Remember the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale about swindlers that convinced a King that they could weave clothes so wonderful that they were invisible to any man who was unfit for his office or unpardonably stupid?
The good old minister went into the room where the swindlers sat before the empty looms. “Heaven preserve us. I cannot see anything at all!,” but he did not say so. “Oh dear,” he thought, “can I be so stupid? Nobody must know it! No, no, I cannot say that I was unable to see the cloth.”
This fairytale is being played out right now in radio, but today’s swindlers are new-media pundits. They dismissively harangue broadcasters declaring that you just don’t get it!
These swindlers are holding up invisible promises of a digital future full of untold riches if radio just embraces new-media.
Radio has responded just like the King’s ministers. Can I be so stupid? I cannot say that I am unable to see the digital future these new-media pundits see!
So we have unfocused misdirected digital initiatives funded with dollars diverted from programming and marketing budgets. Radio stations firing air staff and creating robo-stations so more money can be channeled into digital departments.
Finally someone has the guts to declare that the Emperor has no clothes.
The BIA/Kelsey Digital Strategies for Broadcasters conference began with speaker after speaker (few of which actually have skin in the radio game) blasting radio for moving so slowly towards digital nirvana.
Then Emmis CEO Jeff Smulyan, an actually broadcaster, finally said what every broadcaster knows but is afraid to say: He cautioned broadcasters about pursuing technologies that are "very cool", but not likely to be profitable.
There is a real cost to streaming. That's why none of my brethren have made any real money from it. As listening to online streaming grows, broadcasters have to foot the growing bandwidth bill.
True leadership in radio today requires a measured response to digital while still staying focused on broadcast’s strengths. Radio cannot prepare for the future by plundering its present.
Invest in the product. Make it as good as it can be.
Then invest in marketing to bring more people to the product.
Be live. Be local. And don’t short change the 95% of people that still like listening to local stations on a radio.