Radio consultant extraordinaire Fred Jacobs muses about the necessity of traffic reports on the radio at a time when you can get better real-time information on demand from Google Maps, Waze, and other apps:
Traffic is not only becoming endangered content, it is also a tune-out threat, especially for stations known for playing music. A couple of traffic reports on a Classic Rock or Hot AC station in the morning may retain sponsorship dollars, but will increasingly fail to provide added value to most commuters in the listening audience. There’s no reason to wait for the 8s or randomly scheduled traffic reports when even better, customized road and commuting info is available on a smartphone that is Bluetoothed into the dash.
This is a subject I battled with management about for years when I did a daily midday show. My argument was that, 99% of the time outside of rush hour in St. Louis, there aren’t enough problems to require those updates, so they serve no purpose. And that was on a talk station. If you’re a music station battling for consumers’ ears against Pandora and Spotify, you might think you’re offering a compelling reason for listeners to tune in, but you aren’t. It’s like a newspaper that continues to print huge daily stock price listings (from the previous day!), when you can check the current value for your entire portfolio on your smartphone at any time.
The truth is that most traffic reports aren’t about imparting information. They are merely an excuse for the reporter to read, usually in a bored tone, a live commercial for some sponsor — and that’s often longer than the traffic details. Unfortunately, despite Fred’s on-the-mark analysis, it’s become harder than ever to convince a station that a paid-for element is actually hurting the brand and cluttering up the airwaves.
So, as stations remain blind to the impact of new technology, those traffic reports will continue to air, even as consumers rely on them less.