That’s why pundits who claim to know what the future holds are so popular.
And predicting the future is a great business to be in. Just write a book saying everything is going to change.
Tell people that everything they’re doing is wrong, and make up a bunch of stuff on how things will be in five or ten years.
Radio people are particularly vulnerable right now because the industry seems so unsure of itself.
Consolidation, digital threats, and a soft economy have all conspired to create tremendous uncertainty in a business that was riding high just a decade ago.
New-media pundits exploit this fear by telling radio that it has it all wrong.
They tell us that no one takes radio seriously anymore. They tell us young listeners are abandoning radio, and will never come back.
They tell us that the very notion of sending radio waves through the air is antiquated and oh so obsolete.
One such prophet is Seth Godin.
The author of Purple Cow and a dozen other books has become a popular go-to guy for radio critics looking for some sound-bite worthy comments to show how screwed up radio is.
As one radio person recently noted, “I’m more convinced than ever that Godin truly “gets” what we’re going through as a business.”
Before concluding that Godin “gets it,” maybe the industry should take a look at his track record.
As a highly successful author, you might think that Seth understands publishing and where it is headed.
So in 2010 when he declared he was finished with “traditional” publishing, many took note. Here’s how he explained the decision:
I've decided not to publish any more books in the traditional way. I really don't think the process is worth the effort that it now takes to make it work. I can reach 10 or 50 times as many people electronically.
Seth was through with what he called “the 1907 version of hardcover publishing.”
Good for him.
He was doing what he was telling others to do, to abandon all the trappings and entrapments of traditional media and embrace new technology.
It lasted a single year.
One year later he announced that the “experiment” was over. Mission accomplished.
It didn’t sound like an experiment when he made his big announcement. He said he was through.
But today walk into a Barnes and Noble bookstore and you’ll find that Seth has a new book out. Several, actually.
And they are printed hardcover books published by the Penguin Group, the second largest publisher in the world.
Seth’s vision of the future ran headlong into the reality that despite all the hype surround new-media, consumers and the big bucks they generate are still in traditional media.
He found that he could make a lot more money publishing books through a traditional publishing company using that old “1907 version of hardcover publishing.”
As you read Seth's solutions for radio, keep Seth’s personal experience and change of heart in mind.
He talks about radio a lot like he talked about publishing. He talks about new thinking and new-media opportunities, and abandoning the old ways.
His new ideas caused Seth to misread the future of his own business so badly that he had to reverse himself in a single year.
Can we really believe that his advice to radio is going to be any more sensible? Or practical?
Seth Godin is one new-media prophet that tried to walk the walk–-and failed. That’s one set of footsteps that radio should not follow.