Can Product Managers Capture Your Ears?

by drjim on August 20, 2018

Can product managers get people to listen to their radio stations?

Can product managers get people to listen to their radio stations?
Image Credit: Thomas Hawk

Here’s an interesting question for you: how much time do you spend each day in your car? If you are like most of us, your answer is probably going to be at least a couple of hours when you take going to work and running errands into account. What do you listen to when you are in your car? The answer is probably “the radio”, but what kind of radio? The standard broadcast radio that you can only get in your town or the fancy SiriusXM broadcasts that come from a satellite? It turns out that there are product managers who want you to say that you always listen to SiriusXM.

The Battle For Your Ears

When you get into your car, you have choices. It turns out that you have a lot of different choices as to what you are going to spend this trip listening to. The obvious choice is just clicking on the radio and picking a local station that is playing something that appeals to you. Since we now live in the 21st Century, you have additional choices in that you can use your smart phone to bring up either Spotify or Pandora and have a computer pick a playlist of songs that are tailored to your unique tastes. Finally, if you are willing to subscribe to SiriusXM, you have over 175 different channels of entertainment to choose from.

The product managers at SiriusXM realize that you have choices. What this means for them is that they are going have to update their product development definition to create offerings that will cause you to select them over the other options that you have. Every week, 268 million listeners tune into radio. The majority of these listeners consume their radio in the old-fashion way – they listen to it on their traditional car radios. The SiriusXM product managers are making progress in building a market for what they sell.

SiriusXM is a company that has been through a number of ups and downs. Way back in 2008 when the companies Sirius and XM merged, their stock price sank to a low of 12 U.S. cents per share. At the time the combined company had 19 million subscribers. Since then the company has done very well. Their stock price has risen to $4.50 per share and their subscriber base has grown to 31 million – all of which would look very good on anyone’s product manager resume. Each of these subscribers pays up to $15 per month for the opportunity to tune in to SiriusXM’s broadcasts.

How SiriusXM Wants To Win You Over

The SiriusXM product managers understand that they’ll never be able to grow their customer base if their customers don’t have the hardware that is required to receive the SiriusXM satellite broadcasts. In order to get that hardware into the hands of their potential customers the product managers have entered into deals with auto manufacturers and radio manufactures in order to get their radios into cars. They have been very successful at doing this and currently 85 million cars are equipped with factory installed satellite radios.

In order to win over more customers the SiriusXM product managers understand that they need to be very good and the programming that they create has to be very innovative. In order to make this happen, the SiriusXM product manager have started to use some of their 175 channels to create unique niche programming that appeals to specific customers. What the SiriusXM niche channels are able to offer that Spotify and Pandora cannot provide are hand-curated playlists from the hosts of the shows.

What the SirusXM product managers are trying to do is to capture some of the feel of old style terrestrial broadcast radio. Back in the day, radio had more of a free-form style. Radio shows were personality driven. D.J.’s were the ones who cued up the music – not computer algorithms. The hope is that the long-haul truckers who make up a lot of SirusXM’s customer base will respond to being provided with personal guidance in regards to what they are listening to. What SirusXM can provide them with is free-range D.J’s who are going with their own personal musical tastes and perhaps exposing listeners to music that they would not have otherwise heard.

What All Of This Means For You

When we get in our cars to go somewhere, we are presented with a number of different options for how we want to spend our time. We can, as we always have, turn on the radio and listen to our local stations. We now have the option of selecting an app on our smartphone and listening to a computer selected playlist of music that we like via either Spotify or Pandora. Additionally, if we’re willing to pay a monthly subscription fee, we can tune into to one of SiriusXM’s 175 different channels. The SiriusXM product managers’ product manager job description says that they have to find out how to get us to choose them.

In order to get you to choose to both subscribe to SiriusXM and to then listen to it when you have a chance, the SiriusXM product managers have to create compelling content. They’ve done a good job and a great number of our cars now come equipped with satellite radios so if we’re willing to subscribe, we can listen. To get us to subscribe, the SiriusXM product managers are creating niche channels. These channels have their own D.J.’s who hand select the music that gets played on their channel. The hope is that the unique selection of music that they can provide will cause us to select SiriusXM when we have a choice.

Clearly since the subscriber base for SiriusXM has been growing over the past few years, their product managers are doing a good job. There are a lot of car drivers who are not SiriusXM subscribers and so there is still a lot of work that they have to do. Creating niche channels looks like it’s a good way to go about building the subscriber base that they need. Now all they have to do is make good decisions about what niches to go after!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: When the SiriusXM product managers create a niche channel, do you think that they can expand it over time without losing their listeners?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

So I want you to think back to the last time that you bought a car. Just exactly how did you go about doing this fairly major task? If you are like most of us, you at least spent some time thinking about what you wanted. You thought about how much stuff you generally haul around, how many people you give rides to, and just exactly how far you tend to travel on a daily basis. You used all of this information in order to pick out the perfect car for you. However, what if you didn’t have to do this anymore?

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