Radio’s Biggest Strategic Challenge

By Andy Beaubien, BPR

What is the biggest challenge facing radio broadcasters? There are so many, it is hard to know where to begin. As in everything, there are short-term and long-term concerns. The immediate tactical problems such as finding a new breakfast host are sometimes resolved fairly quickly but the strategic ones require long-term thinking. Unfortunately, long-term thinking is not something at which we radio broadcasters are particularly good. We become so concerned with the immediate challenges of the day that we simply do not have time to act on the long-term issues.

Perhaps the biggest challenge facing radio today lies in our station’s role in the wider media world. We know that media choices available to our listeners have grown exponentially in the past 30 years and yet we continue to behave as if radio were still as important to listeners as it was in the 1980’s. It is time that we stop fooling ourselves.

One of the most notable media trends in recent years is interconnectivity, a fancy way of saying that successful media platform operators have learned that by linking their brand horizontally to other digital platforms, they can expand their reach and connect with a broader audience.

The film industry learned that they can no longer rely solely on attendance at the local cinema as their primary (and formerly exclusive) revenue base. Films can now be distributed through on-line portals from which viewers can stream, purchase or rent the films they want to see. This has given film fans a lot more flexibility in choosing when and where to see their favourite films.

Survival in today’s complex media world requires giving the consumer more options to connect with you and consume your product. Time shifting (freedom from having to hear a program at a specific time) has become the norm for media consumers. Has your station adapted to this customer expectation? Once you have broadcast a program, is it gone forever?

If you want to increase the reach of your audio programs, make it easier for listeners to access them. For years we relied on the portability of radio because listeners could listen to their favourite station in the car, at the beach or at the workplace. Radio still does that but so do many other media platforms. You can now watch a TV program at the beach on your smart phone. Radio’s monopoly on portability is a thing of the past.

The key to reaching people today is to make your station and its programs accessible beyond the FM band. Your station needs an active presence on a variety of media platforms. Our FM transmitters are no longer sufficient to keep us competitive. The reluctance of many radio broadcasters to embrace the broader media world is a common issue. Competitive media platforms will not put us out of business, we will put ourselves out of business if we fail to spread our own product across a variety of available platforms.



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