I’ve recently found myself in a position to take a step back, look at what’s happening in the radio industry and… think. Thinking is not a luxury I’ve had for a while. When you are caught up in the day-to-day operations of radio, you end up reacting, meeting, planning, meeting and meeting all the time, but spend little time just thinking. My latest thoughts have to do with the new car infotainment systems and how radio can capitalize on them.
TALK ABOUT A REVOLUTION
The North American colonies battled Britain for independence. The French middle-class revolted against Bourbon King Charles X for bankrupting the country and still living a lavish lifestyle, and radio is battling (technology, automakers, the internet, each other, good ol’ days…) over position in the new world of in-car entertainment.
Welcome to radio’s dashboard revolution.
When the infotainment systems, like Cadillac’s CUE, were unveiled a couple years ago, I believe we all let out a collective gasp. But, admittedly, I assumed the reality of losing our comfortable front row seat on the dash was downstream a bit and nothing we’d have to wrestle with too soon. I was mistaken.
Here’s the Cadillac Cue.
Last month, Cadillac upgraded the CUE to add more features, more internet connectivity, more iPhone capability, and more stuff that distracts people from the business of listening to the radio. BMW announced this week at the New York International Auto Show that it’s added Rhapsody, TuneIn, Audible, and Glympse to Pandora and MOG in its in-car entertainment system.
And now these kinds of systems are available in cars that cost less than $30,000.
Check these out.
Hyundai Blue Link
Chrysler’s U Connect
KIA UVO Entertainment
All these systems include some of the following; SiriusXM satellite Radio, WiFi, Pandora, Stitcher, Bluetooth connectivity, CD Player, SD card slot, a USB port, an auxiliary jack for audio or video input, and/or an in-car interface for iPhone users.
Unfortunately, none tout the AM/FM receiver (though Chevy MyLink is now showing AM and FM buttons next to the others).
So, this brings me to some thoughts about how radio stations can seize this as an opportunity.
1. Own more than one button on the dash. Radio folk are all a tizzy wondering how they can get their station on the dash. I believe the question is how does your brand own more than one button on the dash? Let’s take radio station KFI in Los Angeles as an example. The programming and IT teams should be talking about how to set up 24-hour simultaneous streams for KFI Live, KFI News, KFI Traffic, KFI Bill Handel, KFI John & Ken, KFI Weekends, etc. It’s the ESPN model. Create brand extensions so that on the dash, I can sync up KFI News, KFI traffic, and KFI Live on 3 of my 6 to 8 buttons. Stations can then monetize each stream seperately.
2. Teach, Lead, Guide and Produce Content for other brands. I believe every brand is going to want a button in the dash; McDonalds, Nike, USAToday, American Red Cross, etc. It’s a great brand extension and a new way for consumers/fans to experience non-media brands on a “radio” without it being a commercial. As the experts of “ear-entertainment” we should be offering our studios and services to these brands to create streaming audio content that cuts through. We have the equipment, talent, creativity, and a desperate need for a new revenue stream. They have celebrity endorsers, experts in the field, storytellers, fans, the desire and money. It’s a no-brainer.
Bonus: In addition to charging for the studios and services and helping to create compelling content. These brands now have quality creative content that could be customized into short form snippets for 2- or 3-minute sponsor blocks on your radio station as “enhanced commercials.” It’s quality content (you created it) and it’s reflective of the sponsors brand with product placement and tags throughout. This allows you to continue building both tradition and non-traditional revenue streams.
3. Be THAT good. Yeah, radio has had it easy. No matter how much effort or money was invested (or not) into the product, it was always available at every driver’s fingertips. The game is changing. Now you need to create radio that people want to hear, because their options are limitless. Why are they going to pick you? Believe in your product, invest in people, and make your product available however your fans want it. If you’re that good, you’ll find your way onto the dash.
It likely won’t take a miracle to survive the dashboard revolution, just some creative problem solving and opportunity seizing.