Last month’s Open Letter to Radio, which outlined the opportunity for stations to win back lost listening, found a receptive audience. However, one of the unexpected responses revealed a crisis of confidence by some who still believe that AM/FM is at a disadvantage compared with satellite or Spotify.
The scarcity inherent in radio stations playing non-skippable content stands in sharp contrast to unlimited, on-demand, subscription-based streaming platforms.
As it turns out, too much of a good thing isn’t always a good thing.
Take for example all you can eat buffets, which peaked in popularity during the 1980’s with chains like Golden Corral. With razor-thin margins, profitability for buffets is as elusive as healthy portion sizes for those looking to get their money’s worth. Even in Las Vegas, which brought the smorgasbord concept to America in the 1940’s, it’s typically a money-losing proposition. The purpose is merely to keep people at the casino.
When you can feast on everything, too many options actually makes people less likely to be satisfied with their choices. It’s known as the Paradox of Choice and radio can use it to help repatriate lost listening.
Years ago, you could go to the grocery store and pick between three types of milk: whole, 2% or chocolate. Chances are you left the store feeling pretty good about the choice you made. Today, not only do you have to pick the percentage of fat (1%, 2%, skim, etc.), but also the flavor (chocolate, strawberry, vanilla, regular, etc.). In addition, milk no longer comes from just cows (almonds, soybeans, oats, etc.).
Even the most confident decision-maker is left mentally fatigued and wondering if they picked the right combination. This scenario is playing out in more and more facets of daily life.
Spotify and other streaming platforms are not exempt from this reality. Despite the initial enthusiasm and inherent joy of having access to an unlimited music library at your fingertips, too much of a good thing, ends up still being too much.
As reported in The Guardian last week, “[With streaming] there’s endless accessibility, but you’re not really listening to anything. At least that’s what it started feeling like to me. I’m experiencing so much music, but am I really listening to any of it?”
The article goes on to say, “This idea that you can just turn on a faucet, and out comes music. This type of streaming is something that leaves everyone taking it for granted.”
Tasked with choosing the day’s soundtrack, users find themselves endlessly searching for something to play, but nothing perfectly fits the moment. It calls to mind Voltaire’s perspective that, “perfect is the enemy of the good.”
Deleting their Spotify and Apple Music accounts is one way that consumers are taking back control.
According to Barry Schwartz, author of the Paradox of Choice, “this plethora of choice in the modern world is actually causing people to be less happy with their decisions.”
With only one piece of content going over a station’s airwaves at a time, radio stands in contrast to the world of infinite choice.
Offering a curated, local product that is created for the enjoyment of a select audience is the type of message you’re more likely to find at a microbrewery than on a radio station website, but it applies to both.
As for life beyond Spotify, as one young professional stated, “The choices are very limited. But it’s actually freeing.”
Radio has long been an oasis for listeners in the car and during the workday. Let’s use our strengths to our advantage. The Paradox of Choice reminds us that more isn’t always better.
On behalf of Catherine Jung, Tony Bannon, Jen Clayborn, and everyone here at DMR/Interactive, thank you for reading and driving radio forward.
President and COO