Spirit of Radio: Out with the talk, in with the wacky

Some thoughts about radio, the forgotten medium:

In Washington, the latest ratings period was a shocker for talk radio:

    WMAL lost nearly 30 percent of its core audience (adults ages 25-54) from the preceding three months, when the election was the dominant story. What had been an up-and-coming station a few months ago (WMAL ranked 11th among all stations during the fall) is now a middle-of-the-pack afterthought (it tied for 16th in the latest survey).(WPost)

Thought for PR: Unless you can nail down a targeted radio program with a clear (and large) audience interested in your policy/products/issue (like the Car Guys), is the effort worth it?

Over in the U.K., radio sales (and profits) are beginning to drop.

    “The consensus is that radio has lost the sexy image it gained with the trebling of its take of the advertising cake between 1993 and 2000. Much of this can be attributed to the rebirth of the internet as the new growth medium … ‘Radio has got into a bit of a pickle,’ admits Julian Carter, group sales director of GMG Radio. ‘It lacks the visual identity of TV, press and outdoor, so it has to be sold harder to advertisers. Consolidation has seen the industry take its eye off the ball; we have become more reactive in our selling.'”(Marketing, sub. req.)

Thought for MarCom: Reactive in your selling? Reactive in everything – formats, technology, content. As Mark Ramsey and others are noting, Nokia is preparing the technology to eat your lunch.

Still in the U.K., new technology promises to measure exposure to numerous forms of media – not just radio or television.

    “The introduction of electronic meter audience measurement in 2007 should boost confidence, and will enable the calibration of listening through digital stations on platforms other than radio. Carter believes this new media area presents radio with a big opportunity for advertising growth.” (Marketing, again)

Thought for advertisers: Digital tagging will allow advertisers to better track impressions across a range of media – outdoor, transit, in-store, muzak – which force planners to radically rethink their media strategies: what if in-store music channels prove to be the ubiquitous medium (especially if a company like Clear Channel strikes a bargain with Simon or another massive mall developer)?

In another medium: Washington television is getting ready for the Nielsen people meters, which will begin to roll out in the District in May:

    “You need to get people aware of you every single day,” Bill Lord, WJLA vice president of news, said about the new ratings system. “Their behavior is going to be recorded,” he said, so the ratings won’t be based on what a viewer thought he watched last week via a diary.

    “There will be more pressure to consistently be good,” said Darryll Green, WUSA president and general manager. “We have to be good every single day.”(WPost)

Thought for news consumers: It means a radical revision in current ratings strategy. Ratings will be measured more than four times a year. No more “Shark Roams Local Forest” teasers during the 8:17 ad block. No more periodic interest in consumer issues and retirement homes.

Unfortunately, local TV isn’t chasing an integrated approach to news delivery as fiercely as cable news networks. If research demonstrates that news consumers are pulling information from a number of broadcast, print, online and personal sources, why isn’t local TV trying to build better links with their audience – through channels they prefer?

Or will new ventures like ourmedia be eating their lunch as well?

But take heart, because we are all being freed from the tyranny of adult contemporary radio programming. Jack (a Canadian idea) is propagating like furbies in markets across the United States. What’s Jack? Take a/c, add some Ska, 80s Britpop, 70s country rock and Grunge rock every once and a while – and continually express disdain for programmed music.

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