Attention is an active force. There is nothing passive about it. Attention is the result of choice and action. You pay attention. Attention is not simply listening, it is hearing. And it goes beyond hearing to active participation in whatever radio-mediated experiences you create across any platform – online, on-air, or in person.
There is no engagement without attention.
It has often been said to me that when you carve away the peripheral radio listening – the light listening of fringe occasions to fringe stations – in the United States and United Kingdom the ratings from Portable People Meters (PPM) look remarkably like the ratings from their audience diaries. And for better or worse, diaries may reflect an unusual amount of recall, but they also reflect an unusual amount of attention.
Because recall requires attention.
So why is attention in many ways as important as reach, maybe more so? Because where the goal is action, conversation, foot-traffic, sales, whatever; where there is a metric defining advertising success (not simply advertising exposure), attention is a pre-requisite for that success. Reach without attention is not.
Radio has got to get into the attention business. How do we do that?
Well many of us are in it already. When I hear about a news/talk station that ranks low in RAMS Audience Figures but ranks high in market revenue, that station is in the attention business.
When I hear about a station that raises hundreds of thousands of rands for charity, that station is in the attention business.
When I hear about a morning show that prods its listeners to vote for certain candidates on South African Idol and seems to actually shift the vote, that station is in the attention business.
Note, however, that the attention business is not necessarily the SAARF /RAMS business.
And this fundamental strategic friction is one of the most important to radio’s future. Because our clients are awakening to a post SAARF/RAMS world. And then the only question will be: Who are the players in it?