Who Controls the Future of Digital?

digital futureI recently participated in a Hootsuite webinar by Simon Kemp on “The Future Forces of Digital, 2018 & Beyond.” It’s eye-opening and rather intuitive in its conclusions for where the internet of things is headed. Let me share with you what I learned.

The State of World Digital 2018

First, a dose of current reality:

  • World Population: 7.593 Billion
  • Population connected to the internet: 4.021 Billion (53%)
  • Active on social media: 3.196 Billion (42%)
  • Unique mobile users: 5.135 Billion (68%)
  • Active mobile social media users: 2.958 Billion (39%)

Right off the bat, seeing that 68% of the world’s population are now mobile users, most likely on a smartphone, was a wake-up call. And while social media is now ten years old, the world is still joining the conversation on social media at a rate of a million new users every day.

USA Digital 2018

Now that you have an idea of what’s going on globally, here’s what Simon told us about the current state of digital in America:

  • USA population: 325.6 million
  • USA population connected to the internet: 286.9 million (88%)
  • USA population active on social media: 230.0 million (71%)
  • USA population that are unique mobile users: 234.8 million (72%)
  • USA population that are active mobile social media users: 200.0 (61%)

We are past the tipping point for both mobile use and internet connectivity in America. In fact, 69% of Americans have now shopped online.

The researchers are forecasting content that inspires and educates will be more valued by this growing digital audience going forward, versus content that informs and entertains.

What Do We Do?

The big question we need to be asking ourselves in media is, what can we do that will make our target audience so excited about it that they would be willing to pay for it?

NPR/Public Radio and Christian Radio have figured this out and it’s why we have seen both formats doing so well in both audience ratings as well as listener support.

Every radio station should be asking this question, when planning any activity.

How Do We Know What Our Audience Wants?

Mayor Ed Koch knew how to find out what his constituents wanted. He asked them. Repeatedly.

Everywhere 3-term NYC Mayor Koch went, he asked “How am I doing?”

To get the answer to this question for your media property, ask your listeners. Your goal is to find out what your target audience wants, needs and desires in order to learn what will inspire them, educate them and make their lives better.Maslow's Needs Pyramid

Think Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” pyramid.

Tap into Your Influencers

Radio’s top influencers are their P1 listeners. To really understand your target audience, your P1 listeners are the ones you need to intimately know and take care of. Station logo’d stuff ought to be freely flowing to these important people, but it doesn’t stop there.

Your P1s are the people who understand what your target audience really cares about, and why. Think of them as consultants to your brand.

Lowest Common Denominator

In the next two to five years we can expect technology to accommodate the next billion users of digital media. People in the developing world, are the ones that will be shaping the internet.

They will impact ALL internet and mobile users.

Again, Simon gave these examples of that next billion users impact:

  • Literacy: lower levels of literacy will require different interfaces
  • Language: a greater variety of language needs will inspire new content formats
  • Technology: varying devices & connections will impact content format
  • Motivations: new wants, needs, and desires will inspire new products & services.

Most of today’s internet content is texted based but as populations of lower literacy levels sign-on, that will change this. Voice commands, image search and video content will become more dominant in the future.

Economies of Scale

Technology companies are already working to have all devices and interfaces operate the same way on a global basis. Everything will be designed to cater to the lowest common denominator because it makes fiscal sense. It’s already happening on Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon.

When Mr. Kemper walked his audience through this part of his presentation, I immediately thought of having Apple put FM receivers into their iPhones.

FM, HD Radio, DAB, DAB+ etc. are different standards for broadcasting OTA radio signals and do not meet the test of a global standard.

The Next Internet Revolution is Coming

Look for the next billion to drive the next internet revolution in the areas of:

  • Search: SEO will look very different for voice-centric search
  • Social: People’s social media interactions will be more video than text
  • Shopping: E-commerce orders will depend on spoken word
  • Addressing: URLs & Hyperlinks will move from text to image


Something I researched back when I was an undergrad, convergence, is coming to fruition in my lifetime. Every form of media will be delivered over the same pathway and received on the same type of device plus it will be on-demand and on our schedule, not the creator’s schedule.



Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales

17 responses to “Who Controls the Future of Digital?

  1. As long as people hear, radio content drives audio delivery.


  2. Clark Schmidt paraphrased – “As long as there are horses…”

    All radio is audio, but not all audio is radio, and that is the difference between what you speak of and what Dick is explaining above.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Brian Battles WS1O

    You say social media is now 10 years old, but Facebook was started in 2004, before that there was MySpace, AOL has been around since the 1990s…I’d say social media is closer to 25 years old.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Remember, when Facebook started it was only for college students, not everyone.

      And if you eliminate the early adopters period of time and think more of when this stuff became mainstream, that’s around a decade.

      These things are always going to be in dispute and in the mind of the beholder, but I get your point.



  4. Bob Nester

    The number of bloggers who write weekly columns on radio’s ‘demise’ is far exceeded by the number of people employed in the industry who are doing quite well, thank you.
    Radio isn’t leaving anytime soon. It’s revenues are in the top 5 according to BIA Kelsey and it’s audience remains stable even with all the “new media” competition, according to Nielsen.
    Radio has so far withstood a constant barrage of negative press caused by it’s top two group owners, negative comments, daily, from many employed in radio, bloggers like Dick, and panic by weak radio sales reps who stare at their iphones all day.
    Look at the plight of newspapers with subscribers way down, but revenues still in the top 5. Or magazines (are there any subscribers to TIME anymore?) Direct Mail is the top ad revenue producer (there’s high tech for you)
    Radio’s demise has been regularly predicted since 1952 when Howdy Doody came on TV. Those forecasters are long dead but radio remains alive and well and lives to fight another day.


    • Thank you Bob for sharing your perspective.

      To answer your question about “does anyone subscribe to TIME any more?” — well I’m one who does and I know my brother does too.

      Did you see the latest revenue report for 2017 of radio’s top revenue producers in Tom Taylor’s NOW this morning? Here’s what Tom wrote:

      Year to year, the combined revenue of radio’s top-ten billers was off 4%.

      Back-of-the-envelope, this NOW Newsletter’s tally shows the class of 2016 billing a combined $480.9 million. While the class of 2017 was at $460 million. That’s a decline of a little more than 4%. Put another away, Only WTOP (up $300,000), KBIG (plus $1 million) and WLTW (up $1 million) gained ground. NYC’s “1010 WINS” was unchanged at a BIA-estimated $40 million. But the other six were down, and several down by double digits.

      I know local radio owners in small markets who tell me they were up 8% or better in 2017. So there are those stories too.

      But then Tom also started the private company reports on Q1 today too.

      Jeff Warshaw, Connoisseur Media CEO –

      Jeff is always succinct, and here’s his take – “Q1 was basically flat in radio revenue. Q2 is pacing slightly down for us, but it’s too early to tell where it will end. Radio needs relaxation of the ownership rules in order to thrive in the future. We are competing on so many levels with companies that don’t have the same restrictions that we have.”

      Mike TarterMike Tarter, President/CEO of Kentucky-based Forcht Broadcasting –

      “The first quarter was softer than we had hoped, but March ended on an uptick. Second quarter is off to a better start, thanks in part to digital.

      Radio is NOT dead and I never said it was/is.

      What I do say is that some in radio have figured out where the industry needs to go and others are trying to do what they’ve always done and say nothing’s changed.

      Somehow you must have missed the part about Public & Christian radio’s tremendous success in both audience ratings, revenue and listener support.

      Thank you for contributing to the discussion.


  5. Good piece. Because of signal issues I already have to listen to some local radio broadcasts via TuneIn or other web streams, which means I listen at home and in the car at various times via wireless device, not OTA. The future is here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hear you Rob.

      When I lived in Southern Kentucky, just over the Tennessee border and could almost see the tower for 650AM – WSM out of Nashville, with its blowtorch 50,000-watt clear channel licensed signal, I could NOT receive them OTA. I listened via the station’s App (and in stereo) with great fidelity.

      Later, when I was invited to do a guest DJ show on WSM, I would learn more people listen to WSM via their stream and App than they do over-the-air.

      Yes, the future has been here for sometime.

      Thanks for stopping by the blog and adding your perspective.


  6. Bob Nester


    Perhaps you missed part of the discussion.
    The “Top 10” revenue producers being off 4% shows how iHeart and Cumulus’ problems have skewed the radio industry’s actual performance and strength in so many ways. The BIA Kelsey figures, including all stations show a more accurate picture-little growth, but not an alarming decrease as you and others would claim. Again, these numbers are partly skewed by the problems of the Big 2. Let’s all say a fervent prayer that these 2 groups somehow leave our life someday soon.
    As far as getting people to “send in your checks before midnight tonight”… nice try. Thinking that you can get people to pay for what they get for free shows a lack of business understanding. Christian radio contributions are like passing the plate. PBS has snob appeal that causes academia to extend their offerings to a narrative that replaces the religion few of them have.
    Radio’s death has been predicted by your sort since Howdy Doody went on TV in 1952. It will easily outlive you and me.


  7. Duffy

    No one has solidly convinced me that Facebook isn’t CB Radio. The miracle way of communicating that will never go away.

    The last radio soothsayer I listened to was in 2005 when we were condescendingly told to prepare to shut off the transmitters. Within 5 years, said the wiz kids, all the content will have migrated over to MySpace.

    If people suddenly started habitually getting their audio content from forks by the end of the day….first, we’d find a way onto forks. And ten seconds later we’d have fork experts.

    Our artistry has always been reverse engineering our product from the desires of our targeted audiences. On terrestrial. On digital. On forks.


  8. A comment by Duffy on my blog said he believed Facebook is like today’s CB Radio when it comes to taking down broadcast.

    That got me to wondering, what does today’s CB radio usage look like from the trucker’s worldview. (They were the folks who embraced this form of media first and foremost.)

    Apparently, the new, younger truckers are using more modern tech to replace what the CB Radios provided.

    But the older truckers still use them. Though current estimates are that it’s now down to about 50%.

    I don’t know any automobile drivers who install or use CB Radios any more.

    Do you Good Buddy?



  9. Radio is in trouble. Google, Facebook, and the rest are devouring local radio budgets.


  10. Pingback: What’s Changed in 98 Years? | DickTaylorBlog

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