As 2019 slowly finds its shape and starts steamrolling us towards the turn of the decade, I started the year by taking a step back and having a think about radio from a business perspective. I had to, because if radio is not doing well, we are not going to do well either. Now, as a supplier of modern analytics methods for radio, we here at RadioAnalyzer had a good 2018. Not brilliant, but decent. And good enough to keep the optimism for the future alive and well. Also on behalf of radio.
But something also started worrying me in 2018, and it was that worry I needed to examine a bit before diving in to the new year. It is a worry that makes me feel like I am at the beginning of a bad déjà vu, and also something that has made me think of a poem by the most famous author in the history of my country: Mr. Hans Christian Andersen.
It’s the poem The Woman With The Eggs that is boiling in my mind. A poem every child and grown up in Denmark knows and love. Even the kids understand the point of it.
In the poem a woman is on her way to the market carrying a bunch of eggs in a basket on her head. Walking there she dreams of selling the eggs for enough money to buy two more hens. And then producing more eggs to sell and buy more animals. Repeating the pattern over and over until she has a whole farm, a handsome, kind and rich husband and the biggest house in town. Bliss was at her feet – or rather on her head.
Making strategic plans is fun, and so is dreaming about the future. Important, even. So I’m not saying she did something wrong in calculating and planning the next move. But during her daydream she got so carried away that she momentarily forgot what an important freight she was holding. Just for a second, but long enough for her to drop the eggs on the ground and see her whole business plan shatter in a mess on the ground.
The Radio Translation
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why this story is translatable to radio. Last year I spent hundreds of hours talking to programme directors, music directors, research experts and CEO’s of radio groups all over the world. And I am sorry to say that too many of them are in danger of succumbing to the same sad fate as the poor woman with the eggs.
It seems to me the importance of investing in the future has finally dawned on most decision makers in the radio industry. Thankfully. But it also seems that most of these investments are made in mere mirages of what could potentially become “a thing” at some point. Massive amounts of money being poured into projects where the business plans have so many unknowns that it’s like trying to predict the future to calculate their chance of success. None mentioned, none forgotten. But ask yourself if you have recently invested in something that is meant to possibly, maybe, perhaps be a potential path in the future with absolutely no security of a return of investment – and you will know what I am talking about.
At the same time ask yourself if your budgets to make better actual radio has been cut.
And if you can say yes to both questions, you had better find an English translation of the poem and start reading up.
(You can watch a kitchy version of it here on Youtube).
Focus Focus Focus
The point is: we are forgetting the eggs. Because in the end it doesn’t matter how many smartspeakers you are compatible with; never mind how much brilliant podcasting you do; completely look away from how absolutely amazingly user friendly your app with personalized song selection and content is – if you do not take care of your eggs none of it will save you. It will just cost money and force you to start over once you realize the eggs are the basis of it all. The eggs are naturally your core product: the live(ish) old fashioned radio with DJ’s and news and curated music and someone telling listeners where not to drive during their commute and how cold it is going to be tomorrow.
This, the basis of what radio will also be making money from in the future: the ability to emotionally tie listeners to our sound, our content, our personalities, is drowning in a panicked frenzy of investments into something we hope will help us in the future. Something we dream about while forgetting the eggs we are carrying around.
The Scary Example
So much for the poem, but it is even more disconcerting to me that I recognize this exact pattern from just a few years ago in another corner of Media World. I used to work in a media house where print media had for decades, even centuries, produced such an income that the company had grown big and powerful. So when faced with a change in trends and competition too stern to ignore; what did the media house (and most print media houses around the World) do? They made a halfwitted attempt at publishing digitally and started investing in all sorts of gadgets and side businesses, cutting the funds for the product that was still their main source of income. To the point where the daily bread was nothing but a hollowed out shell of what it used to be. A less valuable and less important, less relevant and less sellable product.
Cue downward spiral.
I am not saying I could have saved the print industry. I think probably no one could or can. But I could and would have helped transform it into something else. Maybe something smaller and more niche, but nevertheless a profitable and important media business with an outlook into the future.
I would have started with the eggs. Making sure they were safe. Making sure they didn’t shatter while I was busy making plans leading potentially nowhere.
So please do, guys. Please make sure the eggs are safe. Invest in your product, in researching it smartly, in developing it eternally. Invest in your personalities, your experts and their tools to work with. Unless, off course, you are hungry for some omelet. If you are: as you were. Nothing to see here, just keep walking…
Almost four years ago I wrote an article where I went into detail regarding the research needed to avoid sufflering the same fate as the print industry. I think I have more perspective now, but my points on making digital users love you are – even more today – still valid.
CEO & CO-FOUNDER OF RADIOANALYZER
Alumni of DJH (Danish School of Journalism) and eternally devoted to improve mass communication. Has excelled as Journalist, Columnist, Commentator, DJ, News Director, Sports Editor, Sub Chief Editor, Innovation Director and Radio Manager. Started in radio at age 14 and isn’t planning to quit anytime soon.