So, I'm warning you before you read the rest of this post. It is not one of my favorites, it's painful to write, and as a fan of broadcast radio, it is truly uncomfortable.
But when you're talking about how “radio” shows up in the biggest search engine on the planet – Google – it's a problem. Because we make 3.5 billion Google searches a day. That breaks down to 40,000 searches a second. As we know only too well, search drives consumer choices – and their perceptions.
Google matters, and that's why there is so much SEO – or Search Engine Optimization – happening every second of every day. Reputation management has become a big industry as brands and platforms work hard to ensure a Google search yields positive results.
So, when radio lover and industry veteran, Jay Philpott, sent me an email that contained the following Google search, showing these “autocomplete” results, it got my attention;
The above graphic isn't from Jay's email – I was easily able to replicate it myself. And so can you.
Jay Philpott is not a rabblerouser. His first email address was Jaydio@AOL.com. He loves the business that has supported his dreams for decades and is upset that when the typical web surfer types in something as innocuous as “Radio is” into Google, this stuff comes up. His email footer reads “I live in the present, I work in the future, but my hobby is radio's past.” Believe me, Jay's current address is “92KQRS,” and he always rides on the radio team bus.
In his note to me, he suggested the radio industry invest in some serious SEO management to counter these nasty search results. If it were only that simple. Because search engine optimization isn't the root problem with Google's autocomplete technology. In fact, here's their explanation of how their search box actually populates predictions:
“We look at the real searches that happen on Google and show common and trending ones relevant to the characters that are entered and also related to your location and previous searches.”
You can read their entire document here that provides a clear explanation of their policy, and how their search technology works.
It's about millions of previous searches – people typing in the above words and phrases, and Google's algorithm “learning” the most common choices. That's an indication that many consumers are searching for information that support perceptions they hold or have heard others say. If it were only as easy as hiring an SEO maven.
I spoke to our Digital Dot Connector, Seth Resler, to get his take. Seth is very knowledgeable about these issues, and confirms these negative Google predictions about radio are not an SEO problem – they're an industry perception problem. What we see Google autocomplete display is an indication of things people already believe about radio.
Here's how he sees it:
“The radio industry needs to market itself. Once the general perception of the industry improves, people will stop typing these negative terms into Google, and the predictive text will show something else.”
Hopefully, more positive, upbeat descriptors.
Here's Seth's prescription for driving more positive Google search results for broadcast radio:
- Speak in one voice – For an industry where broadcast companies often go their own way, this issue is central to the survival of the business. As Jack Shephard said on “Lost” (one of Seth's favorite shows), “If we can't live together, we're going to die together.”
- Invest in marketing – The big players in the industry – along with key trade associations – need to pool resources to make a statement about broadcast radio.
- Look to other industries for inspiration – The “Got Milk?” campaign was a great booster for the beverage we all grew up with (but stopped drinking). “Pork – The Other White Meat” was a smart campaign that helped make consumer rethink their dining choices. These industries were faced with their own set of perceptual challenges, so they took different approaches to address them.
- Don't do the same old thing – The 93% pitch may be a strong message to advertisers (although I'm not convinced it is and neither are most marketers), but not to consumers. As our Techsurveys have clearly shown, people listen to radio for many reasons – companionship, mood elevation, and at-work accompaniment. Perhaps a new message about what radio means to people – and marketers – should be examined.
Of course, a lot depends on whether an image campaign for radio is targeted to advertisers or consumers. So, why not both?
The Google search problem is just a symptom of disturbing misperceptions about a storied medium that's a century old, still going strong, and making a difference in millions of people's lives every day of every week.
Seth's list contains heavy lifts for a radio industry not accustomed to banding together or seriously investing in mass marketing for its greater good. But just as radio companies were challenged to step it up back in the '50s when TVs invaded every living room in America, and again in the '70s when those upstart FMs passed their traditional AM uncles in overall listening, big ideas, big solutions, and big steps will have to be taken.
There are lots of wonderful answers to “Radio is….”
Let's help the audience fill in the blank.
Tomorrow, we'll look at Nielsen's new study of CMOs – advertisers with opinions about what works – and what doesn't – iin 2018.
Jacobs Media has consistently walked the walk in the digital space, providing insights and guidance through its well-read national Techsurveys.
In 2008, jacapps was launched - a mobile apps company that has designed and built more than 1,200 apps for both the Apple and Android platforms. In 2013, the DASH Conference was created - a mashup of radio and automotive, designed to foster better understanding of the "connected car" and its impact.
Along with providing the creative and intellectual direction for the company, Fred consults many of Jacobs Media's commercial and public radio clients, in addition to media brands looking to thrive in the rapidly changing tech environment.
Fred was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2018.
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