Before evolving into a marketing executive, R F Timberlake & Company's president began his award-winning media career as a broadcast and print journalist helping the news industry to gravitate towards more in-depth and investigative reporting. Frank Timberlake taught broadcast and advertising, managed numerous political campaigns and operated media outlets with Linda, his wife and business partner. He has never been shy about speaking his mind. Having limited Frank to the subject of marketing, we hope you will enjoy Frankly Speaking, a marcom blog.
RADIO AND ONLINE MUSIC NOT THE SAME FOR LISTENERS: FUTURE FOR BOTH!
Please allow me the privilege of introducing to you Tom Birch of Raleigh. He's my guest blogger for this post, and we have been friends since 1981 when he introduced Birch Research to us at Durham Life Broadcasting in Raleigh. He was the Founder and Chairman of Birch/Scarborough Research Corp and continued his media and media research career as Chairman/CEO at Opus Media and Partner/CFO at Simmons Market Research Bureau before founding Lakes Media LLC. Lakes Media (6 FM, 3 AM and 1 TV stations) dominates radio, online and smartphone listening in Southside Virginia and Northern North Carolina, including the communities of Danville, South Boston, Clarksville, South Hill and Lawrenceville, Virginia and Roxboro, Oxford, Henderson and Warrenton, North Carolina. 2012 Arbitron ratings score Lakes Media stations #1 in Danville, South Boston and the 4-county area of Mecklenburg/Lunenburg/Brunswick VA/Warren Counties NC.
We get asked all the time about the future and fates of many kinds of media. Lately at the forefront have been questions about radio, local radio in particular, and its future as compared to online music services. Frankly Speaking, I have an opinion, but I asked an expert, especially since we have many clients and friends who use radio in their advertising mix. Here's Tom's take!
"Much has been written about the fate of terrestrial radio in the face of competition from online broadcasters. I'd like to provide a prospective, based on my 30+ years in media research: Commercial terrestrial radio is a completely different programming/business model from Pandora, Spotify and other personalized "1-to-1" music services*. Commercial radio is a "1-to-all" medium whose success is determined by the bonds built with the audience. For music formats, the bond is primarily driven by the quality of curation and, as counter-intuitive as it may seem, success in music programming derives from playing to the lowest common denominator in the target audience group.
Great radio groups like Clear Channel, CBS and Cox have spent millions of dollars to determine the "cream of the tunes" that comprise the lowest common music denominators that will drive success in aggregating the largest available format audience. Keep in mind that working adult radio listeners are not in "music discovery mode" - they are in the "coping with life" mode. Radio must fit into a crowded schedule, and radio listening occurs in two or three 15-20 minute occasions throughout the day. With limited time availability music listeners want to hear music that's familiar and enjoyable during their brief tune-in durations. There is no question that radio delivery platforms are gradually transitioning from over-air to online and mobile; however, I am confident that local terrestrial radio will continue to thrive on the new "endless dial" for two reasons: listener loyalty and limited listener capacity for choice.
Consider: In 1968, FM listening was nearly non-existent. FM stations, where they existed, programmed elevator music; nearly all listening was to AM stations. In 1968, listeners in medium and large markets reported tuning an average of 3 stations per week. By 1978, however, FM choice had exploded. In markets where only 5-8 AM stations existed in 1968, as many as 9-12 new FM formats became available. Yet in 1978, with vastly expanded choices, the average number of weekly stations tuned remained at
Today, after the further expansion of choice on the FM dial that occurred during the Docket 8090 expansion of the 1980s and 90s, listeners are STILL reporting (in diary markets) the same number of weekly stations: 3. And, of the 1-3 stations typically reported, more than 70% of time spent listening is attributable to the top quintile ("P1") station. Consumer (and listening) behavior is highly predictable: folks are loyal to their favorite products and services. Terrestrial stations that are highly successful on over-air platforms will remain highly successful against expanded international internet competition.
Remember - people only have room in their brains for a limited number of brands in each purchase category; in Radio, decades of research indicate that the "brain brand limit" is three (3). Frankly Speaking, the long-term relationships that local radio stations have built with listeners give Radio a HUGE head start in the competition with new, non-local, non-relevant online competitors!"