When radio first started, crystal sets and vacuum tubes received radio signals, and folks broadcasted their family members playing instruments over the airwaves. At night, the signal went dead. There was no 24-hour programming with news, traffic, and Top 40.
Since then, radio has come a long way. It’s even been “killed” by video, according to the Buggles. Queen also lamented its passing and hoped for its return. Fear not, bands of the ‘70s and ‘80s! Radio is still alive and well, though it’s transformed a bit over the decades. Here’s how it’s surviving, why this once revolutionary medium is still important, and how you can use it in your strategic marketing plan.
Straight-Up, Old-Fashioned Radio. There’s not much better than cruising in your car and jamming to some tunes thrown on by the local DJ. While more and more people are hooking up their phones to their speakers, the vast majority of people still crank that dial to their favorite station. Radio, of course, isn’t limited to vehicles. Stations reach millions of homes to report the news, announce traffic conditions, play music, and tell stories. The trick is keeping listeners tuned in during ads. Localized advertisements can be effective if you keep them short, catchy, and to the point. Tell listeners who, what, why, and how to learn more.
Online Radio. Stations are beginning to incorporate the Internet into their straight-up, old-fashioned broadcasts. They often have websites where listeners can stream audio, enter sweepstakes and promotions, and read trending articles. The website iHeartRadio consolidates all radio stations in the nation, so you can listen to any station, at any time, anywhere. You can also customize your radio experience, pick genres you like, or listen to podcasts. NPR (National Public Radio) is a category all on its own. News, music, interviews, stories, quiz shows, written articles—it’s got it all. Listen on the radio or access individual clips online. There are also more opportunities to advertise online—audio and visual ads, just as any other website would display. Audio ads may not follow listeners if they flip stations, but visual ads will tag along.
Pandora and Spotify. It’s tough to say whether or not these can be considered radio in the traditional sense. They’re more of a new generation of audio. Pandora is an online music streaming and recommendation service that plays songs based on what you like. Spotify is similar; users can stream music and create and share playlists. To listen ad-free, you can pay for premium service. Otherwise, both sites insert short advertisements between songs every now and then. There are other sites like these, but Pandora and Spotify are the best examples of this new kind of personalized radio.
If you can advertise using audio, do it. Get your message across quickly. Be interesting, but not obnoxious enough that listeners will change the station. Radio isn’t dead. It’s just evolving.