A friend (who was then working as a Promotions Director in TV) told me that “the three major network newscasts will be defunct in a few years.”
This was in 1990.
Of course, the major network newscasts are very much alive sixteen years later. Katie Couric was just given $15 million a year to anchor CBS Evening news.
True, Couric or Brian Williams are nowhere as big as Cronkite or Huntley and Brinkley were. Still, they dwarf the competition. Bill O’Reilly has the #1 show on cable news, averaging over 2 million viewers. NBC Nightly News consistently delivers four to five times as many.
What’s my point? That the dark predictions about terrestrial radio’s future are similarly overheated.
Sure, we all know about the challenge from satellite radio, iPods and the myriad of other sources of entertainment that have eroded radio’s shares. But what medium hasn’t been eroded? Aside from the Superbowl and American Idol, no TV shows get the kind of numbers that series got in my youth, when we only had three networks to choose from.
The odds remain excellent that a local AM or FM radio station is the established leader in its segment in its community. For example, FAR more Detroiters know about WRIF than know about XM’s Squizz or Sirius’ Octane!
At some point, more becomes less when it comes to competition…the mind just can’t handle all of those choices! When satellite services offer a multitude of rock channels and thousands of rock channels come online, a station like WRIF just stands out more and more.
From the standpoint of competing with other entertainment and information sources, consolidation was the worst thing that could have happened to terrestrial radio. For one thing, stations cut back on advertising themselves, or quit entirely. They felt they no longer need to. Wrong! Advertising is essential to maintaining your station’s top-of-mind status, even if it doesn’t have direct competition.
But despite the industry’s complacent ways, AM’s and FM’s still hold an enormous lead in top-of-mind awareness over any of the alternatives. With compelling programming and consistent advertising, AM’s and FM’s can leverage that edge to remain essential in an environment that offers more and more choices.
That’s why I’m bullish on radio.