As an NBA fan (go Pistons!), I know how important home court advantage can be. Playing at home is an edge in all sports, but especially “hoops.”

In its battle with satellite radio and iPods, home court advantage can be an edge for your local radio station as well…

The obvious edge is that it’s local. Too few stations fully exploit this advantage. Many times, friends who aren’t in radio have commented to me that stations they hear in their travels sound pretty much like the ones here in the Detroit metro. Consolidation, syndication, consultants and (yes) even researchers have contributed to this homogenization of radio.

But this article isn’t about that. It’s about creating and exploiting an edge by shifting the home court.

Here’s an example from the world of politics: In 2004, George Bush had a perceived edge on terrorism and national security; John Kerry had a perceived edge on health care and the environment. If the biggest issues in the minds of Americans were health care and the environment, it would be “President Kerry” today. But the Bush campaign, aided by the powers of incumbency, kept voters’ focus on terrorism, and you know the rest.

For most radio stations, “home court” is music…better music, more music, etc. Sure, music consistently tests as the most important programming element for listeners, as a group. But radio certainly can’t compete with satellite radio or iPods for most music. It can’t compete with satellite radio for music variety. And it can’t compete with iPods for best music…what could be better than music listeners choose for themselves?

For the most part, radio is doing a good job with music! But if music is “home court,” that gives satellite radio an iPods an edge. Radio needs to shift home field to a broader construct — local entertainment

For one thing, satellite radio and (obviously) iPods can’t deliver appealing morning personalities who relate to your market. Unfortunately, many radio stations have a tough time delivering this as well, but yours can and should do it!

And local radio’s personality should go beyond mornings. Whatever happened to killer PM drive jocks? Or charismatic night jocks that have cult followings among younger listeners? I can tell you that it’s a rare occasion when a personality outside morning drive emerges as a top-of-mind favorite in my research.

Personalities aren’t the sole source of entertainment local stations can offer. Contests that capture the imagination and attention of a city take a station way beyond “jukebox” status.

But home court advantage can’t be achieved merely doing these things on the air!!! It’s also about advertising and promoting the elements of your station that competitors cannot deliver, and, in doing so, raising those elements to the level of crucial criteria on which listeners choose from their multiple sources of entertainment.

Of course, emphasizing “local entertainment” isn’t the right strategy for every station. But shifting home field advantage to your strengths (whatever they happen to be) is always the right strategy for your station. And it’s the right strategy for local radio as a whole.