OP ED by CBS Local Digital Media's President, Ezra Kucharz
Digital music services lead double lives. Just as the Roman god Janus had two faces forever looking to both the past and future, many digital music services at times are critical of their broadcast radio counterparts as emblems of the past, yet simultaneously seek the one thing that most do not have: broadcast radio promotion. Indeed, broadcast radio will remain strong in the future. The sector’s actions reinforce that there is no better way to reach and engage a mass audience while concurrently and rapidly creating awareness, acquiring new users, and engendering trust.
This should come as no surprise. Throughout the growth of the digital industry, from the 1990’s to present day, many digital music businesses have expressed negative perspectives on broadcast radio, but nonetheless turned to it when they needed rapid reach and a call to action. Digital businesses that have at one time operated music services and have also survived the last 20 years remain loyal users of broadcast radio in order to support their marketing efforts; this includes Yahoo!, AOL, Microsoft, and Apple. Why? There is no better way to reach and engage a large audience quickly.
Numerous digital-only businesses may claim that they are bigger than broadcast radio in their respective segments by representing themselves as “the largest radio station in a given market.” But comparing a single radio station to an audience of a digital-only service in a market is like comparing apples to oranges. You would have to take one sliver in a specific genre (i.e. Rock, Pop, Hip Hop) from that digital service to accurately compare to a station of the same genre. Alternatively, you could add up the audiences of the major radio companies in each market and compare it to the digital-only service. What you would find is that most digital services attract less than 8% of listeners in a given market. This yields another clue as to why most digital-only music services look to broadcast radio for marketing help in building awareness.
Numerous digital-only businesses also have brand credibility and trust issues. When such businesses are new to a market with very few people, only early adopters may know who they are. Meanwhile, broadcast station brands and talent engender trust, signifying quality and credibility, because they have been in their markets and formats for decades. Whether an organization is looking for spots or credible integrations into content, broadcast radio successfully meets those needs. Now a new trend is beginning to appear. Digital-only services are pursuing broadcast brands, and on-air talent is being asked to create a presence on digital-only platforms. Broadcast radio has welcomed this idea, supporting such initiatives across digital media. In turn, broadcast radio has continued to earn audience’s trust by enhancing their overall experience across platforms.
The suggested collaboration model between digital-only services and broadcast media is simple but effective. It can be broken out into four suggested components: Curated Playlists, Integrated Content, Advertising/Promotion, and Events.
Recently, we saw the launch of Beats Music, which announced partnerships with well-known broadcast brands to curate playlists. Beats is joining a crowded music service industry, with well-known competitors such as Pandora, Spotify, TuneIn, Songza, Rdio, YouTube, Radio.com, iHeartRadio, and Slacker to name a few. Most of these services, but not all, are using broadcast radio or are attempting to structure deals to use broadcast radio to get their messages out to consumers, too. Yet, several of these organizations unfortunately sell their own value proposition against that of radio, indicating to media buyers, advertisers, marketers, and agencies that broadcast radio is not as good as their own media platform. The industry has widely observed that the actions of digital-only media do not support this rhetoric.
There remains no better way to rapidly reach a mass audience with trust, quality, and credibility than broadcast radio. Many of us in the broadcast radio business do not propose a broadcast or digital-only model. Instead, we truly believe in an integrated model, where digital-only and broadcast radio collaborate to provide consumers with great experiences. Broadcast radio has enabled iTunes Radio and TuneIn to grow their businesses. By including broadcast brands on their services, iTunes Radio and TuneIn have each been able to continue building credibility and attracting new audiences to their platforms, increasing monthly active listeners. Broadcast radio is additionally one of the main drivers that has facilitated Shazam’s transformation into a go-to destination for music discovery for 88 million monthly active users. And further, broadcast radio has catapulted Radionomy forward in terms of reaching a global audience; since expanding its streaming solution to broadcast brands, Radionomy now hosts over 60,000 stations worldwide. When broadcast radio joins forces with such digital-only services, together we broaden our reach to other platforms and ultimately enhance the overall user environment. The combination of a one-to-many platform, with the one-to-one messaging that digital can bring, creates the most powerful hybrid that we have yet to see.