Is The Radio Industry Too Selfish?

For years now, many in the radio industry have viewed the challenges they face from technology and consumer trends all wrong. They have seen it from the perspective of the radio industry, not the consumer.

The latest example is illustrated in this article, titled: “As TuneIn Continues Subscription Push; Where Does AM/FM Go?”

Setting up the argument:

TuneIn, the one time aggregator that built its brand on the backs off making it easy to find streams for broadcast radio before putting its growth behind premium subscription content, has raised $50 million to continue its investment in building a subscription based competitor to SiriusXM. Bloomberg reports that “TuneIn will use the money to pay for rights to live sporting events and original programming like podcasts and music shows, which will help the company sign up more customers for a two-year-old subscription service.”

The tone is, unambiguously, “how dare TuneIn use the desirability of radio content to create a platform which steals away those listeners for subscription services which benefit TuneIn, not its radio partners!”

Lost on the author is the idea that this is precisely how things should work for TuneIn. It’s the exact same model used by Netflix, which launched with content produced by others and is gradually transforming to a “Netflix Originals” model, most recently illustrated by the announcement that Disney is pulling its content off Netflix just as Netflix signed ABC hitmaker Shonda Rhimes to a long-term deal.

In both cases, TuneIn’s and Netflix’s, these brands are recognizing that garnering a larger share of consumer attention requires unique and compelling original content, not (for example) the same stations or the same songs you can hear anywhere.

From TuneIn’s perspective consumers are not going to pay for the same thing they can get for free in your local market. They are only going to pay for what’s exclusive, special, unique. And while your station is not sufficiently any of those things, neither is access to hundreds or thousands of stations like yours.


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There is, in other words, no way a platform enabling listening to thousands of radio stations can earn subscription dollars simply by offering access to those stations in a convenient platform, all other things equal. Why does the average consumer need access to every station from everywhere? Where’s the evidence that she wants that? Probably, she wants access to one station somewhere – and that station is likely streaming and presumably has its own custom app. Problem solved.

Well, problem solved for the listener, not the radio industry.

That article argues the radio industry should believe it has an inalienable right to universal access to all stations on a single platform.

The author – like many in radio – mistakenly believes that “it’s all about radio” rather than “it’s all about giving me – the consumer – whatever I want whenever I want it.” Thus they don’t realize they has less to fear from TuneIn’s platform expansion and more to fear from a live daily morning show on Twitter produced by Buzzfeed or a network of live premium shows on Facebook.

In other words, we should be less worried about sharing our attention on TuneIn with TuneIn’s premium content and more concerned with losing attention altogether to other content streams on other platforms that are not radio.

The article concludes:

Regardless the broadcast radio industry needs to work together to create a platform where the radio industry comes first and not tech companies using radio content to further their financial goals with little in return coming to radio and much more to be lost.

“Platform where the radio industry comes first”?

Tell me, where is the platform where the TV industry comes first? Where’s the platform where the music industry comes first? Where’s the platform where the newspaper industry comes first? All of these industries are in the content and distribution business, making deals for their content on whatever platform is in the way of consumer attention.

Disney didn’t choose to lobby for a TV-only platform. No, they invested in ESPN, in Marvel, in Lucasfilm, etc. Because platforms are plentiful, what’s scarce is the unique and compelling content that brings consumers back again and again.

Smarter thinking is built around the needs and desires of consumers, not those of industries obsessed with their own interests over all else.

When you look at your audience and see only your own industry, you are destined for a slow decline.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Posted in future, mark ramsey, mark ramsey media, Media, netflix, radio, radio industry, Radio's Future, radioinsight, ramsey-blog, shonda rhimes, subscription, tunein

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