It’s A Digital World, And Radio’s Just Living In It
If you’re a regular reader of the DG you know I like to use broadcast radio as my old school media punching bag from time to time. 🙂 In an effort to be a little more balanced I thought it would be useful to feature comments on the state of radio from a different industry expert. My source for this article is a gentlemen named Dick Taylor. Mr. Taylor has been in radio for over 50 years – yes, he actually started at a station in Jr. High. In addition to being an accomplished broadcaster he’s taught college courses on media, so the guy knows his stuff.
Recently Dick Taylor wrote an article about the radio industry’s 98th birthday, noting what’s changed over the history of the medium and where it’s headed. I’m not all that interested in reliving radio’s glory years, so for the sake of this post let’s focus on the future. As appropriately noted in the piece, the future of all media belongs to digital.
For starters take a look at how the rate of technological adoption has sped up over the last century in the graphic below. It took 35 years for radio to achieve adoption by at least a quarter of the US population, but only five years for smartphones to do the same beginning in 2007. With the velocity of tech adoption increasing radio, and all traditional media types for that matter, will have to survive in a digital world. As Mr. Taylor eloquently puts it, “Radio hasn’t really changed but the world it operates in has.”
One of the more salient observations in this article is the rising phenomenon of consumer-supported media (aka subscriptions). The next graphic shows an overall increase of media consumption thanks to consumer-supported growth, while ad-supported media usage is declining. Part of this migration is due to the overwhelming clutter of ads on broadcast media outlets like TV and radio. There are just so many ads these days that consumers are opting to pay for ad-free experiences more often. Of course digital media provides subscription options along with middle ground ad-supported tiers, which are still free but have about a quarter of the ads as their broadcast counterparts.
I know I don’t speak for Dick Taylor, but I’ll try to put his points together as best I can. Radio is stuck with a legacy business model and is now living in a digital world. In order to survive radio must break its addiction to the revenue generated by high ad loads and find ways to deliver meaningful content on digital platforms.
Thanks for the inspiration, Mr. Taylor!