A friend sent me this link http://techcrunch.com/2012/05/15/pandora-marriage-proposal/ to look at how Pandora used micro-targeting to deliver a marriage proposal via their advertising. It’s a nice story, but to me it’s more about their ability to deliver such highly specific messages. While Pandora is using it to attack local radio, it points out a couple of important things:

1. Pandora lives in the new tech world, so they’re pushing out new boundaries to become more local. We live in the radio world, and are trying to find out how to use social media, another personalization tool, to get people to listen to radio. Which do you think will win the technology battle for personalization in their content?

2. We radio people are more creative than Pandora when it comes to relating to the target and being personal. Or at least some of us are. The question is, are we developing new distribution channels that will help us be more relevant and personal? Are we embracing technology toward the totality of media with the same effort Pandora is in finding ways to be relevant and personal?

I love radio, and believe in its long term sustainability, as long as we’re not blind to the innovation around us. But if we continue to be inwardly focused, looking for ways to use technology and social media to drive people to radio, without understanding that the model has been shifting to being outwardly focused, toward the listener/consumer, we’ll eventually lose. We know that, but we’re so used to doing things the radio way, and seem to believe we have all kinds of time before we need to change.

If we’re not careful we’re going to wind up being those old people complaining about the new fangled things the kids are doing, not understanding why they’re doing it. We’ll be reading old timers magazines about the good old days of radio, just like our parents and grandparents have now.

And that would’ve a shame.

My Apologies About Facebook

“Who controls your media?” – Seth Godin

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel guilty because I don’t answer people on Facebook.  I keep turning down requests on Farmtown because I don’t have time for it any more, and it’s only there for my wife to earn points with.  I worry I’m offending people.

But the fact is we’re at a tipping point in over-communication.  We’ve all wanted to sign up on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn so we can get our message out, and, in theory, keep up with friends.  But the reality of trying to keep up is not as sweet as the theory.

Seth Godin pointed this out in a recent posting that run the responsive chord for me.  He noted that we are in charge of our media now.  That’s both the good news and the bad news.  There’s so much media around it’s difficult to keep up.

It might be me, because some of my friends seem to be able to answer my blogs and tweets within seconds.  It might be, dare I say it, an age thing.  People in their 20’s don’t see it as change, it’s the way things are.

Up until now we’ve been concentrating on quantity, who can get the most friends and who can produce the most Tweets.  I have a feeling we’re on the cusp of quality being more important than quantity.  I’m still interested in what’s relevant to me, but I’m really not sure I care about what you had for breakfast.  I really don’t have time for Farmtown or Mafia Wars.

Now think about the number of listeners who might be your fans.  Once you accept them as fans you have a responsibility to stay in touch in a relevant manner.  That can be quite the commitment when you also consider that the one-to-many model we’re used to in radio.  Just having a Facebook or other social network isn’t of value, it’s only when you put them to work as the participants want that you’ll see benefit.  To translate that a little, it doesn’t matter what you want from social networking, it only matters what the listeners want.

It goes back to one of my mantras, the first four words from the book The Purpose Driven Life, “It’s not about you.”

The New Normal

Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” – Maria Robinson, author

Two caterpillars are conversing and a beautiful butterfly floats by. One caterpillar turns and says to the other, “You’ll never get me up on one of those butterfly things.”

I saw this little story in one of my strategy newsletters, and liked it because it underscores the futility of fighting change.   Some people think they can resist change, avoid change, or worse yet make things go back to the way they used to be, to reverse change.

A lot of people I know are waiting for things to settle back to normal. Some of them have been waiting since 1996, when consolidation happened.  Trouble is, we’re never going back to that normal. Things are very different now. What’s normal now isn’t something any of us wanted or expected, it’s just what happened. Normal today is a state of constant change. There’s always another technlogy, another new tool, another idea you can use.  And we can’t overlook any of them, because we can’t separate fad from trend until it’s too late.

Fear is the main enemy of change.  We’re afraid we won’t be able to learn, afraid what we already know will fade away, afraid to try something new.  This leaves some people in a state of denial, and other people dazed and confused.  The difficulty is that change is going to happen irrespective of what your condition is.

The radio of the past and present is gone.  It will never be like that again.  But it could be an exciting future, integrating radio beyond the stick in the field to streaming, social media, web 2.0 and perhaps things we don’t even know about yet.  I don’t know about you, but I’ll be glad to see corporate radio move into history.

It’s not a matter of whether things are changing, it’s a matter of whether you will adapt to change.

Seeing The Future

“The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?” –  David Sarnoff’s associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s

If another radio person tells me social media and Web 2.0 have no future because they can’t be monetized, I may have this David Sarnoff quote tattooed on my forehead.  The radio industry itself began in the early 1900’s with a maverick group of people who focused on content, knowing they’d find a way to make it commercially viable.

The mistake we’ve made in the past 10 years is putting the emphasis on the commercial aspect instead of the content one.  What other industry would be so focused on making money that they’d forget the need to have consumers drawn to them.  Without compelling content you can’t have a commercial success.  I’m reminded of my friend Walter Sabo saying to a group of radio people a time back, “With consolidation the sales people all said it was their time, that sales needed to be the primary driver in radio.  How’s that working for you?”

Unfortunately, you can’t create powerful content by laying off the creative people.  All we’ve done with eliminating airstaff and PD’s is reduced the creative gene pool.  We have good, creative people left, but they’re often without the tools to be creative.  Hard to brainstorm and invent when you’re overseeing five stations and voice tracking three.

So now we turn to new technology as our saviour, a technology driven by frequently updated, compelling content.  What’s wrong with this picture?

Hey guys at the top, have you really looked at our history over the past 10 years?  Do you really understand that creativity is what drove radio to it’s success, and that your ignorance of it is what’s hurting it?  Can you finally admit that creativity can’t be programmed into a spreadsheet, and that it’s sometimes odd and messy?

Compelling radio does send a message, but instead of no one, it’s sent to millions every moment.  When we treat them right listeners do respond, and the message is relevant, relatable, and welcomed.  When we ignore them they don’t pay attention and look for alternate media to invest their time with.

Time for a choice.  Can we see the problem we now face is of our own doing, and undo it?  Or are we going to ride the entire industry into the ground?