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Broadcasting vs. The New Guys

Since the arrival of so-called ‘new media,’ radio has permitted itself to be redefined

I received a comment from reader Ray Ross after I wrote about broadcasters’ obsession with social media. It speaks to the heart of an issue that we need to address internally and externally:

“Right or wrong,” he said, “as broadcasters, we have allowed (and I supposed trained) our up-and-coming personalities [to imagine] that radio is insignificant.”

Younger on-air personalities have come of age in a time when radio and TV have been defined primarily by print and online journalists as the opposite of what they term “new media.”

“New media” typically refers to communication transmitted via online or by mobile devices. Once something is accepted as “new” by society, then by deduction, other devices in that same category become “old,” “traditional” or even worse, “outmoded.”

Since the arrival of so-called “new media,” the radio or television industries have permitted themselves to be redefined. This is especially sad because we have the means at our disposal to communicate to larger groups of people than any other form of transmission.

Part of it is that we have our own websites and mobile methods of dissemination, so it’s easy to feel as if we are part of the new world that is touted daily by media pundits everywhere. In allowing others to redefine us, we are accelerating our own devaluation.

However, it’s true that we must not deny the amazing one-on-one power of online and mobile communication.

Use your power

We belong in this space, too, and can generate audiences and revenue beyond most non-media entities. For the foreseeable future, online and mobile sites are brand extensions for us and not our core business.

Advertising executives, media buyers and even people in radio and television too often seem to forget that mass local audiences are currently listening to and watching broadcast, satellite or cable stations — and will be for the foreseeable future. If a retail advertiser wants to move a product in a local market, is it possible to buy enough media on local websites to do the trick? Likely not!

Because broadcast talent is so accustomed to mass communication, many falsely believe that they have huge audiences spending large time periods on their Facebook page, Twitter account or their station website. I had a discussion recently with some air talent who were spending an average of an hour a day on the station Facebook and Twitter accounts — but 10 minutes on show prep! They were quite taken aback when I questioned their priorities.

It’s management’s role to make sure talent understands something: When Facebook says you have 4,000 friends, or people of who “like” your station, that’s the whole number. These 4,000 people all joined, once. A fraction of them are on that Facebook page at any given moment. Some join once and never pay much attention again.

When Facebook says you have 4,000 friends, that’s the whole number. The vast majority of broadcast outlets will reach 4,000 people in a given moment. (Shown: The Facebook page of WXLK(FM) in Roanoke, Va.) Conversely, we are in the mass communication/big numbers business. The vast majority of broadcast outlets will reach 4,000 people in a given moment or, for smaller stations, in a short time period. We “broadcast,” while online and mobile “narrowcast.”

The power to drive

So how can broadcast properties work on what’s beginning to look like an inferiority complex?

For starters, we must remind our audiences how significant we are in their lives via our own airwaves.

Locally, we must challenge our creative directors to put “cool,” “relevant” and “cutting edge” back into our brands.

Nationally, we need the smartest minds at our big companies and associations to address how we must position broadcasting as the mass communication medium that most Americans still rely on to provide entertainment, news and information.

While much of this battle can be fought with proper marketing, public relations and advertising, broadcasters realistically have to continue to deliver on our promises. The creation of the best possible on-air content must be our number one priority, followed by how we provide service to our communities to do the most possible good work.

We must examine staff consolidation to determine if we’ve gone too far in eliminating positions that remain key to our success. We must not reject online and mobile but harness their power to augment broadcasting.

Remember: Broadcasting, especially at the local level, remains the best form of mass communication with the power to drive immediate action.

The author is president of Lapidus Media. Read past articles atradioworld.comunder Columns. Contact him at[email protected].