Here’s a quick trivia question for you. What was the first video run on MTV back in the early 80’s? It was “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles (I didn’t need to look that up and two of the Buggles, Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes, went on to play with Yes for all of you progressive rock fans out there). At any rate, the idea was that with the onset of video music, Marconi’s invention (that’s the radio for those of you wondering) would die. There would no longer be any need for an antiquated medium where just voices live. Now, because the music could be seen, the radio would just ride off into the sunset.
Well, let’s fast forward to today’s world. It was announced that Rush Limbaugh (like him or hate him, he’s real so just get over it) signed a new deal with Clear Channel Communications for $400 million for eight years (Wall Street Journal, July 3, 2008) which in net terms tops even the deal that Howard Stern cut with Sirius Radio a few years back.
So with this internet thing taking over the world, how does this happen? How does a company spend so much for someone like Limbaugh? Well, folks it’s because not all marketing happens on the internet (did I hear a collective Gasp! from the MP reader ship?). Limbaugh has roughly 20 million loyal listeners who buy the products that advertise on his show. Advertisers realize this and don’t care that maybe radio isn’t hip or cool. They care about profits and people like Limbaugh make rain when it comes to bottom line stuff. Oh and by the way, they listen online too (didn’t think those old folks had it in them did ya?).
This quote in the Journal’s article shows just how resilient and cool radio really is:
“Radio reaches about 93% of the population each week, according to Arbitron Inc., with listeners tuning in an average of about 18.5 hours. That is a decline from just over 22 hours per week 10 years ago. Radio advertising, including on radio Internet sites, totaled $21.3 billion last year, down from $21.7 billion the year before.”
How is that cool and resilient when the numbers are declining? Well, it’s simple. Radio has great opportunity to transition into the internet. I would argue even more so than video. Why? Because you can keep it on in the background and still get stuff done. When people are huddled around a desk watching something on YouTube they need to be more engaged thus taking them away from other activities completely. Radio’s ability to be in the foreground and the background all at once is phenomenal. I am a huge sports fan so I love the fact that when I listen to Mike and Mike in the Morning on ESPN Radio in my car I can easily transition to my desk at work and continue listening online. That is cool. I don’t watch them online (which I could but why –they’re not pretty) I continue to LISTEN online.
To sum it up I would say that as internet marketers we should be looking long and hard at the power of mediums that bridge traditional and new media. The folks at Clear Channel must see some ROI here even though the numbers are staggering. I see how my habits are probably like many others so I should thinking about these things. Don’t think that the internet is the beginning and end all. It’s not. It’s going to be dominant in the very near future but it won’t be the only option.
I can’t wait to see what comes along next to try to kill radio. I bet it fails.
About Frank Reed
Frank Reed is a partner at bnr marketing in Raleigh, NC. bnr provides SEO, PPC and blog marketing services. In addition, bnr produces SEO tools like SEMCheck for the search marketing industry. Frank’s blog on internet marketing is at www.frankthinking.com.