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What Can Radio Learn From Gas Prices?

“It’s not just where prices are. It is how they got there.”

Demetri Ravanos

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ABC 7

What is gas up to today in your neck of the woods? Here in Raleigh, NC, I just passed a station advertising unleaded at $4.49 per gallon. The price is absurd in my eyes, but it’s not lost on me that the price is a value compared to some parts of the country. How did we get here? War in Ukraine? Joe Biden? Corporate greed?

Honestly, who cares? It’s some combination of the three and all that matters to me is the total I see when I fill up my car sucks.

I started thinking last week about this last week. It’s not just where prices are. It is how they got there. It strikes me, especially coming off of the BSM Summit, that it is not unlike how terrestrial radio got to a place where some companies are scrambling and tearing down everything in order to find new listeners, and in 2022, best serve the ones they have had forever.

In both cases, experts tried to give us guidance. Some took it to heart. Others didn’t care. Now, when it comes to both gas prices and to courting new listeners, we are at a place where all we can do is think about what works for us and improve our situations as individual consumers or stations. We can’t solve the bigger problem for everyone.

It wasn’t just experts either. Think back to elementary school science classes when we learned about fossil fuels. I know that I remember my third-grade teacher (Mrs. Roberson, not a nice lady) saying that crude oil was a finite natural resource.

For generations, we have known that the supply was not eternal. It was always framed in a way though where we could dismiss it as “not my problem”. As Gen X got old enough to speak up and call out things like the Exxon Valdez spill or the general environmental damage drilling for and burning crude oil caused, companies got away with devoting only a press release’s worth of resources to developing alternative energy sources. At the same time, they were devoting their real monetary efforts to killing (or at least slowing down) the electric car and waging a PR campaign about how patriotic it was to drive something like a Hummer that got less than 18 miles per gallon and had 20-gallon tank.

We have watched something similar happen over and over again in the radio industry. New generations have new tastes in terms of content consumption and we struggle to let go of “the way it’s always been done.”

Younger ears moved from AM to FM and the answer we gave was “well, we’ll use AM to appeal to older listeners.” Talk moved from AM to FM and there were plenty of station owners, from big 3 all the way down to mom-and-pop shops, that decided all they needed to do with their AM signals was hire younger hosts. Maybe a few stations did some marketing. Rather than change with the times and go where the listeners were, they were going to die on the hill of the listeners being wrong and just in need of some guidance.

We’re seeing it happen again. This time it is trickling down to not just the corporate level, but to the programming staff as well.

Content that isn’t available on-demand doesn’t exist to a huge segment of listeners. There is no “yeah but” to this. You can tell me that if you offer your entire show as a podcast, listeners have no reason to come to the FM or AM dial. I’ve got bad news. The ones that want what they want when they want it are probably not coming to the dial enough to make a difference anyway.

It’s the same with talent and egos. Does it feel like a demotion to be moved out of afternoon drive and into middays? Guess what, listeners do not care. They prioritize their schedule over the station’s. If they like a host or a show, they will go download the show and listen on their own time.

We have to look at our own power in both situations. There are definitely factors that we cannot change. We just have to accept that they exist and we have to deal with them.

When it comes to gas prices, events that impact the world (think Ukraine, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, etc.) are going to drive prices up. Corporations manipulating the market to benefit their bottom line usually means gas prices go up. Politicians can do something about it, but given the political divide, that is unlikely. Executives can do something about it, but given their motivations, that is unlikely. That means you and I have to accept that they exist and change our own behaviors.

It sucks, but hey, welcome to Earth!

In radio, we cannot change generational consumption patterns. We don’t control when a worldwide pandemic is going to shift how and where people listen. We cannot change when big tech is going to roll out products that put everything listeners have ever wanted at their fingertips all the time. All we can do is accept that these are the rules and learn to play the new game.

It is important to remember though that there are things we can do, both in terms of how much we pay for gas and how we appeal to listeners, to make our situations a little bit better. Maybe more realistically, I should note that there are things that we can avoid doing or behaviors we can change to avoid making them worse.

Can you, a dude that works a 40-50 hour week in some mid-sized city, really change gas prices? No, but you can change your own fuel bill. I remember being a kid in the mid-90s and suddenly noticing all of these soccer moms at my private school driving Ford Expeditions because they had multiple kids and SUVs look cooler than station wagons. Well, there is a cost to that.

In radio, if you aren’t investing in a real digital strategy or studying and reacting to listener trends, what do you expect to happen? Danny O’Neil just wrote a great piece a couple of weeks ago about how important it is that the radio industry learns from the way the newspaper industry approached the digital world. If your only idea of podcasting is re-posting a radio show, then you are limiting yourself.

Generational consumption habits and a $6 price tag on unleaded are big problems without simple solutions. Accept that you cannot solve those problems in the macro. You need to take action to make your individual situation work better for you. That requires self-examination, and, in radio’s case, asking if you are playing by the right rules.

Barrett Blogs

BSM’s Black Friday SALE on BSM Summit Tickets is Underway!

Jason Barrett

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Each year I’m asked if there are ways to save money on tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit. I always answer yes but not everyone takes advantage of it. For those interested in doing so, here’s your shot.

For TODAY ONLY, individual tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit are reduced by $50.00. Two ticket and four ticket packages are also lowered at $50 per ticket. To secure your seat at a discounted price, just log on to BSMSummit.com. This sale ends tonight at 11:59pm ET.

If you’re flying to Los Angeles for the event, be sure to reserve your hotel room. Our hotel partner this year is the USC Hotel. It’s walking distance of our venue. Full details on hotel rooms can also be found via the conference website.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: What Does The Return of Bob Iger Mean to ESPN?

Demetri Ravanos

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Demetri Ravanos has questions about Disney going back to the future with Bob Iger. This entire episode of Media Noise is all about what the change at the top of the Walt Disney Company indicates about the future of ESPN.

ITunes: https://buff.ly/3PjJWpO

Spotify: https://buff.ly/3AVwa90

iHeart: https://buff.ly/3cbINCp

Google: https://buff.ly/3PbgHWx

Amazon: https://buff.ly/3cbIOpX

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: What Is Realistic For FOX at the World Cup?

Demetri Ravanos

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On this special holiday edition of Media Noise, Demetri Ravanos dives into the controversy and criticism surrounding FOX’s coverage of the World Cup in Qatar.

ITunes: https://buff.ly/3PjJWpO

Spotify: https://buff.ly/3AVwa90

iHeart: https://buff.ly/3cbINCp

Google: https://buff.ly/3PbgHWx

Amazon: https://buff.ly/3cbIOpX

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