From the Corner Office – June 2010

June 1, 2010

“The 360 Degree Solution”Peter Smyth


It has become commonplace to hear assertions that radio will be marginalized by new digital media that will be customer-centric and responsive, and that the days of traditional audio ads are numbered.  You know, the pronouncements like “all marketing will happen on Facebook”, or “we are witnessing the transformation of marketing into a digital conversation.”  I disagree; I see a different evolution that will play to radio’s strengths and allow us to surround our listeners with multiple, relevant touch points that lead from initial awareness right through to order fulfillment.  While it is not a sure thing, it’s a potential that is well within our grasp.  Here’s why.

First, radio’s reach as a mass medium, combined with its reasonable cost structure, makes it an attractive medium to raise awareness.  An effective broadcast schedule is affordable for all potential advertisers, large and small.  We don’t require the creative investment that television or cable does, and a bit of creativity goes a long way.  Live spots and personal endorsement spots have proven highly effective for local businesses talked about by local personalities.  The inherit targeting of audiences by the competitive format array of most local markets allows advertisers to reach specific audience lifestyles simply by choosing the right stations for their products.

This is all information as well-established as radio itself.  So, what’s new?

First, electronic measurement has given us a much more reliable look at the breadth of each audience reached by a successful radio station, and we are remarkably strong compared to other traditional (and expensive) media.  For example, nationwide, radio’s daily reach for Adults 18+ is 67% higher than printed newspaper (RADAR, March, 2010).

Second, there’s much more to the capabilities that a radio station can bring to bear in a coordinated marketing solution for an advertiser.  We’re no longer in the business of filling our inventory with local and national agency demand.  We’re transforming our business into an extraordinary local capability to provide an advertiser with a turnkey and affordable integrated solution to their marketing problem.

Radio’s toolkit has expanded to include video and audio, both streaming and on demand; engagement tools like online games; texting and mobile solutions that can drive listeners to specific advertiser locations; and e-mail and social media marketing efforts that can single out interested listeners and deliver them through online platforms to the advertiser to close the sale.  And that’s just scratching the surface.  Our industry has made great progress.  There are now 43 million streaming audio listeners weekly, and a full 40% of them are listening to local radio online; over 7000 radio stations are now streaming, making their brand available anywhere listeners may choose to travel.

We have exciting new communication tools to deepen and broaden our one to one relationship with listeners.  We can surround our listeners with a complete 360 degree solution.  We are making sure that our station brands are available regardless of the platform.  On the air, online and onsite, we want to be available to our listeners and increase their loyalty and involvement with our brands.  And we are well on our way.

The learning curve and the integration of digital assets within our existing business is a challenge as we are obliged to do more with less, but the benefits are becoming clear.  In the competitive environment today, we have to take notice of non-broadcast competitors who offer new relationships with listeners, like Facebook and Twitter.  Some are the shooting stars of the digital playground, and will burn out quickly, but many of these services can teach us much about how to relate to our customers and listeners.

Why do we have a distinct advantage in this new universe?

From a recent survey of advertising agency executives by STRATA, consultant Mark Ramsey highlighted two significant items worth sharing:

  • Nearly 40% of ad agencies believe it will be at least five years before they anticipate spending more on digital media than traditional media including broadcast and print.
  • The survey taps into the perception that digital has its limitations in reach and effectiveness and must still be used with traditional media like TV.

I interpret those findings this way:  over the next five years, we have an opportunity to make a vital contribution to the new media landscape by becoming the amplifier and integrator of online solutions.  While the digital world is excellent in one-to-one interactions, advertisers still need the reach of radio to spread the awareness.  Only a very small percentage of online programs “go viral” and spread on their own; most marketing solutions are far more effective, in agencies’ opinion, by the integration of broadcast media.

Take this thought one step further:  we have a maximum of five years to transform and rebrand our business to insure that we are capable and known as trusted partners with our local advertisers for integrated marketing solutions.  This demands that we move out of the silo of “radio revenue” and make ourselves known and trusted in the new integrated marketplace.  We are now dealing with many more competitors than the station down the block; we need to unify around our collective need to present our medium in a new and compelling light.  We need to be more accountable and results-oriented and less impression-oriented.  In the current environment, the only metric that really matters is the result.

Our medium sits at the intersection of broadcast mass media and hyper targeted digital media.  I, for one, cannot think of a better place to be.

My thanks to the RAB for some of the quoted statistics on radio’s reach.

I always want to know what’s on your mind; you can feel free to pose any questions that you’d like me to respond to at

Best regards,