No more fear

While in the last three years I’ve been advocating for a different strategy that would involve a greater cooperation between radio networks and Spotify, Deezer, RDIO, etc; we’ve seen few progress on this side of the Atlantic.

My visits in your radio stations around Europe in 2013 have shown me that you all care about what’s happening, but you don’t know from which side you should approach it.

And as we remain static, things change in the US.
In September 2013, Cumulus Media (radio network) and Rdio (music streaming start-up launched by Skype founder Janus Friis) have announced a powerful content, promotion and advertising partnership aiming to provide listeners with “*a one-stop solution for their audio needs while offering advertisers new opportunities to engage with consumers.*”

This strategic partnership provided Cumulus with a financial interest in the larger digital music ecosystem and allowed Rdio to launch free, ad-supported products in the United States while accelerating the activation of new users and subscribers.

Cumulus obtained a significant equity stake in Pulser Media, Rdio’s parent company, in exchange for exclusive content, media and on-air promotional commitments over a five year period. In addition, Rdio will leverage the Cumulus sales infrastructure to monetize its upcoming ad-supported free products, including music on-demand, custom playlists and exclusive content curated by Cumulus.

It’s almost the perfect deal ! And it’s a great example of what I think is the natural consequence of the organic growth of online music streaming startups : by rediscovering step by step the Art of Radio, these companies tend to get closer to our industry, even if they had to “reinvent the wheel”. Think about Songza, which started as a “social playlist” system, and pivoted quickly to a better solution by hiring… professional radio programmers !

Most radio networks are reluctant to change their production process and their global strategy to fully integrate the all-digital world. They mistake what remains an unexplored territory for an enemy land. A classic paradigm.

For a century or so, we’ve been developing two brands : our own network’s and the generic “radio” term. Those are incredibly valuable assets. Your brand has gained listeners trust in your format. They know what you deliver, and they tune in just to get it ! And every study, year after year, shows us that our industry is the most trusted media in the western world.

So… we got the brands, the media, the audience, the trust, and a gigantic 100-year experience on producing audio content for the masses. Then… why are we scared when three geeks play music online ?

We are scared because we didn’t understand that their start-ups, to survive, will absolutely need to join us and our brands in an updated version of our industry.

I love speaking in front of radio operators, sales managers, program and news directors, because while I speak, I can see in their eyes the birth of a new interest for those unexplored digital territories. What was yesterday a burden becomes a content distribution channel and a revenue opportunity.

I also love working together with your teams because only then can we adapt production processes and content flows to these new channels. Nothing beats radio people thinking new ways to reach and satisfy their audience !

This satisfaction should be the core of all our decisions. This is how Lew Dickey, CEO of Cumulus, describes his new partnership with RDIO :

This partnership [enables] consumers to listen to whatever they want, whenever they want, however they want.

I cannot agree more.
Let’s make it happen !

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