This is the tale of two telephones. I call them both phones but that is about all they have in common.
One is functional. You plug it in. You dial a number. You talk. You hang up when you’re done. No more, no less.
The other can be used to place calls, as well, but that hardly the reason people choose it.
I grew up playing the board game Monopoly for hours and hours and hours with my friends Rodney, David and his younger brother Mark. We were excited at the prospect of being the first to land on Boardwalk and Park Place. The utilities – Water Works and the Electric Company – were so boring their spaces were in black and white.
Utilities are there to simply function. Water, electric, telephone. One phone is designed to simply connect with that utility. The other is designed for the imagination.
It strikes me that radio stations can be as distinct as these two phones. One is no more meaningful than its most basic function – turn it on to listen; turn it off as desired. The other is the centerpiece of a conversation with like-minded people who care deeply about their faith, their families, and their communities.
My iPhone isn’t just about the technology of the phone, it’s really about me. I have so personalized it to my specific interests that I’ll not likely ever change to another kind of phone. Apple has a customer for life.
My apps are about my interests. When I share my apps I’m sharing my life. (I have an app just to help me share apps).
The fact that one can plug a telephone cord into a wall and lift the receiver to call someone is not likely to be the subject matter of conversation among raving fans. (Although my uncle used to tell the story of when his grandparents first got electricity they’d sit around and watch the light bulb).
The fact that a radio station is on the air and plays five songs in a row and has disc jockeys and features is not what makes a radio station remarkable.
Hugh MacLeod says, “It’s not what a product does that matters to us so much, it’s how we socialize around it that matters.”
The new iPhone 4S has a new feature called Siri that I heard about from my daughters and several friends long before I ever upgraded my own iPhone. A friend demonstrated it to me by dictating a text message telling his wife where we were meeting for dinner. (He was no less enthused about Siri despite the fact that “she” didn’t get the message correct and couldn’t locate his wife’s name in his contacts).
Siri has value far beyond the information it gives. Siri is the “remarkable” that people talk about. In other words, the Apple iPhone 4s has socialization built in!
Great stations have listeners that are engaged and share the station with others – not because of the radio things the station does but because of how meaningful it is.
MacLeod says, “Social and personal identity involves a lot of sharing what matters to you most, with those who matter to you most. It’s an amazing thing, when your customer base not only buys your product but also consciously takes individual responsibility for your success.”