Why are you in radio anyway?

Radio Tomorrow with James Cridland

I had a conversation a while ago about FM RDS, that thing which tells you what radio station you’re listening to on a big screen in your car, so you don’t forget. For some reason, this US radio company that I was talking to didn’t have RDS. The fundamental question from the radio guy? “Yeah, but how can I earn money from it?”
There was an interesting article recently in a US publication – Can Podcasting Increase Your Ratings? – and another from Dick Taylor, asking What’s Radio’s Why? – in essence, what’s the point of radio?
For some reason, these two articles made a lot of things make sense. It reminded me of what drives people.
Some people reading this will think that they do radio to get ratings and revenue. That’s the reason why we do anything – ratings or revenue (and ideally both).
Others, though, think that they do radio for a different reason – and it’s a little simpler than “get ratings or get revenue”. Simply, we do radio (or a podcast, or a website, or a newsletter, or a conference, or any type of work) for one reason alone: to delight someone.
If we delight someone, ratings and revenue will surely follow. But I suspect that for many people, ratings and revenue isn’t why they’re in the business. They’re in it because they have an overwhelming urge to delight other human beings.

We can delight them by doing a good job covering stories they’re interested in. We can delight them by playing songs they love. We can delight them by being good company when they need it.
Global, the media and entertainment company headquartered in London, has an “Obsession Statement” rather than a corporate one. It’s a great thing, and I’ve been known to read it aloud in meetings where people are violently disagreeing or getting highly emotional about what they do. Because it’s OK to feel strongly sometimes.
Valerie Geller, when speaking at Next Radio about four years ago, said that our listeners’ health and safety should be our first priority. She didn’t say ratings and revenue (though she’s also seen plenty of that). Instead, caring for our audiences is number one.
Perhaps those who are in radio for the “ratings and revenue” lack the passion of those who are in it to delight audiences. And maybe, just maybe, that lack of passion results in some of what we hear on the air.
Are you in the business of ratings and revenue? Or are you in the business of delighting our audience?

About The Author

James Cridland, the radio futurologist, is a conference speaker, writer and consultant. He runs the media information website media.info and helps organise the yearly Next Radio conference. He also publishes podnews.net, a daily briefing on podcasting and on-demand, and writes a weekly international radio trends newsletter, at james.crid.land.

Contact James at [email protected] or @jamescridland