Convergence Conference 14 – or the more Twitter friendly Conv14 – is an annual conference bringing together the best of the US radio industry to talk about radio convergence. Now, radio convergence has a lot of different definitions but quite simply it’s this – making your content available on the platforms your users want, in the format they want, when they want it.
The conference takes place in the heart of Silicon Valley. Google, Apple, Facebook and loads of others are just a few off-ramps away, so in that setting you expect the conference to blow you away with technological innovations like drones broadcasting radio and Justin Bieber being streamed direct into your brain.
But instead, I left the conference chanting: “Radio is not in the technology business, radio is in the trust business.”
Speaking to the delegates at the conference the overwhelming feeling is that the U.S. radio industry lost sight of the trust factor, they tried to compete with tech industries and went after digital spend.
They changed their model to show measurability and work on cost per click. They went after digital dollars instead of trying to get a bigger portion of the radio pie.
The choice though seemed obvious in the face of what they were competing with. Streaming services like Spotify, Pandora and iTunes radio has been eating into their listenership over the years, so while audio consumption is very high, very little of that is due to actual radio listening – a subtle but crucial difference.
Now that those services have serious numbers on them they’ve naturally attracted advertisers so revenue to your traditional radio stations is now also under threat.
So how are they resolving this?
By going back to basics and exploiting radio’s locality, with both listeners and advertisers. From a commercial point of view they are targeting SME’s and micro enterprises as advertisers – they are giving them a platform to promote themselves at a lower price point.
This in turn creates the variety that only radio can offer – you can hear your local green grocer on the radio and it makes you feel good as a listener.
They’re rebuilding the trust, the relationships and the real connections with the listeners. Not through algorithms but through real conversations.
The content is more niche and real and this way they are resonating with an audience and in turn radio is moving from being a content delivery system into an audience delivery system.
This allows them to approach advertisers in a different way. They’re starting to throw away the cost per 1000 model and are now creating customised campaigns that align with content – or as renowned podcaster and radio personality Adam Corolla put it, “advertising that bleeds all over programming”.
It’s an important shift, spots have always existed in ad breaks, it’s been in a break from content. The shift now is to use the advertiser as another chance to create content. It takes a mature advertiser to embrace this though; the advertiser needs to understand it’s not about how many times their pay-off line is mentioned but rather about how their brand essence is portrayed.
What can we learn?
Radio is no longer simply about radio stations – radio stations are platforms of which traditional radio is one. This means advertising solutions aren’t about radio solutions, but should deliver solutions that solve the client’s problems.
It allows ‘radio’ to play in a really interesting place, because when clients saying “No we’re not spending on radio this quarter”, we can now reply with, “Great because we’ve this amazing cross-platform opportunity for you, but we’ve also got a ready-made audience on tap that we can deliver just like that”.
Radio is not a shiny new toy. Radio is a damn good toy and there’s a reason radio has stuck around in the face of all competition.