People complimenting my performance with The BeanCast will often say something like, "We'll hear you on NPR yet," or, "You'll be on radio one day."
The reason this makes me feel good is the same reason people offer it as a compliment: If you have an audio program, radio means legitimacy. I haven't necessarily thought about it in those terms, but certainly I've half-heartedly pursued getting the show on-air in the past. So obviously I agree. But now I'm wondering if maybe I shouldn't be thinking like this. Maybe I'm positioned exactly where I need to be.
Late Night Lessons
In the wake of the recent late-night battle over at NBC, I made a comment on Twitter about Conan needing to take his show online. Sure, he could take the train over to FOX, but then he faces the very risky proposition of justifying his salary against a head-to-head competition with Leno and Letterman that he is sure to lose — at least in the short term.
But online, he could be king of the hill. He could be a first-mover and thumb his nose at the network stupidity of old-school media. He doesn't even need big numbers to be a success. All he needs are backers that believe in him. And Google is the perfect partner.
The company that was ready to give Yelp half a billion dollars and is still looking for ways to make YouTube profitable might offer Conan's best chance at continued relevance. Google might be very willing to pay Conan to make his show a daily, ad-supported event on YouTube. And they have the patience to wait out the network decline. At least more patience then NBC had to establish his new Tonight Show. It sounds like the perfect strategy to me. Even Ian Schafer over at Deep Focus kind of agrees, independently arriving at a similar conclusion just yesterday.
If we really believe that digital delivery of entertainment is the future, we need to start proving it with actions.
My Online Play
So with all this floating in my head, I once again received a, "You should be on radio," compliment yesterday. And for the first time I actively thought, "No. I shouldn't."
Yes, the money is better in radio. (Which is a sad comment in itself, but we won't dwell on the compensation levels for the bottom of the entertainment industry.) Certainly the audience is significantly better in radio, because of the bottleneck radio creates for those wanting to be heard. But all this is the narrow thinking that I always rail against. Just because it works today, doesn't mean it will work forever. And first-movers in whatever the future holds will be best positioned to be dominant players in that future.
Would I take an opportunity in radio right now, today? You betcha. All promotion is good promotion and radio is still a good audience builder. But would I do it at the expense of being online with a made-for-online-only podcast? No way.
I firmly believe that online delivery of content will become the dominant media source in the next decade. It won't be egalitarian as some have predicted and there will still be network-run bottlenecks, but the playing field will be dramatically changed, with first-mover online networks ruling the roost. I want to be a part of that. And any advertiser, marketer, producer or media executive who isn't whole-heartedly embracing and promoting this, is trading away their future in the business for a comfortable lifestyle today.
So today I'm not saying, "I'm with CoCo." Instead I'm asking, "Is CoCo with me?"