Paragon turned 35 this year, and as I reflect on radio in 1988 vs. 2023, the changes are gigantic. Radio in 1988 was closer in technology, sound, and spirit to 1953 as compared to 2023. I am struck by the radical changes since Paragon began.
|Streaming, apps, smart speakers, HD
|Phones, computers, smart speakers
|Multiple including remote and at home
|Turntable, cart machines
|Reel-to-reel, carts, records, CDs
|Audio & video
|Commercial: Countless national & local owners
Non-Commercial: University licensed non-commercial
|Commercial: 3 huge consolidated national owners & a handful of others
Non-Commercial: Community and University licensed public media
|Public Radio Listenership
|30 million +
|Other radio stations
|Digital streaming & narrow content platforms
|Significant national advertising
|Primarily local advertising including digital and events
|Could count on 2 hands
|Dozens including multiple ethnic
|Primarily nationally produced and syndicated
|Reel-to-reel and 3-meter satellite dishes
|Small dish satellite & internet
|Mostly local & in-studio
|Mostly syndicated & voice-tracked local hosts
|3rd class operator permit
|Vinyl and CDs
|Social media, texting
|Books, periodicals, radio
|Phoning in adds
|Internet, news feeds
Qualitative: In-Person Focus Groups
Qualitative: Virtual Focus Groups & In-Depth Interviews
|TV, billboards, telemarketing
|Websites, geo-targeted social media
Which leads me to ponder, “What hasn’t changed in radio since 1988?” The success factors remain remarkably similar:
- Focusing on the LOCAL audience
- Know your market. Audience research is critical to providing a unique and appealing station that separates from the pack and fills a void in your market.
- See it, then be and live it. This requires a comprehensive strategy that begins with your Mission, Vision, Goals, and a Target Audience, and includes a thorough and accountable implementation process.
- Local talent
- Community engagement
- Radio stations are like babies that require continuous love, patience, feeding, and attention.
- New is hard. Being new interrupts the status quo and upsets convention, and there are many forces that want you to fail. Starting from scratch is not for the faint of heart.
- If you choose to be different, be very, very, very different. Being sort of different won’t be noticed.
- When in doubt, always turn left. Keep taking chances and always make the bold vs. safe choices. Otherwise, the magnetism of our culture and industry will keep pulling you back into the middle.
- It’s not about just thinking outside the box. It’s about knowing when to work inside and outside the box. There are valuable tools on both sides of the box and the trick is knowing when to use them.
- People + Plan + Resources. Radio is a simple business. If you have the best people with a great Action Plan and the resources to implement it, then success will follow.
- Being “brilliant on the basics” matters every day. Just like you notice when a little something is out of place in an app or at a restaurant, the audience hears those things on your station. Fix them or listeners will make other choices.
Paragon itself has morphed with the times. In 1988, we were strictly a radio research firm without consulting, and our primary clients were three radio groups that no longer exist – CBS Radio, Nationwide, and Susquehanna. Today, Paragon is a full-service media consultancy working for the leading LOCAL operators in America, including numerous NPR News and music stations spanning Triple A, Jazz, Classical, and Urban Alternative. In 1988, our Denver headquarters housed the entire staff, while today our staff works from their homes across America. Our recent rebranding with the slogan “Content Reinvented” tells you where we think radio is headed. Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was.