Never Fight the Shark in the Water

patrick reynolds 300wPatrick Reynolds is Chief Strategy Officer of Triton Digital. A forward-looking strategist, he has written articles for Forbes, TechCrunch, and Technorati, and has spoken at SXSW and NAB. We welcome Patrick to RAIN News as a regular guest contributor. 

In the Superbowl, we have a clear study in contrasts. To their detractors, the Seahawks are modern-day Vikings (not the Minnesota variety). Hailing from a rocky crag tucked away in a remote corner of the country, they’re brutish and unsophisticated with their war-whoops and blunt force tactics. In the emerald Northwest, Peyton Manning isn’t a classy, accomplished leader of royal bloodlines. In Seattle,  he’s a bad actor– an artifice created to sell more Papa John’s during each interminable commercial break.

We’ll have to wait a couple more days to see who prevails.

But in the end we’ll probably come away with a greater appreciation of each side as their more nuanced approaches become clearer while the game progresses.

I don’t expect the Seahawks to go marauding up and down the field as the Broncos cower on the sidelines. Equally, I’d be very surprised if the Broncos fly up and down the field, zigging and zagging past Seahawks, immobile as Stonehenge.

Rarely are things as simple as they seem. Rarely are there but two options.

In audio, there’s been much ado about choice. A recent Wall Street Journal article has everyone buzzing about the limitless choice of online audio services versus the narrow repetition of familiar favorites available over the air.

It makes for good theater and debate, but it’s not really indicative of the game that’s actually being played.

What is the most popular playlist on Spotify— the standard-bearer for nearly infinite choice?

Billboard Hot 100.

The same names that top Billboard — Rihanna, Macklemore, Imagine Dragons — top Spotify’s list too.

So there are some commonalities.

And there certainly are some differences. Important ones that separate the two camps. That’s why there’s high anticipation and excitement. Styles make fights, as they say.

So what’s the right strategy for the head-to-head match-up?

Just as you wouldn’t expect the Seahawks to find much success emulating the Broncos’ wide open attack with its endless “Omaha!” adjustments, it’s equally unlikely that Peyton will turn around and hand the ball off 40 times and rely on a stingy defense to keep the game close. The teams just aren’t built that way.

In audio, pureplays will take a few plays from Radio’s playbook. They’ll continue to put feet on the street. They’ll dabble in promotions. They’ll try to ‘warm up’ music with some human flourishes. All prudent, depending on the situation. In the end, though, I suspect they’ll primarily stick with what got them there. In a recent eMarketer report, 69.1% of respondents cited “personalized stations” as the driving force for listening to Pandora. 59.4% cited the “Music Selection-Catalog”. So choice is clearly appealing to many. Pandora and the like will continue to provide it.

Terrestrial Radio, on the other hand, won’t put all its eggs in one narrow basket, offering less choice. They’ll sprinkle in things like side channels that will allow listeners to go deeper down a certain genre path from time to time. They’ll continue to invest in technology and techniques that give listeners a greater say in the content, that extend reach, that grow certain dayparts. Radio will not simply default to an “equal and opposite reaction” to its online rivals.

It’s all the thrust and parry of competition. In the end, the game will be won on the field, not in the press box. It will probably be won by the team that best plays to its strength.

“Time will tell just who has fell and who’s been left behind when you go your way and I go mine.” – Bob Dylan

Patrick Reynolds