Home > future of radio, State of research > “Who cares if radio survives? Something else will happen.”

“Who cares if radio survives? Something else will happen.”

This is one of my favourite new quotes. It’s from Ira Glass of public radio’s “This American Life” in a recent public forum.  Though I’m sure a few folks who own broadcast licenses would disagree, there’s an essential truth and an implicit hope here for the rest of us who are attached to the radio business one way or another.

A 1997 photo of Ira Glass: in 2011, might we suggest that radio can have pictures too?

Radio as we know it is changing in a way that we may not even recognize it a few years from now.  Radio that emanates from the broadcast tower may even fade away—though I personally suspect it will be around longer than some pundits predict.  But, even if those towers do go down, something similar will inevitably rise up from the ashes.

I’m convinced that listener research can play a big role in understanding these changes and identifying new opportunities. But it will take a vastly different approach than most of the radio research that’s done today.

The questions are no longer “what station do you think of first for [insert attribute here]” but more like “given all the other media alternatives available today, what is it about [insert type of radio here – AM/FM radio, Pandora, podcasts etc.] that gives it its value to you.”

How, and to whom, you ask the questions also has to change. You can’t expect to get the insights from the dinner-hour interruption of a random landline telephone call that you can get out of a two-way conversation with an engaged consumer.  And that conversation could take place where the consumer listens to whatever they listen to, in an online/mobile community of which they are a member, or any other mutually agreed upon setting.

The key is staying open to all the possibilities, with the resolve to be on the side of the survivors, wherever that might lead you.

  1. John
    November 13, 2011 at 16:51

    Good points Jeff, and love the image. I can imagine the Railroad barons of years gone by had one that said “Trains = No Wings”. How many comments have we seen asking what business are we in? I think the changing media world is exciting and old radio businesses have heaps to offer, but from our perspective at Sth Cross Austereo, we determined years ago we are in the “entertainment” business, and our skill set was “content creation”. We also happen to be blessed with one of our own distribution channels, but that’s not our exclusive channel. Radio broadcasters have fantastic skills that create ‘new, live, local, unique and compelling content’ 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. What other media is geared to do that. Our music guys have skills in putting together playlists that ‘surprise & delight’ listeners like no playlist they can create themselves. We have a heap to offer, but only if we forget the old model of doing “radio” and see the new model of offering “entertainment solutions”. Love the discussion!!

  2. November 13, 2011 at 20:33

    Thanks, John, When we think of radio as something other than that which is tethered to the broadcast tower, and when we look at research as something other than the box it’s usually put in (much as you’ve done at Southern Cross Austereo), it all gets to be a bit more fun again, doesn’t it?

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