The predicted “demise of radio” has been only a few years away for at least the last four decades.

I’ve negotiated radio buys for half of those four decades, and during my twenty years doing this, here’s what was supposed to “kill” radio:

    • The internet.
    • Streaming audio like Pandora.
    • Smart phones
    • Streaming audio & internet connectivity in cars
    • The millennials

Most of the time these predictions were just met with the-sky-is-falling hand wringing or head-in-the-sand denials.

But a few times, radio tried to adapt. With smart phones the Radio industry screamed toward that technology full speed to create the iHeart Radio app. They wanted to be everywhere smart phones were because that is what they thought would win the battle.

Unfortunately for radio, nobody invented or ever bought a smart phone to find a new way to listen to terrestrial radio.

So while it’s great radio adapted to the new tech, they’re trying to push an analogue consumption model onto digital platforms, and, in my opinion, that’s the pill that will eventually poison them.

It’s not that people don’t want to hear music and news and talk. Clearly THAT is still huge. Just look at the podcast content available on any topic imaginable.

So the audience for the CONTENT is bigger than ever!

Why Radio’s PR Problem Is Advertiser’s Opportunity

So then what’s the problem with radio? Why is it dying?

First, it’s NOT dying. People just think it’s dying

There is still no faster way of reaching people in masses as fast as radio. It’s still a hugely successful advertising medium.

That’s good news for smart advertisers because this gap between expectations and reality means they can buy really effective radio very inexpensively.

But Radio DOES Have a (Long Term) Problem

The problem for radio is that people keep discovering that they don’t have to put up with ads to get (most of) the content they want.

And people who don’t have to put up with crappy ads, won’t.

Older people who’ve been conditioned to put up with ads and who can’t afford to insulate themselves from them will default to “tolerating” shitty ads.

But younger people generally won’t. And that’s radio’s (eventual) problem.

As millennials age up (and the current audience ages out), radio’s audience will disappear.

What About Exclusive / Non-Skippable Content? 

When do audiences force themselves to watch ads, even if they’re not interested in the ads?

During must-watch, real-time shows, of course. Reality TV. News. Sports.

Why do they tolerate the ads there? There is a premium for catching the content while it’s still fresh, rather than time-shifting it. So audiences tend to watch them live, and put up with the interruptions that ads represent.

For most anything else, audiences expect on-demand consumption that allows for skipping or fast-forwarding of ads.

That’s why the new providers of mass-appeal content — HBO, Netflix, Amazon Prime — understand that the best bet is to not interrupt at all.

So does that mean live, must-see content is the only content worth advertising on?

No. It’s not the only way to go.

What About Entertaining Ads? 

The truth is that audiences have been telling TV and Radio executives the secret key to advertising success for decades.

They’ve been saying “entertain me, be relevant to my world and I will take part”.

And by this, I don’t mean the shows. I mean the ads!

The biggest must-see, live-action show of the year — the Super Bowl — also hosts the most hyped and (often) most entertaining ads of the year.

People actually look forward to Super Bowl ads!

Think about that: the audience stays engaged specifically to watch the ads during the Super Bowl.

That’s the audience saying: “be relevant and entertain me with a captivating story or message, and I’ll willingly pay attention — and maybe even seek out your ad on the net”

So why is that ignored during the rest of the year?

Why aren’t regular ads at least 85% as good as Super Bowl Ads?

Is the talent to create not available at any other time? The production?

Bringing It Back to Radio — And To Your Advertising Success

Here’s how it all circles back to radio.

Right now, the truth about radio is that it continues to represent the best and fastest way to deliver information to masses over any other technology or platform.

“Viral” numbers on the internet is just another day for radio.

Unfortunately, that very strength comes with a weakness.

Radio behemoths like iHeart have simply relied on that huge number of people listening to sell ads — and ignored the need for ad quality.

They’ll happily pay Nielsen a fortune to produce nationwide listenership numbers that tell advertisers about the extraordinary number of people listening to their stations.

But they’ll hardly pay a penny to their creative teams and producers to create even halfway decent ads — while typically relying on little more than streaming music for content.

Imagine a radio station that delivered better, hyper-local, live (or at least exclusive, must-hear) content AND played entertaining, relevant ads.

A station where the ads kept you in tune. Or even a radio station that captivated you so incredibly well that you were willing to tolerate the ads and stay tuned to that station.

Would you consciously make the effort to listen to something else? Or would you be several times more likely to default back to radio?

And maybe even fire up whatever stupid app they’re pushing to stream your favorite station and show?

That’s the key to radio’s future, IMO.

But it’s also the key to your success. See, YOU can create entertaining, relevant, and engaging ads, even when the station won’t.

And when your ads air, they’ll stand out that much more — making them even more effective.

Plus, you can look for those radio shows producing that fantastic content.

You can have radio’s (potentially bright) future today. While paying radios discounted pricing, too.

Will radio’s demise eventually become a reality instead of prediction?

Here’s hoping they’ll change before then.

But whether they change or not, there’s plenty of time for you to make great radio creative and cheap radio rates your advertising secret weapon.

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