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09/19/05 Radio: Everywhere

It's so stupid that it makes me dizzy. I'm talking about the whine of the week that satellite radio “isn't radio.” A car has AM, FM, and XM buttons on the dashboard. Suggesting that XM “isn't radio” is insane. If it's coming thru the radio, it must be radio.

I hate to be the one to dump it on you, but SatRadio is radio, just like AM and FM - it's simply delivered by something other than a terrestrial transmitter. Do you think this invisible difference in technology really matters to your listener? If so, I beg you to retire. Please. Before you do any more damage.

People who listen via Internet streaming or cell phone streaming will tell you they're listening to the radio. Likewise, people say they're listening to the radio when they're listening to an iPod.

It's hard to read the label when you're inside the bottle. Some of us radio old-timers are so deeply inside it, we should be wearing miners' helmets with those little flashlights on top.

Hear me: Radio is radio. Your listeners don't care about the technology that brings it to them. They're not the ones who spent millions to buy your signal.

The battlefield is content, not technology. Stations like WBZ-Boston, KGO-San Francisco and WGN-Chicago are so deeply integral to their communities that they're more immune to SatRadio than the rest of us. But if you think Magic, Lite, Mix, Jack, Jill, or Louie is immune, you're living in a fantasy world.

If we can't learn to think like our listeners do, terrestrial radio will be doomed.

Roy Williams opened my eyes to the real freight train hurtling toward us when he pointed out that listeners don't distinguish between promos and ads. Your “spot load” in the listener's mind is roughly double what it is in yours. This was brought painfully home to me by a recent argument I had with my brother. “I subscribed to Sirius Radio because I was told they played no commercials on their music channels. It was a lie,” he said. I assured him that Sirius plays no commercials on its music channels. “You're wrong,” he replied adamantly, “They run lots of commercials for their other channels.”

Bottle. Label. We've got to learn to think like our listeners again, or that freight train of societal preference will surely mow us down.

I remember a focus group for a station I consulted years ago. We'd been promoting a “no DJs” thing on the air. The focus group quickly and painfully taught us that a listener hears a “DJ” every time they hear a voice that isn't singing. It never occurred to us that the recorded voiceovers we were using for sweepers and IDs and such were “DJs” in the mind of the listener. They spanked us for it. Hard.

Are you ready to climb outside the bottle and read today's label? Or would you prefer to spend the rest of your career moaning and remembering the good old days when FM was new and 8-track tapes were the only competition for the ears of a nation?

The crystal reality is that SatRadio, podcasting, Internet, and cellular streaming are, in fact, radio. If we keep telling advertisers “they're bad, we're good,” we degrade our medium and elevate the status of the newcomers. Instead, let's highlight our strength, learn to think like listeners, and make peace with the fact that we have new baby brothers. We might as well learn to get along because they're not going away.

Strength: Radio was already everywhere long before the first satellite was launched. The Radio Advertising Bureau will tell you that approximately one billion radios are in use in America today - in our bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, and garages. Every car in America has a radio, so add another 231 million, according to R. L. Polk & Co. Radio is ubiquitous. This means that there are roughly five radios for every man, woman, and child in this country.

For this year's NAB, we've launched a campaign that embraces the “newbies” and reminds America's listeners how much a part of their lives we are. Go to RadioIsEverywhere.com. Spread the word. SatRadio and iPods are simply additional proof that America loves what we do.

Radio truly is everywhere, and that's why we've created RadioIsEverywhere.com-so you can send your listeners to a site singing the true praises of radio. While we're at it, let's also remind our advertisers of how truly powerful and ubiquitous we are.


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