MY FRIENDS LIE… I DON’T BLAME ‘EM…
First off you should know that just because I’ve worked in the radio medium for a long time doesn’t mean that I’m married to the medium. I don’t care if the content is delivered by transmitter tower, podcast, 3G, WiMax or carrier pigeon. If it’s good, it’s good. If it’s interesting, it’s interesting. If it isn’t, then it’s not.
As of late the battle cry from most of my friends is that radio sucks. The two guys I’ve been boarding with this year are vehement that they don’t listen in favor of iPods and Satellite radio. That’s fine. I understand. Radio doesn’t supply the same aural sensation as does a personal listening device (pull technology) or Satellite radio (push technology much like standard radio) with multiple channels with little or no commercials. Again I get it. My feelings aren’t hurt. I too find little to root for on you standard radio dial. Being an Alternative listener, the sensation (or lack of) while listening is abundantly clear. Alternative radio has gotten boooooooorrrrrring.
Now the weird part. We car pool up to the slopes. Every other time or so I’m in someone else’s car and you know what… both of my snowboarding freaks are usually listening to the radio! Denny has a choice between standard broadcast and Satellite in his Jeep and yet he’s listening to X96 (alt station) in Salt Lake City. Kenn has a Pontiac G6 with a built in iPod adapter. He’s currently raving about the latest Death Cab and Kooks CD. And yet in the last month and a half I’ve been in his car three times and he’s listening to a variety of stations.
Though two friends do not make a focus group I have made some suppositions based on my friends, intuition and basic sociology.
1) Listening to the radio is not cool. Being into the latest gadget is. I get that.
2) The radio is still the most ubiquitous media device in the world today. All the iPods and satellite radios ever sold in the USA still don’t equal the amount of radios in use in Los Angeles and Houston combined. Yes, radio listening is down, significantly in some age groups. But still… wow.
3) Radio still provides a sense of instantaneousness, community and information that the other devices have yet to offer. (it’s coming… actually it’s here and waiting for you to find it.)
4) People still listen to radio because it’s easy. It’s there and takes limited mouse clicks to get something in your ears and cranium.
5) For the most part the programming is stale but people still tune in from time to time if they admit it or not.
With all that said, here’s the kicker. It doesn’t matter if people are still listening to radio. If you claim otherwise then you will never be involved in the rating of radio. Radio’s rating service only obtain ratings info from people who listen. That’s bad news if you work in the business. As listener numbers go down, ad revenue goes elsewhere. The business at large spirals.
Now the good news. Not that you think that you care. If it gets bad enough for radio the medium will have to try innovation instead of paralysis for programming solutions. There’s no bad guy running radio… just a bunch of people like you and me trying so hard to do good business that they forget to do entertainment.
Necessity is the mother of invention… or in this case innovation
Entertainment no matter where you find is the chicken. Revenue that pays the salaries and business costs are the egg. The chicken comes first.
When WiMax gets here all bets are off for the transmitter and tower. But as I said before I’m not Partial to what delivers the content.