Netflix and Radio

We can learn something here

It’s a hard thing to leave any deeply routined life, even if you hate it.” 
~ John Steinbeck

Radio and TV are built around reaching lots and lots of ears and eyes, simultaneously.

We have defined “reach” as the cumulative number of people listening at a specific time to a specific station, and our advertising rates are based on proving those numbers.

In fact, we pay a ridiculous amount of money attempting to prove those numbers, so much that it has affected our ability to properly staff and minimally market our own product.

TV may be on to a slow change, and it’s a change we should pay attention to, I think.

Netflix has spent a lot of money producing its own original content. That’s no surprise. HBO showed the value of that model decades ago.

But Netflix does something novel when it produces shows like “House of Cards” — it releases all episodes at the same time. If you love that show, you can literally schedule a weekend and watch every episode each time a new season starts.

Netflix isn’t forcing us to watch at a specific time, as we used to have to do when there were only 3 television networks, nor even set our DVRs to record shows at specific times. It’s turning over the control of when we watch to us.

How does this relate to Radio?

I’ve never been overly concerned that we will lose 90% of our listeners to music streaming services, at least not any time soon, even with the absurd over-commerciailization on most broadcast stations.

But this idea of control, of choosing when I hear things I want to hear, well, that’s always seemed a viable threat to me.

Not so much for specific songs. Smart phones and tablets can do that perfectly well, but there is something about the unpredictability of what comes next on a radio station that has blunted some of the advantage of music-streaming.

But if I like Scott Shannon, I have to wake up very early to hear him, and sometimes that’s inconvenient. Yes, I know, podcasting, blah blah blah. But listening to podcasts doesn’t show up in ratings, and without big ratings there is no Scott Shannon.

The bigger issue: does your station produce anything so interesting, so compelling, that I would be willing to pay to hear it, even if I choose to download and listen to it at a more convenient time for me? And is there a way for that listening to show up in a radio station’s ratings?

That kind of content won’t just be music, though it could be a music show. It’s the stuff between the songs, and the longer you wait to start creating that need, the less likely it is you will fill it.

It’s an interesting topic, and if you’d like to read the long form article about Netflix and it’s attempt to create a totally new kind, of network TV, it’s in New Republic HERE.