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Radio AM to FM: February 11, 2005

Fighting Back

While denying that competition from such entertainment sources as iPods and subscription satellite radio is a threat, traditional broadcast stations are fighting back with a new advertising blitz including artists such as Nelly, Ludacris and Alicia Keys touting the wonders of corporate radio. Each promotional spot includes the tag line, "Radio. You hear it here first."

The campaign is backed by the National Association of Broadcasters and is supported by almost every radio chain in the United States, including Clear Channel, Bonneville, Emmis and Infinity, all of which are donating advertising time worth an estimated total of $28 million. Print ads will follow.

"Radio operators are stepping up and telling their story," David J. Field, president of Entercom Communications, told the Washington Post. "Some of the arguments about (radio) being homogenous or not being innovative are absurd. We are more innovative today than ever before."

Obviously Field has a wicked sense of humor. By all measures, innovation was swept out the window by the bean counters in radio who refuse to allow anything on the air unless it is fully researched and more importantly, sponsored. That's why traditional radio listening is at its lowest point, ever. Yet I digress.

What makes this campaign so great -- other than the underlying admission that, well, things really aren't fully well in radio -- is the fact that the spokesmen for the campaign are also leaders of the competition.

Nelly? Guest DJ on two Sirius channels. World premiered two of his new albums on Sirius last September.

Ludacris? Performed for XM at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Alicia Keys? Told of her love of XM radio and iTunes in the February Lucky magazine, stating "I'm addicted to iTunes."

The Wall Street Journal says the ads show how frightened the terrestrial radio owners really are.

John Gorman writes in Ohio's Free Times, "Radio could have taken that $28 million and reinvested it into their properties. They could have replaced hyper-tight playlists dictated from a corporate office with music appealing to their market of license. They could have eliminated bionic voice tracking by hiring real local personalities and a support staff that's passionate about music and programming."

And XM responded with this tag line on their web site: "Not only do you hear it here first, it's commercial free."

Satellite radio will probably never have the reach of traditional radio, due to cost, the sheer number of radios already in the hands of consumers, and the fact that traditional radio is just easier to receive.

But I've only had Sirius for just over a month, and I'm not giving it up. I hear new music again, songs I haven't heard for a while, standards, old time radio ... things you used to hear on radio before the bean counters destroyed it. Even the DJs are good (though they are usually voice tracked). Radio is fun again with satellites; between Sirius and KZLA, I'm a happy listener.

Broadcast radio executives: Are you beginning to understand your problem?

I doubt it.


Copyright © 2005 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.

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