Thursday, September 13, 2012

Be the Best Button

This is an update to our May 2005 Be the Best Button blog posting about mobile internet in the car.

Nothing has changed in seven years. What we wrote then remains true today.

Eventually, all the technology just becomes buttons on the dashboard and the button with the best programming always wins.

And what was true in May 2005 was true for decades before that. Success in radio has always been about being the best button. 

Digital doesn't change that. The source -- FM, AM, HD, on-demand, podcast, personal playlist, satellite, streaming -- doesn't matter.

The consumer now has 5 to 15 physical buttons on the dashboard from which to choose. Those buttons will be on a screen in a digitally equipped car, but the human equation will be the same. The consumer pushes a button. If the content satisfies frequently enough, it becomes the favorite button. And there will be FM and AM buttons on the dashboard.

Digital is not a threat to terrestrial public radio unless we make it one. We are our own biggest threat if we give up on radio or if we let others tell us that radio is less important than digital. Believing that is a recipe for financial disaster because the ROI for radio will be far superior to the ROI on digital for the foreseeable future.

The key to public radio success in the digital age is growing the radio audience and embracing digital as a way to make our primary radio service even more relevant to listeners than it is today.

It’s not an either/or proposition. It’s not broadcast radio versus digital. Listeners pick buttons, not technologies.

Be the Best Button.

Read more at 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

One interesting side effect of platform diversification is that listeners are losing the ability to distinguish between platforms. I've noticed this effect rapidly accelerating in certain parts of the country in the last two or three years; the places where the mobile wireless buildout is the greatest.

My evidence for this is largely anecdotal, but nevertheless logical: you see listeners that are trying to listen to a stream via TuneIn or an iPhone app, and they wonder why there's so many dropouts as they jog around the local hiking trails; they don't realize that connectivity on a smartphone is not like listening to a portable AM/FM radio, and moving around a lot can (and usually will) cause dropouts to the data stream. Nor do they understand that such things are highly dependent on which wireless carrier they have since different carriers have different cell facilities/towers in different locations, and different user data loads, etc etc etc.

If anything, I think this actually is starting to swing an advantage back to AM/FM stations. At least those with good enough signals to allow for listeners to literally hit one button and reliability get the content they want. Listeners may be reaching a threshold where it's NOT just about getting the content they's about getting content the content they want but they'll settle for content they want "enough" if they can get it reliably.

9:57 AM  

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