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Radio's Glory Days Are Here To Stay

April 16, 2012

Yes, it's that time of year again: The annual NAB conference is headed back to Las Vegas. It's an exciting time for those of us in the media industry and I, like many others, am looking forward to all the news, products, and people that I'll see at this year's show. In my 30 years in the industry I've attended many events produced by NAB, and they always make me a bit nostalgic, given the rich history the broadcasting industry. But they also make me feel optimistic about its future.

With more than 14,000 stations in the U.S., in cities large and small, radio and its people have an unmatched ability to deliver news, information, and entertainment on a local level. Radio has always had a knack for building what marketer Seth Godin calls “tribes.” He defines tribes as any group of people, large or small, who are connected to one another, a leader, and an idea. To me, that sounds like an excellent definition of radio.

Since its beginning, people have used radio as a means to acquire important news. The assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. The Apollo moon landing in 1969. Radio has also had a significant impact on our culture. When I was a kid, we grew up loving radio. We connected with jocks and entered contests. One of the things you likely had in common with your circle of friends was your radio station. Whether it was the Top 40 station or the hard rock station, you were defined by the friends you hung out with and the station you listened to.

Radio was all about engagement. From the early days, listeners would gather around a transistor receiver and form personal bonds with disc jockeys, and become extremely loyal to their favorite stations. It was these personal relationships that enabled radio to become a successful outlet for advertising. A connected audience is more likely to buy products from someone they trust. Radio's tribes are the perfect customers.

Radio's history is rich, but so is its future. I like to consider myself an early adopter of technology. In 1983, I was the first person in my neighborhood to have a mobile phone, the Motorola DynaTAC . It was the size of a brick and had roughly the same limited functionality. I was there with the mobile phone through many makes and models, including the first flip phone, the Motorola StarTAC in 1996, and one of the first smartphones in the early 2000s, before my colleagues even knew that their phones were "dumb."

While some people view technology as a nail in radio's coffin, I see it as the bridge to radio's future. Technology certainly provides new challenges for traditional radio, but it can also provide new opportunities. Where listeners once turned to their radios for news and entertainment, they now turn to their mobile devices. However, mobile phones did not come to spoil radio's party. They came to enhance it. Consumers are more attached to their phones than any other device. Radio can use this loyalty to keep building its tribes, to keep engaging listeners, and to keep selling advertisements.

With a little help from technology, radio's glory days are still to come.

Ivan Braiker is the president of mobile marketing company Hipcricket.

 




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