It seems every time you read the latest industry blog post, newsletter or trade publication (this one included), someone is talking about the future of radio. A number of sources both inside and outside of the industry are going so far as to predict the ultimate demise of radio; but is that really the case?
Studies repeatedly show that radio listening remains strong, particularly in cars. That said, as I have mentioned in past columns, there is no doubt that the industry is changing. Those changes most recently include disruptive technologies such as Pandora and the direct introduction of those technologies on our traditional “home turf” in the car. Now that cars are essentially Wi-Fi hotspots on wheels, any Internet-based service a listener would normally have available at home or via their smartphone is now available directly on their dashboard touchscreens (or any other connected devices that might be brought into the car).
These types of shifts are not new, and have yet to kill radio listening. If television, LPs, 8 tracks, cassettes, CDs, MP3s, satellite radio and numerous streaming options have not yet killed radio, I''m not quite ready to throw in the towel on radio because of the additional options coming our way. This is not to say that the transmission technology will not change, but I believe some form of “radio” as a medium will be with us for quite some time to come.
So what is it that really makes “radio” so special? Again, as I have mentioned, it''s all about the content, particularly the “connection” between the listener and the service provided by their local radio station. The key is giving the listener something unique that they cannot get anywhere else — whether it is the actual content, or the way it is presented. The other thing that makes radio unique is the fact that it does this without any direct interaction required by the listener aside from turning on the radio and tuning in the station. Some have said that radio offers the easiest user interface of any other technology.
I traveled home to spend Thanksgiving with family this year, and witnessed something that reinforced the ongoing importance of local radio; it was in fact what triggered this column. My family was listening to a local 1 kW AM radio station from the next town over as they went about the morning''s business; not Pandora, not Spotify, not some satellite-delivered content. The station had a live body on the air broadcasting music, news and the local “time to trade” call in show. Granted, this is only one small example of something that happens on a daily basis in many small towns around the country; but it underscores the fact that these types of stations are not only still on the air, they are thriving. This month, we''re introducing a new feature called “Local Radio Spotlight” where we''ll bring you the story of this station group.
Do you have a story of local radio making an impact in your community? E-mail us at email@example.com.