Your Radio Alarm Is Going Off

Are the real threats coming from satellite and streaming services?
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Someone has to kick radio stations in the butt. Radio is probably one of the biggest whiners out there right now — well, maybe with the exception of Fox News about Trump.

First radio got all fired up about satellite radio. Sirius/XM really hasn’t done that much to hurt your local radio station. They did show the public that there is another audio road, and this one is uncensored, which to some is refreshing.

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Radio is being told one of the reasons you have crappy ratings is that your listeners have fled to satellite and the Internet. There are now thousands of Internet radio stations. Some sound pretty good and are run by folks that know what they’re doing. On the other hand, a lot are crap and seem to be just a platform for kids to drop the F-Bomb over and over again.

The auto industry is putting Internet radios in some cars and even outfitting vehicles with Wi-Fi. How does radio, in its infinite wisdom, answer this looming threat?

Just about every station has now cloned its signal so you can hear it over the Internet. Yes, the same signal that forced listeners to flee in the first place, but it’s on the Internet and they have a flashy Web page to go with it. Now they have not just the local audience, who put them at the bottom of the rating pile, but don’t mind showing off to a worldwide audience, which proves the locals were right.

We then hear radio stations saying, “The Internet side really isn’t doing that much for us.”

We all know that your local radio station or terrestrial radio has to play within the rules set out by the FCC in the U.S. and the CRTC in Canada. If they don’t, they might be shut down and believe me that has happened.

I asked the FCC and the CRTC what they’d allow radio stations to do. The CRTC was first to reply in an email: “There are no CRTC licensing requirements for radio or television stations in order to operate over the Internet. Therefore, terrestrial stations can not only broadcast their feeds on line, they can broadcast programming completely different.”

Handling the FCC was Corey Deitz from radio.about.com, where he wrote:

“So, on your Internet radio station you are free to broadcast whatever music you choose, no matter the content. The same can be said for any spoken word, including pre-recorded or live comedy, poetry, political, social or cultural discussions.”

With tablets, smartphones, laptops, apps there has never been a better time for radio to take the next step and show the world how creative it can be. Come on, radio, you’re being given a blank Internet slate to play on. Don’t be lazy and do what everyone else is doing, repeating your tired old radio signal.

After working in radio for the better part of my life (and it really was the “better part”), I don’t know how many times I have heard, “Wow! If I could just run this station, it would be number one.”

I heard that from GMs talking about PDs, PDs talking about GMs and announcers talking about both. I even heard it from an accountant who was running a station that went into bankruptcy. All very creative people with very creative ideas on how to move forward.

GET CREATIVE — FOR REAL
The time has come for local radio that’s streaming on the Internet to do something or get off the pot.

(I don’t want to say that station owners are cheap … but how was copper wire invented? Two station owners fighting over a penny!)

You can create an added revenue stream by doing something new. Yes, you might have to hire extra producers, maybe on-air, a writer or two and a Web person.

I can hear the excuses now.

“Oh you can’t really measure how many people are listening!” Yes, you can, there’s a company with an app for that. I was talking to an ex-radio friend who runs a Toronto Internet station from which he gets a wealth of information, such as how many are listening, in what country and how long they listen. His average minutes tuned per listener is over 45 minutes.

“We’ve noticed that more people listen to our station and not the Web feed.” Saying that about the Web feed is like someone, ten years ago in New Orleans saying, “Oh that’s just a little rain and wind.” One word for you: advertise!

So Mr./Mrs. Radio, you play country but you’ve always wanted to play rock & roll — or maybe you run a talk station, but you’ve always wanted to throw in comedy. You can do it now, over there, on the Internet. You can stay as local as you want, or go as worldly as you want.

There’s a ton of great content out there from some very creative people. Right now, some kid dropping an F-Bomb is getting better ratings than you. Yeah, and you can tell that kid, “Hey, get off my lawn!”

Bryan Cox is a broadcaster, author, comedian and voice actor in Canada.

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