In physics, every action produces an equal and opposite reaction.  I’m seeing the same thing happen in radio.  Everyone seems to focus on the mammoth radio groups and their cost-cutting measures that are stripping radio of personnel, resources and local content.  What people SHOULD be watching carefully are the radio companies thatare zagging while the rest of radio is zigging. 

How can smart radio companies and radio stations zag in 2012? 

Embrace a New Radio Model.  The old radio business model is broken.  It’s broken so bad that the only solution left for the mega-groups is to completely strip away the costs of producing local radio.  Short-term, this strategy will satisfy shareholders.  Long-term, this strategy is doomed to failure because it severs the relationship between radio and local audiences.  More importantly, it opens the door for smaller and nimble operators to capitalize on the disengagement by others.

SuccessBuy and own your own events.  Say what you want about radio’s weaknesses in the face of tremendous competition, but radio’s greatest strength is its promotional powers.  Radio can draw a crowd.  Unfortunately, the old radio model was to rent out promotional powers to advertisers who make all the jack when the turnstiles turn.  The smart radio companies have 

 

Research and market your station.  I never thought I’d see the day when trying to outcoach the competition (with local research) or building awareness for a radio station (with marketing) would be a controversial concept.  It shouldn’t be, because it’s only common sense that the most successful stations know more about their markets and how to ask for votes.  The smartest operators are returning to these tenets.

Don’t follow PPM over the cliff.  If everyone in your market is breaking for stop sets at :12 and :42, then now is the time to move your stop sets to counter the robots.  If your competitors are using inane minute-by-minute data to tighten down their playlists, then now is the time to loosen your playlist and let your station breathe.  If your station is getting hammered by the ratings…PPM or diary…then cancel your Arbitron subscription and  focus on selling results, not trying to sell poor ratings that won’t pay you back.

Play local music on local radio.  So you can’t hold a national concert with international superstars from multiple formats that is promoted on thousands of radio stations and a mobile phone app?  What you can do is this:  champion local music and play the best local artists in your formats.  This is a sweet spot for local radio that drives marketing and content.  Has anyone noticed the surging ratings of public radio Indie Rock stations (KCMP/Minneapolis and WYMS/Milwaukee) and Triple A stations (WXPN/Philadelphia and KKXT/Dallas)?  One of the reasons for their growth is their ownership of the local music scenes in their respective markets.

In commercial radio, Bob Proffitt at Alpha Broadcasting in Portland and Ed Levine at Galaxy Communications in Syracuse and Utica are showing everyone else how it should be done.  They’re not afraid to zag while everyone else is zigging.  Are you?