The Future of Radio
Of course, I don’t know the future of radio… but when asked today I realized I had a few thoughts to share.
1. The Internet may rule – I imagine that the internet will eventually find it’s way into all of the places where we currently favor terrestrial radio (namely the car being the last hold out). Once that happens terrestrial radio will face some significant competition, most likely threatening its survival.
2. Community advantage – The advantage that terrestrial radio has is that it is community-based. As you may have picked up from previous blog posts, I’m a big fan of strengthening community simply by reaching out and getting involved with what’s going on around you. Local radio stations can speak to communities in much the same way that local friends can. They share your home town, they know the nuances and the secrets for the community, they can talk about news pertinent to your town, and be a real contributor to the local experience by playing music for that place. Think of local radio like the local farmers. Think of how much you appreciate the local farmer at the farmer’s market vs. the big factory farm.
I grew up outside of Philadelphia in the 80s/90s and the classic rock stations were my favorite. Those stations and most specifically, the DJs of those stations, were local heros… and famous to me. There was John Debella on one station and Pierre Robert on another. I’m not sure it will be like that again, but in Charlottesville we have several stations that are very active in the community and they matter.
3. Radio as filter – In the case of a DJ in a local community you trust them to “show” you new music. By listening to them you are implicitly giving them control to introduce you to new music. The DJ or station become a filter for you. This is still an important role.
4. User control – In some cases though, you will find times when you don’t want someone to show you something new. You want control over your listening experience. In that case you’ll choose to plug in your iPod and listen to your music.
5. Reach or Accessibility – There are some places where terrestrial radio just doesn’t reach, or more importantly if it does reach there the options may be limited. In small town America this can be the case. I recall going to a hunting cabin in the back woods of Pennsylvania when I was a kid. There may have been one radio station. Last year I was on the big island of Hawaii and radio options were limited. Guess what? The house had a WiFi connection. I pulled up Pandora on my iPod and chose what station I wanted to listen to. It was a defining moment for me in thinking that radio as we know it may be going away.
Maybe the future of radio is that we’ll have the best of all worlds – community-based internet radio stations, accessible everywhere through WiFi, and free to program any music they wish, thus acting as a true filter for its listeners.