Is Radio Advertising Dying?

Innovation watchdog Jerad Kahliher points out that for the first time ever, internet advertising revenue has surpassed radio advertising revenue. One commenter asked the question: How can radio catch up?

Unfortunately, it may be too late for radio to catch up. Radio missed the ship that left the dock a few years ago when the media world started radically changing. I know, I used to work in radio advertising. I do have one suggestion that might be able to change radio’s fortunes, more on that later. First, why did it happen?

While listeners were discovering the internet, and satellite radio was preparing its launch, radio companies like Clear Channel (where I used to work) were busy consolidating (read: firing people).

There is no more originality in radio. Your local radio station now has two, maybe three DJ’s working for it. They will usually do the morning show and possibly afternoon drive. Those are the only shows that are done live and local. The rest of the programming is either syndicated or “voice-tracked.” A DJ in a far away city will record the voice tracks that play in between songs and then download them to the station’s computers. A four-hour radio show can be done in 30-45 minutes.

While this saved stations lots of money, it had the effect of severing personal communication with listeners. In an age where listeners were being introduced to the interactivity and customization of the internet, radio was offering static, cookie-cutter programming. Even cell phones offered greater variety of entertainment than radio stations.

For radio to have any future at all, it has to change. It’s not about the music format, it’s about interactivity with the listener. Social media is all the rage now. Radio stations take note. Forget about your format and your playlists and look for ways to become a social media outlet on the air.

What does this mean for small businesses who want to advertise? Unfortunately, internet advertising is not yet friendly enough for small businesses because there are few local websites that receive enough traffic to justify an investment. Some media outlets are trying, but right now these are simply vehicles designed to sell advertising, not interact with the consumer.

Should you still do radio advertising? Yes, it can have it’s place. But you should not pay premium prices for your radio advertising. Look for stations that are being innovative with efforts of their interactivity with listeners. Ask them to tie you in to their multiple channels of advertising such as the internet, but don’t let them charge you extra for it. Stay away from radio stations that bring you the same old thing year after year. Don’t use radio to try to reach young consumers.

Related Posts on Radio Advertising:
Small Business Radio Spots?
Radio’s Repositioning Lesson
How to Market to Generation X

For marketing ideas and actual case studies, see our other blog: The Idea Spot

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