Radio Is Changing, Not Dying By Andy Meadows

Despite what many outside of the industry might tell you, terrestrial radio isn’t dying, but it is changing. The problem is, not everybody has gotten the message. For years that change has been slow and gradual, but the pandemic has certainly sped it up over the past few months. 

There are two ways to respond to any tragedy, or drastic change in life as we know it. We can make excuses, ignore the signs and stubbornly plow forward doing things the same way we’ve done them year after year. Or we can stay calm, assess the situation, and adjust our game-plan. 

Even prior to the pandemic terrestrial ad spending had been flat, or declining, in a lot of markets and the only reason radio revenues were still projected to grow annually is thanks to the increase in digital ad spending. I believe this shift toward digital dollars will be even more drastic post-pandemic as companies that are strapped for cash scrutinize every ad dollar and lean toward advertising solutions that are easily trackable. 

Many groups have seen the writing on the wall for some time now. Hence why they have shifted their corporate structure, created new digital positions and began expecting on-air talent to create content across platforms including web blogs and podcasts. This approach not only improves digital content creation, and therefore digital sales, it can also drastically improve terrestrial content creation, ratings and revenue through consistent cross-promotion. However, many of those same groups are carrying assets that are worth a lot less than they were a few years ago, forcing them to run lean and struggle to fill shifts with live and local talent. That's one of the reasons why self-sufficient employees and lead by example managers are more valuable then ever.

As an industry radio isn’t going anywhere, but we do have some challenges ahead. We have to address how we’re going to appeal to younger audiences, instead of just writing off an entire generation of potential radio listeners, as well as the changing listening habits of listeners from all age groups. Plus, we have to stay attuned to listener’s changing commuting habits during and after the pandemic as more companies choose to let their employees continue to work from home. But, instead of stressing over these hard to answer questions, we should look at them as creative challenges and an opportunity to out-maneuver our competitors within, and outside, the industry.

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