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Friday, January 16, 2015

(DIGITAL) Is Digital Still Just A Buzzword?


Well the Internet and smartphones have been around for over a decade now, and the entire doomsday "end of radio as we know it" talk that has surrounded this buzzword has continued. But will the digital landscape really be the end of radio? My personal opinion is that it will lead to a monumental shift in the next 10 years in what we are used to hearing when we turn that dial.

If I were to predict the future, I see radio transitioning to a medium that is digital content broadcast over digital platforms. And yes, the cars that we drive will almost entirely be digital, with user applications controlling the real estate on these interactive dashboards.

What makes any content distributor truly great and one that lasts is just that. The content! Local content providers across the country that have a specific niche following will be the personalities of the future. Look at the success that YouTube has had in turning obscure individuals into online superstars with hundreds of thousands of followers.

Again, it all comes back to the content that is being provided that will determine the success, or dare I say failure, of a radio station's brand. This shouldn't be alarming to anyone as this has always been the case; but as radio's competition grows, so must the radio industry grow and evolve in order to continue thriving.

Some analysts have even predicted that at the current rate of growth, online radio's audience will equal AM/FM's audience in less than a decade, and this may be realized even sooner as Web radio's foothold in the car dashboard and smartphones become an even bigger part of our lives. Radio analyst Kurt Hanson, in his 2015 predictions, sees a continued movement to online radio for consumers, as well as a resurgence in talented local radio personalities.

Although, I would say these are both a given, I predict that individuals who aren't "usual" radio personalities will begin to consume more of online radio?s listeners.

This segues to an entirely different discussion regarding the state of music radio versus talk radio formats. I will save that for another post. But for a long story short, if you aren't offering any differentiated content, then you will be in trouble at some point.

So what are some solutions for radio groups across the country? Well here are three things that you can do today to be more competitive in today's digital world:

Have a multi-platform digital solution.

Your radio station must cover all digital fronts. Be sure you have an elegantly designed website (as this is your storefront) and a station-branded mobile application that engages your audience and keeps you within arm's reach at all times, and then proceed to disperse your content to any third-party content distributor ? such as Tunein and Stitcher.

Design your content to be consumed on-demand.

In a day and age where people are so busy, you must deliver your best content on-demand so that your audience can consume it on their schedule; and since we live in the days of social media ? make sure the content can be shared through social media.

Introduce advertising based on user-preference

With rates of online ads being "skipped" double that of radio ads, you should consider running an ad and then asking the consumer if they would like to see similar ads or not. I believe the next major trend for online/mobile advertising will be the ability for users to decide what they want to have advertised to them.

So take time to think through a digital strategy, keep your local talent (yes pay them so they don't go elsewhere), and continue to evolve alongside the newer generations. Eventually an organization will come along with an entirely new business model for digital broadcast radio that will "de-commoditize" the digital landscape, and bring radio into the new-age; an age that looks to keep loyal and local listeners forever engaged with local content and personalities.

Gabriel Barnes is a co-founder and directs business development at Mersoft Media ? a developer of smartphone applications for talk and music radio stations across the country. He can be reached via email at You can follow him on Twitter @gabrielbarnes

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