because it shows that the management really don't respect their customers, or even the advertisers, one bit. The public doesn't look at it as radio versus Pandora or other pure-play streamers versus podcasts; it's all the same to them, and more options. They'll pick what sounds best for them. Advertisers are being hit with numbers from all sides, but they're ultimately going to be looking at return on their investment, and the winner, if there needs to be a winner, will be the medium that best delivers results. And it's not only entirely possible but probable that there will be room for everyone.
Look, if radio's content is better than Pandora's, radio wins. If Pandora's is better, Pandora wins. If someone else is better, that one wins. If everyone is great, the listeners win. But instead of concentrating on the product and what radio can do that Pandora isn't very good at doing yet, radio people scream that their ratings and Pandora's ratings are apples and oranges, that you can't compare them, and that this means that radio's measurement is somehow better.
Two words about that: Los. Angeles.
Radio, you don't want to go down that measurement road. Trust me on that.
Broadcast, streaming, and podcasting all have advantages and disadvantages. Broadcast can do live material best and is easiest to access, but has signal limitations and no customization. Streaming can be customized and can also do live material, but data service is not ideal for listening to, oh, say, a baseball game via MLB's app while in rush hour traffic on the 110 freeway Thursday afternoon. (Yes, that was my personal experience yesterday and yes, I'm annoyed.) Podcasts (insert full disclosure of my position with Nerdist here) are great for on-demand listening and offer a wide range of content that broadcast won't touch, but aren't live. To the listener, they're all options. They all will deliver sizable audiences -- many already do -- that will be attractive to advertisers, some across all platforms, some better suited for one or the other. All are viable. Quibbling over measurement statistics and sales puffery is spending a lot of energy concentrating on something that will be sorted out soon enough without the bloviating.
Here's all they need to say on these panels: The best content will usually win. (Bad technology will be the only exception; put the best content on AM radio and it won't do as well as it will on FM, but you know that already.) And winning, in the new age, will require more accurate and reliable measurement than something that can be thrown off kilter by two households. Rather than rattling the competition's cage, the panels at these conventions should be talking about building better shows, building better measurement, and building what comes next.
Maybe it's better I'm here and not there.
If you're building a better talk show, or morning show, or podcast, or whatever it is that you do on the air, try All Access News-Talk-Sports' Talk Topics for hundreds of items and ideas for segments on your shows, plus kicker stories you won't see anywhere else. Find it by clicking here. And the Talk Topics Twitter feed at @talktopics has every story individually linked to the appropriate item.
Full Disclosure: I also serve as Director of Programming for Nerdist Industries (a division of Legendary Pictures), which includes the Nerdist Podcast Network, one of your major podcast entities.
One thing that made me wish that I HAD gone to the NJBA this week, though, was the induction of my old boss from Press Broadcasting/Press Communications, Bob McAllan, into their Hall of Fame. Bob has one of the most creative business minds I have ever encountered, and his way of looking at the broadcasting industry has been a tremendous influence on me for decades. If there was ever anyone in radio and television about whom you could consistently say "everyone should listen to him," Bob is it. Congratulations, Bob; As always, I can't wait to see what unusual but totally brilliant idea you come up with next.