What does the social revolution mean for Radio?

All industries are faced with a cultural shift resulting from the social revolution. Radio is turning digital and interactive, as well as social and communal. The same evolution is happening in printed media and the effects are even more dramatic.

Most companies have bridged into mainstream social networking services through groups and/or micro blogs. Over 300,000 companies have a Facebook presence and in a recent study over 60% of companies targeted had a Twitter following. In most cases social tools are used broadcast to large audiences, but the degree of interaction between the brand and the consumer is often limited.

TELLUS predicts that radio will evolve from being merely social to being communal. This means enabling consumers to take part in creating content and in building the radio program format brand. Building a following in mainstream social networking services is about conversion, but post conversion those services offer little in terms of branding and advanced functionality to enable participation. Additionally there is the issue of ownership and domicile of the media content and the community itself.

The next logical stage of evolution is to offer the accumulated social following a branded community site that offers more interactive elements, enabling the listener to take a participant role. Branded communities should still have a bridging presence on mainstream social dashboards through widgets. From an infrastructure standpoint, listener participation requires radio automation to become social and to provide an interface to the listener. Social networking services are typically not a radio automation vendor core competence. Social modules to radio automation will be provided through joint ventures or through sourcing, which will speed time to market. Through enabling participation we see the role of radio programming formats morph into a social networking service in itself. YouTube’s slogan their video sharing service is ‘Broadcast Yourself’. Let’s imagine the future of radio under the same slogan offering an amateur radio broadcast sharing service.

As in any community, the role of the alpha brand is to define the theme and scope for the community. The same applies to communities created around a radio programming format. The community should stay true to the original genre and target audience. Media conglomerates typically cater to multiple genres through separately branded program formats that target different ethnic, social and age groups. Similarly a radio broadcast ecosystem can be built up of sub communities. A modular architecture will also support growth through acquisitions of program formats.

Web 2.0 is founded on copying and improving what has already been tried. YouTube is a perfect example of what a radio broadcast sharing service could evolve to be. YouTube is now starting to offer a digital video rental service, using their status as the world’s second largest search engine to market their offerings. In the same way a community of a thousand radio amateur broadcasts will gather a social following far greater than an actual broadcaster sponsored program format. The community is owned by the broadcaster and can be monetized in the same way as Hulu.com. With an amateur radio broadcast format an additional revenue share model (see eHow.com) can be used, where marketers can select placement within the community and pricing varies based on the following a piece of web real-estate has. The future is in consumer generated radio entertainment.

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