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Mark Ramsey: Radio’s Streaming Effort May Be Screwed – Part 2

mark ramsey author logoGuest columnist Mark Ramsey is a media strategist, research analyst, author, and producer of the annual Hivio audio future festival. This article was originally published on his Mark Ramsey Media website.


Yesterday I published a piece that argued two things: First, the decline in streaming for broadcast radio stations is real – it’s a trend, not a blip. Second, that decline has consequences not only for your streaming strategy but also for the strategy of spreading your radio brands across every new platform under the sun (“Alexa, I mean you!”).

So what do you do?

Here’s what I think you have to do. And not just you, but everyone who comes at digital from a place that has not, until recently, been digital:

You have to start over.

Imagine the consumer at the center of the content experience and ask yourself: What does she want? How does she want it? What else does she do on this platform and how does that shape what my brand should offer there?

Too many folks in the broadcast space place the radio station, not the consumer, at the center of that series of questions: What does our company want? How does our company want it?

Or worse – what does our industry want and how does our industry want it?

Nobody cares what your company wants! Nobody cares what your industry wants!

Broadcasters are making bets on podcasting companies not because these companies have larger audiences or “better” content than the broadcasters with the seed capital. No. They’re making those bets because these podcasting companies have tapped into what consumers really desire on that particular platform and they have grown experience in how to maximize it and monetize it.

And…on that platform they do it better than the broadcaster does.

It’s a story as old as media itself and even older than the legendary Marshall McLuhan: When you change the medium, you change the message. A new platform is not just a new distribution channel, it’s a place for a new entertainment experience. And that venue will favor those brands who are either organic to the space or invest enough attention and resources and investment to the space to understand why the audience is there and what they want now and in the future.

That’s what the pureplays do in streaming.

That’s what NPR and Panoply and Wondery and the rest do in podcasting.

That’s what Spotify does on smart speakers, because a consumer is far more likely to say “Alexa, play the new Kesha song” than “Alexa, play KISS FM in Tulsa.”

And that is why year-over-year streaming listening for broadcasters is declining.

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Mark Ramsey

One Comment

  1. Let me add that to the best of my knowledge, there is no real revenue to speak of in streaming a broadcast station. There is likely more potential revenue in an HD-2 feed on a translator. Streaming a broadcast station really only benefits out-of-market listeners who want to hear a format that’s not available locally. But there’s no real way to monetize those listeners. So there’s no upside to this strategy, which is why some broadcasters don’t do it. The fact is there’s no profit in being a pure-play. Pandora and Spotify know that. All they’re doing is making money for the record labels. Why would anyone want to be in that business? At least Apple and Google get ancillary revenue from their streaming business. But if all you do is stream, there’s no profit. So why do it?

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