Jack Nicholson famously said in the movie A Few Good Men “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!”
I think he was right.
We say we can. We want to believe we can. But the reality is the truth is scary.
The Future of Mass Media
The reality is the future of our business – mass media – is that it won’t be all that “mass” anymore.
The future will be a media that is built around relevance and quality of message, not volume.
And that’s scary.
Not to just us broadcasters but to the ratings service known as Nielsen. We aren’t going to need to know the volume (aka cume) or AQH (average quarter hour) numbers in the future. The real value that we will deliver will be based on how relevant we are to our listeners and what value we deliver.
The King is Dead
Remember when the catch phrase of the day was “Content is King”? Bill Gates famously said that.
There were others that felt that distribution was king.
Turns out the “king” is dead for both of these theories and the new king is relationships. And relationships are based on mutual interests and relevancy.
What’s the power of Facebook? Relationships.
Oh sure it uses complex algorithms to manage our relationships, but we are not smitten with algorithms we are drawn to relationships and we friend or unfriend based on the relevance of those relationships too.
Google gets it too.
Each of us is an individual and these social media companies go to great lengths to treat us in just that way.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Commercial radio broadcasting still strives to deliver the “one size fits all” solution. Those days are over.
Radio needs to build, as Seth Godin might say, tribes. People who believe what we believe.
Simon Sinek says that people aren’t attracted to what you do but why you do it.
What’s your WHY?
If there are enough people in your coverage area that will make you a meaningful size tribe of listeners, then do it. If not, find something else that is meaningful.
But trying to be all things to all people – the concept of “mass media” – those days are over.
The 800 pound elephant in the room is how to pay for it. Ad supported media is being challenged by the internet in ways that Netflix, Amazon, Google and others that grew up on a different metric are not.
Today supply far outweighs demand in the advertising world.
Even those special live television events that were growing in audience every year are now seeing they’ve peaked. Nothing goes up forever.
The future is creating something relevant to the people you develop a relationship with. The value will be in how strong those relationships are not necessarily how big, in terms of numbers of people, they are.
The future for all media I suspect will start to look more like that of public radio or Christian radio. Each of these mediums has established strong relationships with their listener. They also don’t abuse those relationships with underwriting announcements that either doesn’t fit their audience or by unbalancing the content to underwriting ratio.
Commercial broadcasters seem to take the view that adding one more spot to the hour; the cluster etc won’t affect their audience. They would be wrong. It does.
Keeping things in balance and running seamlessly will be critical to broadcasters whether they’re being consumed over-the-air on AM or FM, or over the internet.
Sales people in this new world will be business evangelists that seek out business owners with innovative ideas and solutions to their problems. Businesses owners who benefit from these relationships with media sales folks will in turn reward the media enterprise with their support.
What’s your WHY?
But it all starts by first defining, as Simon Sinek says, your WHY.
“People don’t buy what you do; they buy WHY you do it.”
Answer that question, and you will have taken the first step.