By Rachel Herskovitz
Whether it’s terrestrial, streaming, or both, radio is having a resurgence as a traditional (actually THE traditional) media that is finding its footing in the new digital, mobile, Millennial/Generation Z age. While there has been a lot of press and speculation around the death of traditional media like linear TV, print, and radio, I argue that it’s not as much as a death as it is a reincarnation.
Let’s take a history lesson, shall we?
The first broadcast of a radio transmission was in the 1890’s by Guglielmo Marconi, and over the next fifteen to twenty years this is transformed into audio and eventually news out of Detroit, Michigan. Radio was an effort starting back in the late 1790’s actually, as many different scientists added pieces to the puzzle of how to transmit wirelessly through electromagnetic waves. When radio broadcasting became mainstream in the 1920’s, and FM was introduced in the 1940’s, the hundred years (plus) of work had totally changed the way human’s received news, music, and were entertained. Much like the printing press’ impact on the ability for news to reach the masses, radio made this even easier. By simply listening to your favorite show or news broadcaster you were transformed to a different world, through the human voice. Story-telling had become mass communications.
It’s not just sound, it’s emotional
For a long time, radio and newspapers were the only game in town. To be seen and heard, you had to be in one, or both, of these places. But, innovation continued. Broadcast TV, followed by Cable TV, followed by the internet, social media, and mobile phones means there’s a lot of places where a consumer can devote her attention.
But radio has a special place in the consumption of content. First of all, it’s used to tell stories or listen to music, two of the most human, intimate experiences. Second, the relationship between your radio station of choice, the DJ’s, and you is a personal one. You trust them; they’re your friend. And not in a cheesy, advertising-y way. They are here to talk to you and engage in a conversation, that is literally why they are on-air.
The personal relationship is deep. When I was growing up, Z100 had their New Year’s Day countdown of the top one hundred songs that year. It was so important for me to hear these songs, that I recorded (via cassette tape) the hours (and hours) worth of the show. I mean, this is before Napster. There was no other way for me to find this list, or find the songs. Their countdown and recommendation meant that much to me.
Where does it go?
As a marketer, radio has always played a role in what I do. There is no better way to drive urgency, you have the user’s undivided attention, and there is that existing relationship between the consumer and the DJ.
Radio is no longer a one trick pony. Like everything else, the internet changed it. Consumers could get what they wanted, when they wanted it which changes a “tune in” based model.
- Radio is different than streaming audio. Yes, of course it is. Radio is local, national, and everything between. It makes you feel like you’re sixteen and your age all at once because of the personalities or local advertisers. It is a shared experience with everyone else who is tuning in. It can be disappointing (ugh why this song again), or it can blow your mind (I am so excited you just played this song I love). It’s out of your control, but you trust your station to be there.
- Live is still important. Whether it’s your favorite show of the week ( I love 102.7 Acoustic Sunrise on Sunday’s), or events that bring together your favorite artists, being there is what matters. Yes, you can grab playlists or find a cut on YouTube, and my thirteen year old self is forever grateful for that, but the live experience cannot be replaced.
So what is next for radio?
It will continue to be powered by digital and mobile. It will offer on-demand and live features. Data will improve what is recommended. Events will be a cornerstone of all radio/streaming providers.
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Most importantly, it will not go away. It will be re-ingrained into our lives. As I sit back and tune into my Sonos system, listening to anything that is available to me, I realize that digital didn’t kill radio, it just expanded the audience.