Video Killed the Radio Star

October 26, 2015


"Video Killed the Radio Star" was a new wave song released in 1979 by the British pop group named, The Buggles. The song, which tells the story of a singer whose career was cut short by television, made its mark as the very first video to be played on MTV in August of 1981.
When MTV first hit the scene, many people thought it would usher in a new-world order where video would displace audio and kill sales of consumable media such as albums and cassettes. (Yes, in 1981 albums and cassettes were still all the rage in a pre-digital world).

Surprisingly to some, this video craze had quite the opposite effect. As a new MTV generation was born and music videos were being consumed by the eye-full, radio and recorded music became even more popular. Recording artists found that putting pictures with audio gave them a new way to reach, touch and connect with their loyal audience, thereby bolstering a deeper connection with millions of music fans. Suddenly, music videos were more than just “cool,” they became marketing material that was required to sell other media. With all due respect to The Buggles’ song, video just may have been the best thing to ever happen to the radio star – back then.

Jump ahead 14 years later to 1995, when Compact Discs were the media of choice for the MTV generation. Boy Bands, Fanny Packs (possibly the biggest fashion ‘faux pas’ since wearing socks with sandals), Pump Sneakers and the “Rachel” haircut were all the rage. There were at least three record stores in every shopping mall and all seemed well for radio. Then something happened: Netscape went public and in an instant, the MTV generation died and the Internet generation was born.

The transformation was as startling as it was profound. Droves of video-centric people quickly learned to type with two fingers. Acronyms were flying fast and furious. People were creating and consuming web pages in astounding numbers. The Internet started to double in size every 90 days as people abandoned their beloved videos for still images and text. They rediscovered reading again. Postal mail was replaced by email and chat rooms took a bite out of telecom revenue. In all, the world was turned upside down. How was our friend radio handling this? So far, so good. After all, this Internet boom couldn’t possibly affect radio – or could it?

Jump ahead 12 more years to 2007, into a society of broadband connectivity, digital music, online videos, camera phones, iPods, iPhones, Blogs, text messaging, and podcasts. (Still no friggin’ flying cars though!). The mall record stores have been supplanted by Starbucks and traditional music media sales are at an all-time low. Magazines, newspapers and radio stations are experiencing an extreme downturn and MTV does not even play music videos anymore! When it comes to the current state of MTV, comedian Lewis Black said it best, “MTV is to music, what KFC is to chicken”.

After taking a look back, I don’t think video ever had a chance of actually killing the radio star, but it was definitely an agent of change. Now, if I could get in touch with Trevor Horn, Geoffrey Downes, and Bruce Woolley, the writers of “Video Killed the Radio Star,” I may try to convince them to update the song title to, “Podcasting Killed the Radio Star”. It makes sense if you think about it. Podcasting has ushered in a new age of on-demand media consumption that has created a revolution of sorts. Podcasting is giving those with a voice and those with something to say an eager and attentive audience. Podcasting may also prove to be one of the greatest marketing tools since AT&T sponsored the first paid radio commercial on WEAF in New York City in August of 1922.

Now, some of you may be saying in your best valley girl voice, “audio podcasts are so 2006!” Or maybe you’re saying in your best Paris Hilton voice, “video podcasts are hot!” I’m here to tell you that—unlike video’s hand in the demise of the radio star—video will not kill the audio podcast star. Why? Because (sensitive people brace yourself…) although you may have something worthwhile and valuable to say, it does not mean people want to watch you say it. Video podcasts are not music videos and you’re not a rock star. The power of video lies in having something worth watching that will attract eyeballs (and quite often, money).

I’m not saying that video podcasts are not a great medium. All I’m saying is that they have their place as marketing tools and when used correctly, video and audio podcasts are both incredibly powerful.

Quickly, let me try and shed some light on when to use video in podcast marketing. 60% of Internet users connect with a high speed connection. Adversely, 40% do not. Video is a much larger file size and takes longer to download and stream across the web.  Now, considering that podcast marketing is extremely powerful and influential, if you make me wait for something stupid, you’ll lose my attention (and with it my money, vote, support, etc) for good.

Even though over 70% of those who consume podcasts listen or watch them on their PC’s, large percentages also download them to their portable devices and take your message with them (from a marketing perspective it does not get much better than that!). Non-video enabled devices make up the majority of portable media players currently in the hands of consumers. So if you only use video for your podcasts, you’re missing out on a great way to get your message close to the skin (actually right in the ears) of your listeners.

Possibly the biggest factor in choosing audio or video for your podcast marketing endeavors is something that I alluded to earlier; do you have something worth watching? If you don’t, then video for the sake of video is a flawed approach and you may just lose the very people you are trying to attract.

My company is a leader in integrated podcast marketing, which simply means the podcasts we produce for our customers are an integral part of a larger and more comprehensive marketing plan. In any case, we produce a lot of podcasts. One of our clients is a company called ProSource. ProSource is a fitness supplement company that has a product endorsed by eight-time Mr. Olympia, Ronnie Coleman. They brought Ronnie to the recording studio in my office and we created a 30 minute video podcast. This podcast was viewed 30,000 times in the last 30 days and currently gets over 1,000 views a day. Ronnie Coleman is a celebrity and arguably one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time. He is worth watching! A video podcast made perfect sense in this case.

Now, if ProSource just wanted to have one of their salespeople discuss the benefits and differences of their protein bars, it still may be interesting content worth listening to but not worth watching (no offence to their salespeople). Who would want to watch two average people sitting in a studio talking?

My point is, that everything has its place. Both audio and video podcasts are incredibly powerful marketing tools, but to choose video over audio just because it’s available is a huge mistake. Both formats are very content specific. Let the content—not the hype—determine when you use video over audio. Because when all is said and done and the dust settles, we may just find that video killed the video star.
Copyright 2007 Single Throw Inc.

Larry Bailin is a sought after public speaker, author of the Internet Marketing Book, “Mommy Where do Customers Come From?”® and CEO of Single Throw, an Internet Marketing consulting firm that has helped hundreds of businesses develop successful Internet Marketing strategies.


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