As we enter 2012, we’re seeing commercial radio broadcasting fracture in opposite directions. The biggest groups are heading in one direction, while smaller groups and independent operators are heading in another. Many of the trends we will see develop or continue will all come from this fracture.
The largest groups, Clear Channel and Cumulus are leading the charge on one end. Some of the things that I predict we will see from these groups in 2012:
Nationalized Brands – We’ve been expecting this for almost a decade since Clear Channel began launching many similar “Kiss-FM” CHR’s in the early 2000’s. Now as Premium Choice expands into larger markets, is it time to consolidate the remnants of local brands into stronger nationally known brands. This has become the case in many other countries. With the IHeart platform filling in the blanks in markets where there are no available stations, there is more to gain in some aspects by having a national brand as opposed to one that changes by city. Which leads to…
Less Localization – Its already happened in many of their smaller markets, but as nationalization takes hold in larger markets there will be more cuts of local personalities in these local markets.
While the biggest consolidators focus on converting their local brands into tools to promote their national brands, apps and coupon services there will be a trend in the opposite direction from the remainder of the groups.
More Localization – Yesterday’s announced change of CHR “96.3 Now” to Full Service Modern AC “K-Twin” with more personalities and additional emphasis on local programming elements will lead to similar efforts following the trail blazed by stations like “B101” WBEB Philadelphia.
More News 2012 will already see CBS debut 99.1 WNEW Washington, and Merlin expand their “FM News” to Philadelphia. WBAL Baltimore announced today it will expand its news programming to nine hours. Other stations will follow suit. I expect by the end of 2012 we will see All-News programming debut on FM in Los Angeles, Atlanta and some unexpected smaller markets.
More Online Options – The internet has given many radio personalities the ability to take back control. From Steve Dahl’s subscription podcast, Tom Leykis’ New Normal network to smaller music streams like Howard Hoffmann’s Great Big Radio there is finally a way for anyone to build a radio brand. If you want to be in radio you now have the ability to do so on your terms. From a podcast to a full-fledged network of channels, the opportunity is there.
The radio industry is at a crossroads. The fork in the road has been built and now its time for the majority of the industry to choose its path. The concept of radio isn’t going away any time soon, but how it fits in the overall picture will begin to become more apparent in the coming year.