Sabo's key to radio's survival in transition to digital: Original, exclusive content

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Issue Date: 
Sep 20 2012 - 10:55am

From Issue:

For the first time, RAIN Summit opened not with a panel discussion, but with overview remarks, delivered by radio consultant Walter Sabo. In many ways, Sabo struck the first notes of several of the day's recurring themes: the importance of the willingness to test new "disruptive" ideas, the immeasurable value of compelling content, and the need for new metrics to measure a global, interactive medium like Internet radio.

[You can listen to all of Sabo's address below, via the SoundCloud link. We'll be posting SoundCloud links to audio of every RAIN Summit Dallas segment in the coming days. Please look to the right-hand margin of RAIN under "RAIN Summit Dallas audio:" for more.]

Sabo emphasized the need for radio to be willing to take chances on new ideas and new revenue models -- again, a sentiment echoed throughout the afternoon -- with the words "It might work," which he says are the three most powerful and imporant words in a truly creative environment.

Clearly understanding the position in which heritage radio broadcasters find themselves with the onslaught of digital media, Sabo looked back to the the migration of audience listeners to FM and the birth of satellite radio in the U.S. to emphasize the need for "original, exclusive programming." It's not big-budget marketing, or content aggregation, or slicker technology that wins, he stressed, it's "producing original, exclusive, compelling programming. "

At some point, when (Internet radio's listener base) goes from 'innovator' to 'early adopter,' it has to go to 'early majority,' and the early majority needs more to justify its money and time," he said. "And that is gonna be original content."

So why isn't digital easy to monetize for content producers like radio? The "dirty secret," according to Sabo, it's that "ancient metrics" designed for geographically-limited distribution channels with finite inventory are being applied to this brand new, global-reach, unlimited inventory medium. The "real gold," he stressed, isn't cost-per-thousand (that's the old thinking). It's user data... the "who and where" of each and every listener.

Sabo encouraged radio broadcasters to embrace video to increase the usability of their sites and apps, and interactivity as well. "Your programming is streamed to a device with a keyboard and a mouse, ask your listeners to use them."

See our first recap of RAIN Summit Dallas here. We'll have more from the Summit soon.

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