Yesterday's post about the need for radio broadcasting's CEO's leading their companies through the technology maze was stimulated by a recent Gartner survey of 281 board directors and corporate board members. It was conducted online among respondents in North America, Latin America, Europe, and Asia/Pacific in June/July of this year.
Gartner analyst, Partha Iyengar, explained that many traditional industries – banking, retail, telecom, and healthcare, among them – will be dependent on their CEOs making the tough technology decisions.
Mobile features and usage patterns are key areas in this digital transformation, and banking is a business where they have come into sharper focus. As CIO Dive‘s Lindsey Wilkinson points out, “Mobile in the banking sector has become more and more the norm, pushing the industry to reimagine the value technology could bring. It's amazing how those smartphones come in handy when working with our finances.”
Radio could use more of that way of thinking with its mobile strategies. Watching just about any TV ad for a bank these days reveals how these companies are envisioning the advantages of mobile usage across customers of all ages and generations:
So, how does radio view the mobile opportunity? I can attest to the ways in which broadcasters are more enlightened about mobile today. We launched jacapps about 100 days after Apple opened its now-famous App Store way back in 2008. Fourteen years later, the majority of radio stations now have a mobile app of one kind or another. And that's a good thing.
But what capabilities do these apps have, and how have radio digital teams taken advantage of mobile's many possibilities?
A look at those who have downloaded their station's mobile app in our new Public Radio Techsurvey 2022 shows that streaming the station is far and away the #1 use case. There's nothing wrong with that, of course. But mobile can play an even greater role in engaging listeners.
Nearly half use the news feed feature (especially popular on NPR News stations). But note how fewer than four in ten (39%) say they frequently or occasionally use the app to make a donation. For radio stations highly dependent on listener contributions, you would expect more usage for mobile giving.
In spite of its obvious value and the ease of use of mobile donations, many public radio stations don't really focus on this feature in their app, instead relying on shopworn “pledge drives” that generally fail to resonate with younger listeners. But if the app allowed for easy contributions to the station, how many more Millennials would simply click a donation in their carts and head for the check-out? Every public radio executive will tell you the importance of attracting young people to the medium. Why not start on the device that defines their lives, the one they live on?
And that's just contributions. Clearly, a mobile app for (public) radio could provide other smart utilities and conveniences that would satisfy and even delight station fans.
It starts with a concerted “Mobile First” mindset, with an emphasis on listening to existing customers. That's clearly how other businesses perceive the vast mobile opportunity. If your station has its own app, there's virtually no limit on what you can do in the space. And this is another reason not to have an aggregated app with hundreds of other stations, a limiting factor in optimizing mobile's amazing possibilities.
You've no doubt read the wild predictions:
- Apps will become a thing of the past.
- Smartphones will soon be replaced by smart glasses.
- The Lions will win the Super Bowl.
None of these things will happen…at least anytime soon. And with the exception of the last one, consumers have become even closer to their smartphones and the apps that make them special and unique.
Why is it so important stations lean into their mobile strategies but also put a priority on serving their audiences? Because the data makes it an imperative.
Last week, I talked about Ford eliminating AM radio from its F-150 Lightning EVs. That means AM brands will only be app-accessible in these vehicles. Can we expect more automakers to save some money on their next generation of electric cars and trucks? I think you know the answer. This is where smartphones become the equivalent of transistor radios or Walkmans. And apps are the pushbutton presets.
A look at how smartphone ownership has become nearly ubiquitous while a working radio at home is now on the “endangered gadget” list is proof positive. Here's another slide from PRTS 2022 showing the trajectories of each:
Wonder what it looks like in three years? Five years? I think we know.
And yet when you listen to your average radio station – public, commercial, whatever – how often are they promoting their broadcast frequency versus their mobile app?
How many brainstorms and strategy sessions revolve around new app features and capabilities instead of thinking about over-the-air programs?
How often do stations encourage listeners to download their app, providing great reasons for doing so? (Think about the Chase Bank app TV ad.)
And how much research “real estate” do stations devote to their mobile app, learning how it can be more useful for listeners, and how broadcasters can expand their mobile footprint?
The Gartner study suggests the mission to “think mobile/audience first” has to come from the corner office. It's a major step that requires decision-making from the company's highest-ranking corporate officer.
Who knows? Shifting the company's focus in the mobile direction might just impress some of those Wall Street bankers. The numbers back it up. A new study of audio consumption reported in Inside Radio last week shows that both radio and mobile consumption are up in the first six months of this year among Internet users.
Conducted by Inside Intelligence/eMarketer, the Global Media Intelligence Report provides a nice hierarchy of time spent with various media outlets among web users here in the U.S.
That mobile is “up” isn't a surprise. Not only are cell phones ubiquitous, but we continue to use them more and more. Now we average 3½ hours a day on these devices, second only to how much time we spend on our computers (and for some reason, tablets aren't listed under “mobile”).
And then there's radio, the little medium that could. At an undeniably difficult time for traditional media, with many still not commuting to and from their jobs, broadcast radio is “up” also – a respectable four minutes a day.
Now, I fully realize other media and activities were also on the rise in the first half of 2022 – including podcasts, music streaming, streaming video on-demand, and even social messaging
But closer to home, radio has a pulse, and the mobile surge since the beginning of the “App Economy” in 2008 is still going strong. These are more green lights on the tech highway that should signal opportunity for radio operators.
But it starts with a “Mobile First” mindset, and a commitment to serving audiences and communities. For radio broadcasters, this isn't just aa good idea, but it might be a key component in the industry's survival strategy. Noting that “smartphones are ubiquitous,” the report goes on to make the point that “mobile media consumption continues to displace viewership and listenership in traditional channels.”
In other words, get on the mobile bus in a serious way or risk being passed by. And an aggressive mobile plan for radio brands also translates to better presence in cars, thanks in no small part to the growth spurt we continue to see for Apple CarPlay, in particular.
The key to the “connected car” is content drivers (and passengers) have on their smartphones. You station needs to have a strong presence on their mobile phones.
Up to this point for radio, mobile has been a box to be checked, just another tool in the digital tool kit.
What could it become to broadcasters who look at it as just another distribution outlet? How could it be used to forge radio's non-existent Gen Z strategy? How does mobile figure into radio's need to reconnect with its local communities? What kind of content can radio broadcasters create (and monetize) for smartphones only?
Imagine a “Mobile First” next phase for radio. And let's answer these questions.
P.S. To see the latest and greatest in smartphone technology, as well as a front seat to see cutting edge innovation and digital media, join us for our Jacobs Media CES 2023 Tour. Details here.