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.



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