In our continuing series on tapping thought leaders about the “Future of Audio” today we talk with the President and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association Gary Shapiro and later on to put a rap on this edition we talk with Steve Goldstein.
Every year many of us make the pilgrimage to CES in Las Vegas to see the future and Gary and his team provide a tremendous backdrop to the world around us and how we can best adjust for the ride.
BK: As an observer of the intersection of media and tech how should radio be focused on its digital future?
GS: I grew up listening to radio! My mother would listen to radio talk show programs whenever she had the chance, and she always told me “If I learn one thing for each hour of listening it’s worth it.” Radio doesn’t just entertain; it also helps quench people’s thirst for knowledge.
Radio stations need to support a variety of listening mediums-such as voice assistants and smart speakers. Like retailers, radio stations need to go omnichannel. Streaming on the internet is understood, but support for social media and podcasts are critical to maintain an audience and keep them tuned in.
BK: What are the key leadership challenges for the next five years for those in the audio business and specifically for those in the radio business?
GS: Audio businesses have experienced growth in recent months driven by innovations in streaming services and wireless audio.
According to Consumer Technology Association’s twice yearly, U.S. Consumer Technology Sales and Forecasts report, future growth will come from skyrocketing popularity of streaming services and wireless earbuds among other 5G connectivity and artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled devices driving innovation for the U.S. consumer tech industry.
Bright spots in audio include on-demand music services including Apple Music, Pandora and Spotify which will total 9 billion in revenue-with room to grow as consumers adopt smart speakers and wireless earbuds.
Speaking of smart speakers and voice that’s a nice transition to a conversation with Steve Goldstein, the Founder of Amplifi Media about the Future of Audio.
BK: What is Radio’s opportunity in the future when it comes to voice and its growth and evolution?
SG: Radio needs to master voice. Over 20% of searches are voice-based. That’s over 250 billion searches.
Most occur on mobile devices where radio has low penetration. So that’s worth thinking about. As Voice moves into the car, radio is not just 50 local stations, but a word or phrase away from 900,000 podcasts, giant streaming serves like Spotify and Amazon Music, 100,000 radio stations-in short any type of audio one can imagine.
It’s tricky. It’s not linear. Radio needs to get in front of a shift in how people interact with devices.
Today we begin a new series of interviews with industry thought leaders on The Future of Audio.
First up, my good friend and partner in crime Fred Jacobs, the founder of Jacobs Media.
Fred is currently in the midst of some of his greatest and most important work with his research studies on the impact of Covid 19 on radio brands.
Whenever I look for inspiration in challenging times or normalcy Fred always represents a guiding eye toward the future.
Fred is not only the “Father of Classic Rock” but he is also a master strategist in any format type including and not limited to: Next Generation of Classic Rock, Mainstream Rock, Active Rock, Alternative Rock, so asking him for a futurist look at formats is a natural place for us to go.
BK: Are there new formats you might see on the horizon?
FJ: I’d like to see new formats on the horizon, especially attempts to engage Gen Z-America's youth.
They may be more attached to their smartphones than any other gadget, but radio has access on IPhones and Samsungs. It would be a worthwhile risk to take the fifth FM in the cluster and truly try something different.
BK: What will talent mean for radio stations in the future?
FJ: Talent is everything! We talk about people and become attached to the great ones on the airwaves. And now talent has the opportunity to provide different experiences, taking the audience backstage with podcasts, videos and cameras in the studio. Many of the great DJs and hosts from the past would have embraced these new tools that build their brands and strengthen their connections with the audience.
BK: If autonomy becomes available what will it mean to the future of radio?
FJ: At CES this year we saw one vehicle after another with the equivalent of video screen(s) in the traditional dashboard space. For now, the passenger economy is being served, allowing those who aren’t driving to enjoy visual entertainment. And as autonomous cars become more advanced, the options to drivers are even more diverse. For radio, it means stations are competing against a myriad of entertainment sources. So the smart money is on focusing on local and personalities-two key elements consumers cannot get elsewhere.
Things for the radio industry to grapple with that literally keep me up at night.
This list compiled over two consecutive sleepless nights.
1)Scenario planning/Crisis Management.
This crisis has taught us that you need to take your teams thru planning sessions that are way deeper and more thorough than ever before.
This is a new management challenge to not be taken lightly that will help shape the future of our business.
Being able to serve the needs of your community remains high on your list of priorities and it may look different post crisis.
This is an area worth rethinking so you are best serving your audience.
Do you have the right people plugged into the right position based on the needs of today?
Have you specifically considered deploying someone to help your opportunity to help small business owners?
Should you deploy someone specifically focused on continuous improvement?
These are all questions worth asking today.
5)Commercial quality and quantity
How do you address both thoughtfully?
Every hire you make in every department has to be spot on.
It’s worth evaluating your process and seek to improve it.
Don't forget why you started in this business in the first place.
To entertain and inform is key to your relationship with your audience.
To innovate and not be afraid to blow up existing models is vital to the future.
,Once we return to some form of normalcy look for companies of all types to place greater importance on using data, along with their brightest strategic thinkers to inform how they can plan for every conceivable scenario in the future.
This crisis has taught us the importance of data to inform decisions.
Moving forward, data will be an even more important necessity for those of us in the radio marketplace as we work at capturing market share and we try to best tell our story.
Brad Adgate is a well known media analyst and he says:
"Data has become the oil of the industry. For audio to keep pace with competitive ad supported media, it is important that they use advanced analytics. Not only do they expect this type of granular information, audio can also charge a premium. The ability to hyper-target consumers with a relevant message has also been widely accepted by customers."
One trend that will likely emerge with the help of data will be scenario planning.
Scenario planning is a strategic planning method that many organizations use to make flexible long term plans.
Scenario planning makes assumptions on what the future is going to be and how your business environment will change over time in light of the future.
This is a strategy that gets you out of the week to week, month to month mindset and forces you to think long range.
Scenario planning pushes you to expect the unexpected in battle and to game how to be in the best position for success when the dust settles.
As we evaluate the wake of what we all experienced, none of us were prepared for this crisis.
As leadership strategist Charlene Li said:
"Scenario planning to figure out alternative futures will be crucial in developing a strategy, creating product/services and hiring the right people."
Think of how many business models would have benefited if they used scenario planning to try to plan for disruption that they ultimately would face.
The Global Recorded Music Industry
The Global Newspaper Industry
The TV Industry
Could those industries have anticipated?
Doubtful, but this current crisis teaches us we need to better plan for the unexpected.
It will be interesting to watch an innovative company such as Disney emerges post Covid 19.
Are you and your team prepared for every scenario your business might face?