One of radio's Chicken Littles has seized on a new eMarketer report to again prove radio's sky is falling. The report, entitled, "Will Internet Kill the Radio Star?," projects that by 2008 online advertising spending in the US will surpass radio advertising for the first time. Inside Radio just picked up the story, and it is likely the headline will be repeated by the other radio trades. Press release journalism at its best.
eMarketer is one of many Internet research companies that sell reports (for $695 in this case) that essentially regurgitate research published by other research companies and combine it with a minimum of original thinking. Think of it as a very expensive book report. The study combines a smattering of Arbitron data, Bridge Ratings projections, and other research bits and factoids to paint a dreary dark future for radio.
Predicting the future is easy, because it is little more than a guess disguised as inevitable fact. By the time the future comes, no one remembers (or cares about) the predictions, so futurists are rarely taken to task for widely missing the mark (which they do with great regularity). Analysts badly over-estimated the number of iPhones that Apple would sell in the first few days they were available. Satellite radio subscription projections have proved particularly optimistic and wrong. Both satellite operators and analysts have constantly revised their estimates downward. Authors often misread the future of whole industries. Remember the bright futures predicted for Webvan and community wide hotspots?
We are living in a period when anything knocking radio can get published. Write about any new technology whether it is satellite radio or WiFi enabled iPods, link it to radio's imminent demise, and the Chicken Littles will seize on it. Then the trades pick it up. And unfortunately for radio, too many station operators will believe it.
The truth is, radio is too preoccupied about alternative delivery methods like streaming. After years of cutting budgets and ignoring the product, radio does not need to divert precious dollars into new technologies until it demonstrates an understanding of how far our product has deteriorated. Given the mediocrity of too much radio today, the last thing we need is to enable more people to hear it.
We have far more immediate and pressing concerns than worrying about the growth of online advertising spending.