Shaving cream. Check.
AM/FM radio. Check.
Everyone's got a checklist when a couple thousand or so industry pros make the trek to The Radio Show (this year subtitled “REIMAGINED”). As an industry, we're meeting up in Dallas with many questions about broadcast radio and where it's heading in 2020.
If you're wondering why there's a battery powered radio on my luggage list, it's because I've learned (the hard way) that hotels increasingly don't furnish radios in their room. The Anatole may be an exception, but I'm taking my own radio just in case. These days, hotel TVs are connected to Netflix and Hulu, and there's often an iHome-like device on the nightstand. And increasingly, an Alexa.
But a radio? Good luck with that.
Today's blog post – “The strange disappearance of radio” – sounds like a true crime podcast. But this post is not a fictional account of radios mysteriously vanishing from people's homes and workplaces. That's a well known story that's been going on for years.
But thanks to streaming, and gadgets like mobile phones and smart speakers, radio broadcasters have new ways to ensure Americans will be able to receive their content, even as technology changes.
No, today's post is about “radio” doing a disappearing act across a wide spectrum of audio products, platforms, and brands. Back when they first launched, Pandora and Spotify always tacked “radio” onto their names to explain what its service was all about to consumers. A big part of their strategy was to convince music lovers how their streaming service echoed radio as a form of entertainment.
But a look at their websites today reveal the R-word has quietly gone missing in action. It's not in the header, the descriptor of either Pandora or Spotify. In fact you're hard-pressed to find “radio” anywhere in plain sight. You will see the terms “stations,” but there's no sign of “radio” on their home pages or on their “about us” pages:
Now in fairness, they may not be the biggest music streaming services, but players like Slacker Radio and AccuRadio – to name just a couple – continue to prominently feature “radio” on their websites, as well as embedded in their brand names.
Yet, even SiriusXM appears to have diminished the use of “radio” in its brand descriptors, web materials, and in other high-profile places. True, a number of their “radio stations” occupy the flipper position where you see Howard Stern (pictured below right), but where they once strongly positioned their service as a better version of “radio,” that language does not seem to be a part of their online positioning strategy. In their brand definition, they almost have gone out of their way to avoid it.
And they're not alone. The “R-word” may be on the endangered buzzword list.
Julia Ziegler, Digital News Director of WTOP, will be one of the featured speakers at our opening session at The Radio Show Wednesday morning, along with other luminaries and innovators who have transformed their businesses and their brands. As she will explain to attendees, WTOP increasingly refers to their content as “live audio product” – not “radio.” That's because it lives on many different distribution platforms – of which radio is one.
And that's why last Friday's announcement from ABC Radio was so powerful, and so timely heading into The Radio Show. They will now be known as ABC Audio (that's my cheesy rendering below).
But ABC is not alone, joining many other traditional broadcasters who have dropped “radio” and replaced it with “media” or “audio.”
These rebranding efforts say less about “radio” as a medium, but more about the fact that broadcasters are now acknowledging their content is being disseminated on many different channels and platforms. Interestingly, video is one of these, as more companies invest significant human and financial resources into content that is visually based. And that goes well beyond “audio.”
These are all fascinating ideas to ponder as we gather in Dallas this week, and there's no question they will be discussed and debated – in many sessions as well as at dinners, parties, and social gatherings splattered throughout the week.
Our Wednesday morning session is aptly titled “You're not just in the radio business anymore.” And we're excited to feature transformative radio professionals successfully guiding their companies, their brands, and their personal careers through an unpredictable media landscape.
These are the conversations that should be happening in our business, as its leaders face the challenge of navigating through unstable, uncertain, disruptive times. With dynamic speakers from Gary Vaynerchuk to Charlotte Jones Anderson, and sessions and panels designed to stretch our thinking, we're excited to be part of it.
But it seems to me that what's at issue has little to do with the precise language we end up using to brand our businesses, and everything to do with the strategy and execution we bring to the media party in 2020. It is one thing to say we have a renewed focus on apps, skills, videos, and podcasts, and others to publish content, feature personalities, and connect with our communities in meaningful ways. What level of engagement and entertainment will traditional broadcasters bring to these new platforms? And how can we remain competitive and relevant in a rapidly changing environment?
So, perhaps it has less to do with what we call ourselves and more to do with how we conduct ourselves.
On that note, see you at The RADIO Show!
Join us Wednesday at 8:30am for “You're Not Just In The Radio Business Anymore: Stories from Innovators Who've Made The Transformation.”
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.
Latest posts by Fred Jacobs (see all)
- WWND?How Netflix Is Responding To A Lackluster Quarter - October 18, 2019
- What's Your Radio Station's “McRib?” - October 16, 2019
- Hey, Radio:What If No One “Liked” You? - October 15, 2019