I hear the sound of the future and it sounds nothing like the past.
Radio debt, recession, and industry change mushroomed at the same time that a new generation has risen into adulthood. We know that part of the story, right? I'm just not sure we all understand how much listening has changed while our industry has shifted into neutral and developed an appetite for cost cutting. These new "listeners" have radios in their cars. They just don't care. "Why should I?" they ask. "I have this." They point to their smartphone and talk about how they don't have to invite "all those commercials" into their lives by turning on an old car radio that past generations used to enjoyed before they had so much more choice.
Talk to these folks and they are likely to sound exactly like a lyric from a John Mayer song from more than a decade ago. "Is there anyone who ever remembers changing their mind from the paint on a sign? Is there anyone who really recalls ever breaking rank at all for something someone yelled real loud one time?" The new "listeners" don't invest in yesterday's old consumption ideas. They won't accept the passive role of consumers any more than most people believe in newspapers or the Pony Express today.
The speed of consumers and their terrifying power isn't ambiguous; technology, entitlement, and a massive shift in the way consumers receive and accept marketing has taken place while marketers have essentially slept. This is a new age. It's really not like the old age. That time has passed away. Things continue to change rapidly?even as you are reading this.
People who are successful in growing authentic audience (the only one worth having) will focus on what people want first and then create what they want.
So, what do you do at your radio station? Before you lose hope, think about this: Even the newest listeners have smartphones and Facebook or other social media, and you still have access to them. Use it before it's too late. Do it now.
1. If you love the profession of being in radio, look to improve your chances of survival by asking listeners what they really want and think of yourself as a content provider. You're not just an employee of radio bound only to that old idea. Be in the world today and look for new ways to spread and share your value.
2. Figure out how to have the most connection and impact with listeners in social media and on the air and ? within reason ? perform what they value in both spaces and make it clear that you work for them (even as you work for the broadcast company that pays you).
3. Look for new ways to serve listeners so you can be connected to them more than anyone else in radio or TV, on the Internet, or anywhere else. Focus on being valuable to them in any form they accept you.
Learn how your customers ? radio listeners and potential radio listeners ? see radio and audio content and seek to understand the way they look at content in general. Learn the ways content is being used by today's consumers. Essentially work to make what you are doing what they are seeking. Certainly your bosses should be doing this instead of only trying to figure out how to ride radio to the end of "the old idea."
Content consumption is being reinvented by listeners. Get in front of that parade and wave their flag. Find out what they want in social media and on the radio. That's the job in 2015. It's always been the job ? it's just now your profession depends on it.
Loyd Ford is the digital revenue, direct marketing, ratings and social media strategist for Rainmaker Pathway and Americalist Direct Marketing. Loyd has programmed very successful radio brands in markets of all sizes, including KRMD AM & FM in Shreveport, and WSSL and WMYI in Greenville, WKKT in Charlotte and WBEE in Rochester, NY. Learn more about Loyd here: http://about.me/loydford. Get his radio-social media content sent directly to your smart phone or email for free here: www.rainmakerpathway.wordpress.com.
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