The Downside Of Choice
July 30, 2013
Listeners faced with too many options today can feel overwhelmed and often end up dissatisfied. As product choices increase, so do audience expectations of location and the station or media choice that meets their needs. So what's the answer? Focus less on the possibility that listeners can find the perfect match among dozens of media choices -- and more on the concept that the vast options provide the knowledge a listener needs to make an educated guess. These are some examples of the downside of choice.
Here's a thought starter: How did Apple, with no experience in making digital music players and with a legacy computer business to maintain, become the world's dominant digital music company? Apple had the foresight to secure long-term licensing agreements with major labels, enabling it to create the iTunes music service and sell individual songs; in turn, Apple sold more iPods.
Today it's so easy to search, download and burn and in so doing, share files instantly among friends that for many, this has become the new music distribution system. Over and over we see what motivates consumers: convenience and creative programming. People have happily sacrificed audio quality in order to squash their music collection into a cigarette-sized box.
It's not that they people don't care about quality. They do. If you offer something that's cheap, convenient and of high quality, such as the CD once was, they will spend millions. But not on a digital radio that plays the same stuff their favorite FM radio station plays. On SiriusXM, listeners tend to pre-set three to four channels just like terrestrial radio. And these choices tend to be hit channels. So note the difference between what people say they want and what they actually use. For the most part, we are playing the jams most folks want to listen to. That is not to say you can't get some short-term juice by coming up with a new blend.
So what's the best way to stop listener leakage? By doing what your competition can't clone - your unique and compelling air talent. The relationships that your talent develops with your audience are priceless and those assets belong to your station. Music is dynamic, cyclical ... and even fickle. But your air talent is like family. They bind listeners to your station.
Live local air talent who can draw and hold an audience are rare, but they do exist. Between fewer opportunities and major-market risk aversion, there aren't as many as there once were. Some of these air personalities are likely to be syndicated or voicetracked, but if they can connect, it doesn't matter.
New Media's Role
Today's programmers have a lot of different things that have to be handled everyday and although social media platforms are very important and can even be done from your own phone, finding the time to do all the things that are required every single day presents a huge challenge.
On another level, new media has helped to create fresh opportunities and helped advance expand our reach and brand. Websites, Facebook and Twitter, are today's billboards. As programmers we are challenged to think smarter, utilize these assets and create engagement with our listeners that should evoke more passion for our brands. Urban radio needs to embrace new media and manipulate that technology in order to help grow its brands beyond the dial. We can avoid some of the downsides of choice by sharing our knowledge with the listeners and teaching them how to use it.
Create viral content that can be easily shared with your audience. The goal is to make the videos quick, clever and worth forwarding from listener to listener. Stations that have done this have begun to get tweets and e-mails from other stations that have seen what they are doing and have created a few of their own.
In order to continue to be successful, today's programmers need to bond with their sales departments and embrace new ways of creating revenue beyond commercial inventory. Smart programmers will look to their websites and other digital assets in order to create positive experiences for their clients. Stations need to utilize their online stores and offer deals and perks in order to create and build new business. There is a tremendous upside for both the bottom line and the competitive advantages of our stations. With new commercial-free content and producers like Pandora popping up every day, we have to embrace new methods to drive revenue and seek ways to limit the commercial interruptions that will affect the choices our audiences will be forced to make.
Finally, the downside of choice also means despite new commercial-free content providers like Pandora, seemingly popping up very week, we need to embrace new methods of driving revenue and building audience.
For young broadcasters who want to grow and develop there are no short cuts. You have to put in the time and education. Raw skills and ability can only take you so far. Without the education, you will eventually run into obstacles that can hinder or stop your progress. You can't just wake up one morning, walk into a garage and overhaul an engine with your charisma.
Radio is like that. It's an every changing medium. If you are a perceptive programmer, you learn new things about yourself every day. These things all go to form your reputation. Reputation is who people think you are. Character is who you are when no one is looking.