As this 20th century invention evolves, radio is just as likely to come streaming from computer speakers as from boom boxes. Amid new technology changes in all media, radio and its advertisers are looking for better ways to target listeners.
Peter Clemente, VP-Internet strategies at marketing consultancy Cyber Dialogue,
cites a December 1999 American Internet Users Survey that found 30% of consumers who listen to the radio wish they could access the radio station they grew up with.
"The potential is there for music fans or news fans or talk-show fans to be able to communicate directly with radio stations" via the Internet, says Mr. Clemente, whose company recently worked with AM/FM Radio Networks to identify online opportunities.
Just as dot-com companies use radio spots to drive consumers to Web sites, radio stations are embracing the Net as a new platform, allowing them to add listeners and cross-promote products.
KEEPING IN TOUCH
"The Internet will allow people to keep very close associations they've had throughout their life [with radio] and keep in touch with the community," says Gary Fries, Radio Advertising Bureau president.
"We have moved completely off the platform of mass marketing to targeted media and marketing," he says. "Technology will allow us to continually devise new means of reaching the consumer."
"For me, the exciting thing about radio is the potential for micromarketing and personalization," says Drew Neisser, president of Renegade Marketing Group, New York. "All of the words people use for the Internet you can use for the radio."
Mr. Neisser paints the scenario of a car buyer who fills out an interest survey in return for a free, fully equipped stereo containing a computer chip that allows adver-tisers to target ads to the car radio.
While chip-embedded radios are not yet in production, Don Bogue, Command Audio chairman-CEO, sees his audio-on-demand product as a possible launch pad for a new form of radio advertising. The portable device, which will be produced for vehicles and offered in the top 50 markets by 2002, allows consumers to store radio shows as well as audio versions of The Wall Street Journal articles and episodes of "Nightline" or the "News Hour With Jim Lehrer."
IT'S THE CONSUMER'S TIME
"The whole idea here is that the way consumers relate to time in their cars is it's their time," says Mr. Bogue, who thinks ads on the subscription service will be more informative for listeners than typical 30-second spots.
Natalie Swed-Stone, senior VP-manager of network radio at Media Edge, New York, says consumers are increasingly interested in getting relevant information via advertising.
While she says radio spots are currently more mass-oriented than they should be, she thinks the influence of the Net and the 2000-01 arrival of satellite radio will force radio spots to be better produced and more relevant for specific listeners.
Satellite radio, a $10-a-month, 100-channel subscription service being launched by Sirius Satellite Radio and XM Satellite Radio late this year or in 2001, will allow national marketers to target nationwide ads on channels dedicated to topics ranging from jazz to Nascar.
"I think the ability for advertisers to be able to buy specific programs on specific channels is going to be great," says Stephen Cook, senior VP-sales and marketing, XM Satellite.
Unlike Sirius, which is keeping 50 satellite channels commercial free, XM Satellite will offer advertising on a majority of channels, though the average channel will include just five to six minutes of ads an hour, generating less clutter, says Mr. Cook.
"I think it's the future, but it will take a while before the audience numbers are higher [and national marketers show serious interest]," says Reyn Leutz, associate director of national broadcasting at Ogilvy & Mather, Chicago. "If there's a food channel, we want to be there. Home improvement, we want to be there. A financial show, we want to be there."
As new formats fill the airwaves, traditional stations and the convergence of radio networks will also improve the one-to-one relationship with listeners.
David Kantor, president, AM/FM Radio Networks, predicts radio advertising will become increasingly more tailored, with network ads being split regionally for different audiences.
"Programmers will know who the listener is," he says.
Stu Olds, president of Katz Radio Group, is excited to see how developments in the next five to 10 years will change the radio industry.
Continuing convergence will again turn the radio industry into three major companies like it was in the late 1970s with ABC, NBC and CBS; but in the 21st century, the companies will have varied media assets, says Mr. Olds.
"Companies can then offer a single-source solution bringing [marketers] 900-plus radio stations, a large outdoor company and a centrally hosted Web and TV affiliation," he says. "It can give them a single source solution that just wasn't available."