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Your Listeners Have Many Choices

Does your product compel them to listen to yours?

Clubhouse Drop-in audio chat app logo on the App Store is displayed on a phone screen
Clubhouse Drop-in audio chat app logo on the App Store is displayed on a phone screen. (Photo Illustration by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

More than ever I am paralyzed by choice.

I first recognized this syndrome way back in the days of Blockbuster. I’d spend 45 minutes looking at movies and leave with nothing. I experience this now with Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu, Spotify, YouTube, Apple Music and podcast platforms.

Trader Joe’s has capitalized on this uncomfortable consumer experience by offering fewer choices. Instead of 10 choices of mustard, there are two or three.

As I attempt to listen to the latest audio talk apps, 10 zillion podcasts and nearly every song ever released, I can’t stop thinking about choice.

In a world of many audio choices, broadcast radio is the solid utility. With finite choices on radio, it’s easy to decide; this obvious intrinsic advantage is one we take it for granted.

I hope the big guns in our industry are constantly engaging the auto industry regarding the ongoing expansion of the new immersive car dashboard. Ignoring broadcast radio’s placement on the evolving car radio real estate is perilous.

Stay focused

There’s no question that we continue to deliver our product to smart speakers, apps and other live streaming platforms, so we’re in the game and can continue to grow revenue.

However, let’s not lose focus! For the foreseeable future, we should continue to pour power into promoting broadcast properties and reasons to tune in. This is where radio wins.

[Related: “So, Where Does Radio Go From Here?”]

I’m not opposed to promoting listening on digital platforms, but there is limited air time and advertising money to invest in sparking interest for tune-in.

When I hear stations promoting listening on a smart speaker or app four times an hour, I wonder if the station is missing a chance to promote a reason to actually tune in. By now, don’t our audiences know we’re on all these platforms?

Growing audience on digital platforms requires a specific on-platform approach that is often missing from promotional strategy.

However I’d be remiss if I didn’t salute Clubhouse. This latest Talk app, is a natural social media evolution. Their promotional geniuses created demand and buzz by limiting listening to “invitation only.”

It was born on iPhone. Android arrived only in May.

Not listened yet? Browse topics, click on one and hear amateur hosts pontificate to micro-audiences. Raise your hand and join the conversation.

Sometimes it’s more like a conference call than a talk show. It’s sad news for Clubhouse that this is easy to replicate, as Clubhouse will be challenged by Twitter, Facebook, Spotify, Discord, Telegram, Reddit, Leher, Riffr, Spoon, and even LinkedIn.

A threat to local radio? Not in terms of obtaining consistently large local audiences, or competing for local advertising. Still, if I were searching for new talent, I’d be hunting for those rare natural hosts who could be groomed for radio.

What about podcasts? Talk about choices! I subscribe to 20. I listen regularly to four.

With hundreds of thousands of podcasts, discovery is an issue. The potential is huge with explosive younger listener growth.

Will podcasting steal hours from broadcast radio, or grow overall time spent listening to audio? I’m going with the latter, but so much depends on the quality of local radio. Jukeboxes will eventually fail. Winners will have compelling local talent; local information; local entertainment; local community involvement and yes even local news (bring it back!).

The future of local radio depends on the choices we make today.

[Read more Promo Power columns by Mark Lapidus.]