Yesterday for me and Paul was like deja vu all over again.
We hosted a mini-version of our DASH Conference in Detroit, an event put together by Michelle Younkman and her great group, the Christian Music Broadcasters. It's been nearly 8 years since that first mashup of radio and auto execs came together to talk cars, radio, and everything in between.
So for these two days, it's been DASH, Jr. And on our agenda has been a group of stellar execs, several of whom were veterans of our three conferences: Shawn DuBravac, John Ellis, Scott Burnell, Steve Newberry, Alexa Auto's Chief Evangelist Arianne Walker, and Jeff Jury.
In addition to the session, Michelle's group sampled coney islands in downtown Detroit, while visiting the Ford Rouge Plant and the Henry Ford Museum – all great destinations if you have occasion to visit the Motor City.
It's a class event, typical of the way CMB does things, right down to the “Pure Michigan” name tag license plates (pictured right).
Appropriately, today's Throwback Thursday is a post that highlighted that first DASH in the fall of 2013. Reading it over was a reminder how far we've come in collaborating with the auto industry, as well as how far we have to go.
So, buckle up, and let's go for a ride. – FJ
Yesterday at DASH a packed house listened, learned, and collaborated about all things “connected car.” Throughout the day, much of the emphasis of our panels and sessions were focused on what radio can learn from the automotive industry. With candid industry experts leading the way, from Greg Ross of GM to Julius Marchwicki from Ford, the room soaked in information about what the OEMs are doing and thinking – and what it means to radio.
Many of our sessions and panels emphasize what's happening in cars because of the massive changes in the dashboard that directly affect radio broadcasters. And the options that automakers are providing consumers seem to increase exponentially each year, thus impacting local AM/FM stations. How radio effectively competes in this environment has been a much-discussed topic in this blog, throughout the industry, and at other conferences. At DASH, it was our total focus.
In thinking about the automaker mindset as we’ve experienced it in our dealings with Ford for jacapps, as well as exposure to their marketers, engineers, and executives at CES and telematics conferences, I can tell you that most of them highly respect what radio is all about. And that came across during several sessions at DASH.
They all grew up with radio and have fond memories of the medium’s presence in their cars throughout their entire lives. One after the other affirms radio’s value proposition, even though they revel in the new choices their “center stacks” now offer.
When you consider that so many of the new dashboard choices are pure-plays, channels and devices offering customized music playlists, or satellite radio, broadcast radio’s unique qualities only become more pronounced.
When it’s on its game – and that’s not enough of the time for many stations – radio has a “why” that is unique, necessary, and even more relevant in the digital age.
Radio provides a sense of place unlike any other media or entertainment outlet. When you listen to KISW, you know you’re in Seattle. When you listen to WMMR, it is unmistakably Philly. When you tune in WWL, it could only be New Orleans.
Personalities, of course, enhance that local affinity, making consumers feel even more comfortable with Main Street radio brands. But it is the reflection of the hometown community that makes broadcast radio a unique medium, providing that sense of place.
Yet, how many radio stations truly weave this local DNA into their on- and off-air emphasis? Back in the ‘80s when he was the force behind Z Rock, I heard Lee Abrams speak at a Michigan radio conference. Defending network radio, he asked the audience how often local stations truly ooze that local ethos, outside of mentioning the city or town in weather forecasts.
And that was 30 years ago.
It’s a better question today as Z Rock is a memory, replaced by an infinite number of channels, playlists, networks, and pure-plays that come from smartphones, iPods, satellites, and apps.
And yet, there’s local radio, reminding us where and who we are, getting us through local emergencies as always, but also celebrating local championships (and lamenting the disappointments), and the people, events, and moments that make our cities, towns, and regions like no others. It’s that sense of place.
When there are personalities we know, trust, love, or even hate providing that local color, it gets better still. That’s the content that will motivate owners of vehicles equipped with SYNC, Entune, UConnect, and the systems of the future to go out of their way to be sure broadcast radio stations will be fixtures in their new “center stacks.” They need that sense of place.
So while the radio pros in attendance were taking copious notes at DASH yesterday, I’m thinking the reverse will be true today when “Behind the Mic/Behind the Wheel” takes the stage today, featuring WRIF’s Dave & Chuck the Freak (with Lisa Way), WXYT-FM’s Valenti & Foster, and WNIC’s Jay Towers – all three iconic shows here in the Motor City.
Executives from the auto industry will see first-hand just how incredible, real, and entertaining local radio can be, providing that personal and humorous sense of place. And hopefully, our radio managers and owners at DASH will be reminded of the ROI of their personalities – local icons – who matter to the communities they were licensed to serve. That's because when you think about what truly differentiates not just stations – but the many different forms of what is now being called “radio” – it comes down to that room in the corner with the board and the mics. Whether you rock, talk, or play-by-play or whether you're selling spots or underwriting messages, it comes down to the people on the air.
Every time a major radio personality leaves the medium for podcasting, satellite radio, or retirement – the erosion continues. At DASH, we’re hoping that when Buzz Knight moderates this session with his three big local stars, Detroit radio is going to put on a show of its own, demonstrating the power, magic, and allure of the medium and why it’s different from anything else in the dashboard.
It provides that sense of place.
Let the local stars shine. There’s no place like home.
- The Power of Music Passion - October 21, 2021
- Addressing My Car Radio Paranoia 3: Let's Fix It - October 20, 2021
- Radio's Car Radio Paranoia 2:What If Eric Rhoads Was Right? - October 19, 2021