In Roy Williams' March 2 Monday Morning Memo, he suggested the end of mass media as we know it may be just around the corner.
Roy wrote, "We're approaching the end of a golden time when courageous advertisers can invest money in mass media and see their businesses grow as a result. My suspicion is that we've got perhaps five to seven more years before retail businesses and service businesses will be forced to begin playing by a whole new set of rules."
You can read Roy's March 2 article at http://www.mondaymorningmemo.com/
I've made the same prediction several times in recent years, only to be accused of being a fatalist or Chicken Little. I've heard all of the rebuttals about radio surviving threats from TV, 8-tracks, satellite, and CDs, but Mr. Williams' blog points out why things are different now.
But the sky isn't falling; we're just looking at new horizons which are cloudy. And some of us don't see the silver lining in those clouds.
Roy identified the silver lining when he wrote in that same memo, "The advertising opportunities created by new technology are highly targetable but they're also shockingly expensive. The most efficient thing we've found so far costs four times as much per person as broadcast radio."
Therein lies the silver lining, or should I say "gold lining." When we learn to create and sell radio as narrowcast, rather than broadcast, and produce it and present it as a narrowly targeted media rather than a mass media, we'll be competing in a media world that captures rates four times greater than we were able to capture in the age of mass media.
Businesses have to compete for market share, and when the cost of competing rises, they can't drop out, they still have to compete. And the playing field will be levelled at the higher media rates Roy refers to in his article.
Roy also wrote in that memo, "The trend toward singleness is sociological. The erosion of mass media is technological. Each trend accelerates the other."
Ironically, here is what I wrote about the erosion of mass merchandising in Radio Ink last week:
"The other day, I made a call with one of my station client's salespeople on a unique little candle boutique, way off the retail beaten path.
"That's all this specialty shop sold was candles, and accessories for candles, and they've had to expand their countryside real estate three times in recent years to keep up with demand.
"But here is the thing. The candles I saw at the candle boutique were selling for 10 and 20 times what my wife pays for candles at the mass merchandise shops. It made me think about radio's business models. It seems to me there is room for a radio specialty shop; one with superior craftsman that deliver a superior product for which they can charge a premium. I, for one, think it might be more fun to work there."
There has been much talk for years about radio's need to "re-invent itself." But everyone seems to still try to do that within the old paradigms of mass media. Our insane pursuit of trying to be number one in the mass media arena, instead of trying to be number one in the hearts and minds of a few, is limiting our ability to re-invent radio.
If Roy is right, in five or seven years, radio survivors could emerge catering to the few, with more targeted product, fewer commercial interruptions, and much higher rates than they were able to capture trying to reach the masses.
Regardless what the future brings, one thing is for sure: As media becomes more fragmented, and audiences become smaller, what you say in your ads will continue to be more important than where you place your ads.
In the same March 2 Memo, Roy wisely tells advertisers to "Buy mass media while the masses can still be reached."
Smart advertisers will capture dominant share of mind and subsequent share of market with a stronger share of voice in mass media now, while they still can and while it's still affordable. Once a business captures dominant share of mind, they can maintain that share of mind for years after their ads quit running.
We often ask advertisers, "How much money does Scotties have to spend to get you to quit calling their tissues Kleenex?" They understand that once a product or service is sufficiently planted in the mind, it's difficult for competitors to displace it.
Now is the time for advertisers to advertise like crazy while they can still reach the masses and capture dominant share of mind with radio, and it's time for radio to start planning for a niche marketing future.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to facilitate the local share of mind research to convince more local advertisers to use radio in your market.
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