Radio, the experts say “call it media”. Those experts are wrong and this is why it matters.
Many well-meaning radio consultants are afraid that emerging technology will destroy radio. These consultants even swayed the former head of NPR “National Public Media?”. Ask anyone on the street what it is; they call it Radio. Even at pledge-time the multitude of volunteers call it radio. These consultants believe that to save radio, it must become more like the internet. We already have an internet. If it were the 1950’s would we be telling radio to call itself TV? Radio survives because it is…radio first.
Changing from “Radio” to “Media” is wrong for 4 reasons.
1. It turns it’s back on 40 years of branding (for NPR). Who would tell Coke change its name from Coke? There are plenty of new popular energy drinks and esoteric teas are gaining market-share. It could make sense if you went only by the numbers. And that is exactly why the consultants get it wrong about radio repeatedly. Coke is Coke and Radio is Radio.
2. “Media” is vague. Discarded CD’s are “media”. This blog is media. “Media” also suggests that a pledge to the local PBS station benefits the NPR station. Both are public media.
3. It undervalues the service that radio gives them. Radio is Broadcasting, which can not be achieved over the internet. An entire city or town is not going to go to the same web page at the same time. In radio a concentrated population can hear a new song for the first time at the same time. The internet is narrowcasting. This blog is narrowcasting to individuals who find this topic interesting. It takes the readers effort to find it. Broadcasting finds the listener or puts content out there that washes over busy people everywhere with a blanket approach. That power to reach huge numbers of busy listeners is why we expect all radio stations to serve the public interest. They can do so much good with so little effort if they try. Keeping the name “radio” raises the awareness that this format is different and more relevant to uniting local communities. This is why listeners go out of their way to support good radio stations. They feel connected to something greater which is the station and the community together.
3. Radio is cool. As a filmmaker I saw some clients turn their “film production companies” into “video production companies”. Video was the emerging technology but “Film” was a way of being, an art. Those film companies that kept the name “Film” technically shoot on “video” nowadays but keeping “Film” in their names implies an aesthetic attention to detail. Good companies don’t have to change their names with the technology because the consumer likes them for what they do and represent. This is why corporate radio has to keep changing its name. They no longer represent the spirit of radio and must find a way to hide that fact. The merry-go-round of format changes are excuses to the investors as to why the last one failed and the why next one will be better. Public Radio however is still live and local. It is still “radio” and has a growing audience. NPR, remember where you came from, and change your name back to National Public Radio. You’ll still get to podcast and the best of those podcasts will still be radio first.