Friday, March 09, 2007

A Brighter Outlook

On one side there are those who are forecasting that on-demand and user-generated content will put an end to radio as we know it. On the other side there is the recent Bridge Ratings study which projects the weekly number of listeners (Cume) to all terrestrial radio will drop just 8% over the next 13 years.

The Bridge numbers seem optimistic given the prevailing mood in public radio. Several bloggers reporting from the Public Media conference in Boston a few weeks ago referred to a sense of gloom and doom. Then again, that could just be the industry’s scarcity mentality. Public radio has always had a low opinion of its potential.

Seldom do we look at the coming change and talk about doubling the number of weekly listeners to public radio. In fact, we’re often told these days that we shouldn’t think of them as listeners. That’s absurd, of course, because there will be billions of opportunities per year to provide public service through people’s ears.

If anything, the number of opportunities to provide public service is increasing several times over. The Bridge Ratings study reports that Internet radio is expected to have a monthly audience of 197,000,000 in 2010, a gain 140 million new listeners. It projects that 109,000,000 people will stream content over mobile phones. Every one of those people will be able to access any terrestrial radio station that streams it programming.

This is an important point. New delivery platforms are increasing, not decreasing, the number of potential listeners to public radio. That’s true even if the Bridge Ratings projections are off by 100%. Weekly Cumes will grow if we manage our resources well.

The danger ahead is lower Loyalty to public radio across all platforms. Winning as much of someone’s combined terrestrial radio and Internet radio listening as possible is essential to keeping listeners in the donor base. This listening can be won if we choose to compete for it.

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Blogger Todd Mundt said...

Great post, John. This is what's key about this disruption - the opportunity that exists to serve existing audiences better and new audiences that don't currently engage with our content.

I don't think this is a time for fear. I think it's a time to embrace new platforms that fit with our service goals.

7:52 PM  

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