This one is going to upset some of you, so get ready….
Recently I did some research where listeners were asked what platforms they listened to and where they listened to them. One respondent, a 40’ish woman with a teenaged son, indicated that her son would never listen radio “because he’s always wearing those headphones attached to his mobile phone.”
At first, I couldn’t understand why she viewed this as an obstacle to listening to radio, since radio can run through those same mobile phones and into those same headphones, thanks to streaming.
It can, but that’s not how this consumer sees it. It’s not how many consumers see it. It’s not how her teenaged son sees it.
For her – for many – radio may exist outside its traditional platform – the radio in the car, primarily. But being available on a particular platform doesn’t mean the consumer wishes to use it on that platform.
Behavior beats to the drum of habit. And the ritual of habit orbits around the principles of familiarity and simplicity. That which is in fact “easy” becomes “too much work” not because it’s actually a lot of work, but because it is not the most simple behavior available that already fits within the context of the habits consumers attach to their gadgets. Familiarity doesn’t just breed preference, familiarity IS preference.
Thus, new apps – even those that solve listener problems or satisfy desires – generally refuse to catch on, because the cluster of apps I have now are “good enough” – or in the case of Facebook’s apps, they make quick study of the best features of up-and-coming competitors and squash those competitors in the process. Because an old, familiar app that does something new is preferred over a new and unfamiliar app that does something new. Again, simplicity rules.
I asked a focus group recently, “Did you download WXXX’s app?”
No, not one of them had.
“It’s too much work, if I want to listen I’ll listen in the car.” In other words, the simplest solution is to glide painlessly through life in the direction your habits already take you.
If we generalize this, then the significance is profound (bear with me for a moment). What it means is that it’s not enough to have an app or promote an app. It’s not enough to stream a station or promote a stream. It’s not enough to add your app to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. It’s not enough to introduce an Alexa skill that enables a verbal “Alexa, play WXXX.”
Every one of these paths introduces new access but not new content or new experiences. Unless your offering is utterly unique (e.g., how do I see the latest season of Better Call Saul?”), then making it available everywhere is not enough. After all, the vast majority of YouTube videos are available everywhere, yet are consumed by almost no one. Ditto for the vast majority of podcasts. Your stream may have a few dozen or a few hundred simultaneous listeners tuned in right now – compared to many thousands on the radio. Access is not enough.
#Radio across platforms: Access is not enough
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Consumers have favorite ways to do their favorite things. And once they have a favorite way it takes a monumental effort – something dramatically better or different that is also simple as pie – to move them from one favorite way to another.
Thus folks don’t need Apple Music – they have Spotify. Folks don’t need a stream – they have the radio in the car. Folks don’t need your app – they already have enough apps (and the radio in their car). Folks don’t need the Alexa skill for your station, they already have on demand access to any song they want (and the radio in their car). Now, this is an over-broad generalization, of course, but it’s closer to right than to wrong. And the usage metrics tend to prove it.
So what should you do?
You must view the idea that your content should be available across all platforms and in all places as table stakes – the bare minimum you will need to compete in the future and – if you’re lucky – one way to stay marginally ahead of your radio brethren.
The real win is hard. It requires tackling the problems of your clients well beyond the parameters of your radio station in whatever way those clients need their problems handled. It requires building out new revenue models to enrich and transform your relationships with your consumers (no longer simply “listeners”) such that they consume more flavors of content from you across various media and enjoy more experiences in the presence of your brand in the real world.
That last paragraph is a mouthful.
And it’s the key to your profitable and successful future.