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Radio: “House of Cards?”

| February 13, 2013

By Holland Cooke
Radio Consultant

HouseOfCards 125BLOCK ISLAND, RI — Ruthless and cunning, Congressman Francis Underwood (Oscar® winner Kevin Spacey) and his wife Claire (Robin Wright) stop at nothing to conquer everything. This wicked political drama penetrates the shadowy world of greed, sex, and corruption in modern D.C.

But you won’t see it at the multiplex. Or on HBO, or Showtime. Or on TNT, FX, or other basic cable channels which are now so aggressively producing top-shelf original programming. “House of Cards” is an original Netflix series.

Yep, Netflix. The company that was smart-enough NOT to name itself “DVDs-by-Mail,” their original business model. It was an idea whose time had come, as the DVD’s digital format and compact size made the snail mail service more viable than it would have been with larger, more-expensive, more-fragile VHS tapes that took more time to duplicate.

Then, as broadband proliferated, and consumption patterns evolved, the name “Netflix” still fit the download proposition. JUST-as Blu-Ray players caught-on, they were suddenly threatened with obsolescence. So nimble manufacturers made the player a broadband gate.

What is “TV” now? Over-the-air transmission is still there, and many viewers hung new antennas during TV’s Digital Transition. There’s cable delivery, and – under attack by competing satellite services – cable is bundling phone and internet access to cement their relationship with you. So what-we-used-to-call “the phone company” fights back with blazing internet access.

With fast internet, internet becomes “TV.” And consumers become “cord frayers” (who keep basic service, and drop premium channels) or “cord cutters” who discontinue cable/satellite service altogether. Hulu, MLB.TV, YouTube… there’s plenty to watch.

What is “radio” now, and where’s yours?

In a recent column here, I described “two kinds of ‘radio,’” as people now consume audio –  ICYMI.

Given consumers’ plethora of media options, it is now prudent to think of real-time AM/FM programming as “car radio.” Especially if you’re only on AM.

Not that listening doesn’t occur elsewhere. But in-car is where real-time audio text (informative radio programming) has greater value, and suffers fewer new-media competitors. Although in-car isn’t nearly the radio franchise it used to be. Have you driven a Ford lately? Or seen that TV commercial with Peyton Manning barking at his dashboard for his favorite Sirius XM channel?

Accordingly, as “radio” is re-defined as “audio,” broadcasters’ survival template is obvious:

1. Make live programming as valuable as possible. I know, I know. This’ll sound like consultant-speak, but the fundamentals have never been more important. Be known for useful, habit-forming content listeners can’t get elsewhere. DOES each newscast sound different than the last? ARE your traffic reports pertinent and up-to-the-minute? DO listeners know how to use you as a weather appliance? ARE hosts engaging and on-topic?

2. Make live programming as available as possible. Tell ‘em how to hear you on smartphones, even if you simply explain how to “Favorite” your station on TuneIn Radio.

3. Re-purpose appropriate chunks of live programming for on-demand consumption. Think “podcast,” an already-antiquated term. Why let good live programming be one-and-done? Excerpt snack-size single-topic vignettes from informative interviews you’ve done. Use the transmitter to tell ‘em it’s there – “Shopping for a generator? Three questions to ask” – and you’ll make that content available to your entire cume, not just those who happened to be listening to the interview in real-time.

4. Create original on-demand programming, and use transmitters to drive-traffic there. Airtime is finite, server capacity is virtually infinite. Transmitters “broadcast,” a great way to tell everyone that you’re making something special available elsewhere, and how those-interested in such “narrowcast” content can hear/see/read it. Heck, content-creators without transmitters are already building audience. With research demonstrating radio’s ability to drive internet traffic, broadcasters have a powerful advantage. More, in another recent TALKERS column here.

5. Use Social Media, smarter. Most broadcasters still don’t seem to understand Social. They view it as another transmitter, rather than a useful conversation. In my presentation at Talkers/New York on June 6, I’ll demonstrate the difference.

Just TRY bringing an ad agency a spots-only pitch

Ask Sales. Advertisers want digital. As ambitious as all-of-the-above might seem, it’s imperative. And it doesn’t have to be difficult, if you work smart. I’ll get specific in New York…including why you might be better-off NOT having an app.

What’s most remarkable about Netflix’ “House of Cards” isn’t the star power of its cast. Netflix released all 13 episodes at once, to conform to the way consumers now consume. During the blizzard, a friend who – like me, was snowbound and on-generator – said “we watched the entire first season of ‘West Wing.’”

“Binge listening” is less likely, because TV consumption is sit-still time, and radio (audio) is on-the-go. And that’s good! Advertisers want to reach busy people, because they’re big retail consumers. So, just as smart stations tailor live programming accordingly, they’ll also offer non-live programming accordingly.


See, hear, read more from consultant Holland Cooke at and follow HC on Twitter @HollandCooke. Meet Holland Cooke at TALKERS New York 2013 on Thursday, June 6.

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Category: Advice