According to an Inside Radio survey of broadcasters late last year, two-thirds say Pandora (and services like it) poses no real threat to radio.
Are these guys living in the same world we are? Do they talk to consumers? Do they conduct research? Do they listen to what people are talking about in church, school, work, or at tailgates? Have they talked to their kids?
This is nothing new for the radio business, but as we move into 2014 and see continued changes in the entertainment ecosystem, denying Pandora’s impact isn’t just wrong – it sends a message to everyone from media buyers to advertisers to the press to civilians that radio people just don’t get it.
And as we know from past press articles and speeches, the argument that “Pandora is not radio” has been floated for some time now. While technically, Pandora has no live DJs (of course, the same thing can be said about many broadcast stations) and is a “playlist” service, it provides some of the same essential attributes to consumers looking for great music.
Our own Techsurvey8 indicated that nearly half of our database-centric survey back in 2012 believes that it is. A majority of fans of Alternative, Christian, Country, CHR, and Variety Hits believe Pandora is “radio.”
We saw this up close and personal in our “Goin’ Mobile” ethnographic interviews back in 2010. As respondents showed us their smartphones, the Pandora app was omnipresent – to them, it’s radio.
And here’s a news flash – the automakers see it that way, too. Whether it’s Pandora, TuneIn, iHeartRadio, or SiriusXM, it’s all radio – if it’s in the dash, available to consumers. What must they think when they hear the constant broadcaster drumbeat of denial?
And yet, the radio industry continues to come across as defensive, defiant, and angry – as if these emotions are positive or could even be considered attributes. To continue to play the denial card is to make the radio industry look like every politician who simply takes the deny, deny, deny route. The more denial you hear, the more you know there has to be something there.
This isn’t just the wrong approach, it’s a waste of time and energy that could be better spent changing the subject to what’s good about broadcast radio (and it’s a long list). While we are quibbling about semantics, we should be going on the offensive – making the case for “Why radio?”
The other night, it was Bill O’Reilly, of all people – not your most progressive thinker when it comes to what is cool when it comes to pop culture. With musical taste that spans the Beach Boys to Motown, O’Reilly’s “Tip of the Day” advised his viewing audience to turn off their radios and turn on Pandora (almost as if he just discovered it).
Now taking musical advice from Bill O’Reilly makes about as much sense as consulting Bill Belichick on fashion. But the fact that Pandora continues to make the news – mostly in positive ways – ought to be sending the message to broadcasters that denying its impact isn’t believable. Nor is it smart.
In recent days, Pandora has announced new partnerships – the most recent one is with Chrysler, making it the 25th auto company they’ve connected with. They’ve also enhanced their iOS and Android apps, including personalized recommendations, providing more choice and engagement.
Everywhere you look, Pandora is on the offensive. They’re making deals, adding locations, hiring salespeople, and using rhetoric that is brash and in-your-face when it comes to traditional AM/FM radio. All the while, broadcasters are parrying these attacks, instantly responding to the Pandora’s rating claims, denying the competitive factor, and trying to hold share.
And yet we also know that Pandora has limitations. As we have discovered in our last two Techsurveys – and we are repeating the same questions again this year – Pandora has issues. There are aspects of broadcast radio – when done right – that provide a whole level of engagement, localism, and personality to audio content.
It’s not a matter of telling our story better. Or denying Pandora’s story.
It is a matter of creating our own stories, our own narrative, and our own big news developments that reminds everyone from consumers to OEMs to TV pundits that radio gets it and is here to stay. It starts with getting strategic about what broadcast radio brings to the table, and making that case to audiences, advertisers, and the communities are stations serve.
Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, perhaps put it best when she asked, ‘Who’s zoomin’ who?”
Let’s stop kidding ourselves. 2014 would be a good time for radio to get out of the defensive business, and enter the No Spin Zone.