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Monday, May 9, 2011
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What "Radio" Is Today

Hand me a Kleenex, please.

Now, if you were in the same room, you could say, "I don't have Kleenex, but I do have this paper towel (or napkin). Will that do?"

I've been laboring over a similar-kind-of thought, relative to defining today's radio industry. We first discussed this in 2009. For years people who provide an internet service of listening to music or talk have petitioned Audio Graphics to add their web site to our listing at RadioRow. As these requests come in, I separate them into folders labeled "podcasts," "audio only" (no web site), "aggregators," etc. There's also a main file of what I consider to be "radio stations."

I made adjustments to my definition in 2009 but recently had my thoughts challenged, again.

"...'radio' is anything that transmits an audio signal as its main draw." Pandora is being called radio by its CEO Tim Westergren. It also is acknowledged by search engines and consumers as "radio." Meanwhile, Clear Channel's chairman of media and entertainment platforms, Bob Pittman, stated in the Los Angeles Times that "Pandora is not really radio in that it's not curated." I assume that also means other non-curated music-based online businesses are not radio either.

With the note that Robert Pittman has always been (and still remains) a person whom I greatly admire, I'm wondering if his recent investment in Clear Channel hasn't brought out the pro-radio industry rhetoric. I'm also hoping that it's making everyone reconsider what the public perceives as "radio." For me, it's had a major impact.

Sunday (5/8/11), RadioRow allowed its first company-backed radio station to be listed. Rephrased: "Grooveatech Smooth Jazz" was added this week, even though the music (programming) comes from Tyenfo, a company specializing in "Forensic Analyst." It defines itself as "Reverse Engineer Mortgage Bankers," but plays smooth jazz on its web site. Is that radio?

Exactly what do you consider to be the defintion of a "radio station"? After cutbacks from consolidation, the act of voicetracking general information to local audiences - and its similarity to thousands of internet radio stations just playing song after song - has led me to hear many bland radio industry stations. But, they are still considered radio.

In reviewing thousands of radio station submissions to RadioRow, I also see many radio stations that don't have a web site but stream their programs through BlogTalk Radio, Shoutcast, or other stream providers. Some stations have a web site, but are forced by performance regulations to stream content through companies like Live365, MyRadio, and the Loudcity web sites. Are they "radio"? Even if they don't provide local information, does the consumer tune to them while NOT tuning to what the radio industry calls a "radio station"?

I think my problem has finally been solved. That is, "radio" is anything which transmits an audio signal as its main draw. The quality and/or source of content usually doesn't matter. A listener is spending time there to "hear" product.

Try this exercise. See if it doesn't help you define things better. Type "radio stations" into Google (or click here). "," "," and "" show in the top-10 returns. The first time a bona fide radio industry station appears is on the second page, at position #13 ( Clear Channel's iHeart Radio comes in somewhere around # 72 on the list of "About 59,100,000 results."

Define your radio station not by how you see it, but by how others see you. Using this method, Pandora is radio. So are the dozens of stations soon be listed at RadioRow that can't be called curators of music.

In 2011, the public calls radio by various names: internet radio, SiriusXM, Last.FM, KISS FM, and Pandora. I've come to believe that radio today is also anything that prevents a person from listening to what the radio industry considers "radio."

Think this way - if a radio industry station's web site offers podcasts, even they are considered radio.

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