October 22, 2012
While still relatively young and featuring some interesting technology, the standard ratings measurement systems radio uses today are at best limited and archaic. When compared to the pinpoint accuracy of online tuning metrics, these systems are downright inaccurate and even more prehistoric.
I’m talking, of course, about PPM pagers or, worse, diary recall systems. Building motion detectors into PPM devices meant to stop PPM holders from setting it down on a table in front of a radio seemed like a revelation…until stories began surfacing of users clipping them to dogs and ceiling fans.
This is the trusted method of measurement for a century-old multibillion dollar industry???
Being in the business of building tools that help radio increase engagement with their audience, and as an outsider looking in, I found this to be particularly concerning. Real engagement requires real metrics – like the Google Analytics I’ve been using for years.
As I gradually learned about the radio industry and its inner workings, I came to appreciate what a monumental task it must have been to implement these initiatives. Nonetheless, its predecessors couldn't have imagined what was to come down the digital pipe at the time, and even if they did, the slow process to convince and then attempt to usher in such a drastic change yet again wouldn't be possible for years.
When I ask myself when radio will undergo the inevitable paradigm shift to today's relevant and more accurate online metrics, I'm reminded of Hemingway's quote in "The Sun Also Rises":
"How did you go broke?"
"Two ways. Slowly, and then quickly."
Now, I'm not predicting that radio is going broke. On the contrary, radio is one of few media forms that have maintained good margins and stability across the decades. What I'm referring to is the pace at which the transformation to online metrics is occurring.
I agree with Eric Rhoads statement in this Radio Ink article - that by 2016 all radio (or at least the majority, which will eventually lead to 100%) will be online streaming. Currently, online listening represents a mere fraction of total listening today (10% or less, although some stations are now reporting 15% and as much as 30% in the UK) the hockey stick curve in the digital adaptation of social media and mobile devices speaks for itself. Consider how the above has changed the way people consume media - not just radio - and you'll see that radio is transforming both slowly and quickly.
And, unlike the recorded music industry ten years ago, there won’t be any kicking and screaming involved. Instead, radio execs are taking a very cautious approach right now; and soon enough, young execs born into the mobile and social world will start making key decisions for these companies, and that's when things will begin to change quickly.
That's why I'm so excited about SoCast and what we offer, which is an online radio experience that engages audiences through mobile and social media, and uses accurate online metrics. One day, these metrics will be the standard method of measurement – and we’ll be right here, ready and waiting.
CEO, SoCast SRM