Friday, August 12, 2016


Adapted from a story originally posted on Monday, February 22, 2016.

There have been quite a few comments about my post on Tuesday [link] about various charts and graphs showing media usage.  Also, I’ve been reviewing Spring 2016 Nielsen Audio Diary market ratings. From what I’ve seen, radio is still hanging in there despite our constantly growing multi-platform multi-channel choices.

Baba Ram Das

Still, the predictions of the death of radio persist. Some folks want to live in a future they imagine.  Others want to Be Here Now. The phrase was coined by philosopher Baba Ram Das. [It is not often I get to quote stuff from my “underground” radio days.]

The essence of Be Here Now is to focus on what is happening in the current moment.  Of course, it is important to know the direction of the forest because it helps us plan for the future. But dwelling on life as it may be someday is as counter-productive as living in the past.

There is no doubt that digital technologies have changed the landscape for radio and other “old media.” Some traditional platforms such as magazines and newspapers are mere shadows of their former selves. However, two traditional “old” platforms – radio and TV – continue to be prominent in American life.

The two charts on the right reflect what I am talking about. The first chart is from Nielsen Audio’s most recent Comparable Metrics report.  Nielsen periodically publishes these cross-platform studies based on data for all of the platforms they track.  As you can see, broadcast radio and TV are widely used by adults of all ages. Radio even out-performs TV with folks ages 18 to 34.

The second chart, from Edison Research and Triton Digital, tracks the sources used to stay up-to-date on music – aka “Music Discovery.” Radio remains the top platform for this activity.  No single digital platform tops the bulk delivery of radio.  I think the data in this chart is important because “music discovery” is an active, listener-driven choice.  It is what people are doing right now. You can’t deny it, so Be Here Now.


• CONTENT – People seek out what they want to see and hear based on its appeal and value to them. Radio has content that many people want experience frequently. Digital music services are getting hip to the value of curation and human voices.

• CONVENIENCE – Radio is King of the Car for good reasons: It offers information and entertainment with the least amount of work for the driver. Even though devices in “connected cars” can take you anywhere and do almost everything, traffic, weather and news is what people often want now.

• HABIT – Listening to the radio is a comfortable and familiar habit for many folks, particularly those over the age of 40. People change some habits over time but they don't change all of them. People keep habits that provide them value.

• COMPATIBILITY WITH OTHER PLATFORMS – Radio is a “close cousin” to many digital platforms and devices. In many ways, digital audio is still “radio” – voices and music coming from a box. Radio is adding video components, interaction and social media with increased sophistication. The ability to reach listeners via digital platforms increases audience reach and impact.

• LIVE MOMENTS – This may be radio’s least used asset.  It is all about Be Here Now. Examples range from the Super Bowl to “sig alerts” on the 405 to the latest about a great band coming to a club near you. It is exciting to be part of something when the outcome is unknown.

• IT’S FREE – “Free” is one of radio’s most powerful marketing advantages, particularly noncommercial public radio. The digital universe has become a non-stop shopping experience. Tracking, tollbooths, pop-ups and spam are everywhere. Radio is on digital platforms but it also is available directly via unwired signals.  A person doesn’t leave a footprint when listening to broadcast radio.


The quickest way to kill radio is to not invest in new programming. Cable TV channels and streaming video producers have lots of new stuff in development. House of Cards didn’t happen over night – it took effort, time and money. Radio, including noncom public radio, invests too little time and resources developing new programming and grooming new talent.

Perhaps too much time and resources are being spent on peripheral activities like podcasting. Podcasts are certainly an important part of the media menu but they reach only a small fraction of the people hearing radio.

So Be Here Now is important for the future of radio.

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