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Monday, June 4, 2012
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"By This Time Next Year" Radio Will Change


It's a huge industry that has a lot of people with plenty to lose. So you expect a fight when bringing up data that suggests there appears to be a negative flow of interest surrounding broadcast radio.

Having been on the front lines of sorting this data out for over a dozen years, I'll testify that there's no love lost between those who try to keep the radio industry myth alive and those who are introducing the next generation of music/entertainment/information delivery.

Notice the last phrase in the preceding sentence is "music/entertainment/information delivery," not the word "radio." It's because we are in a state of continuing change as to what constitutes "radio" and what consumers are pursuing.

"Here's some data supplied by 994 participants of Audio Graphics' 55th survey of online radio listeners that suggests there's more trouble coming around the bend." There's a good article from The Plain Dealer posted at Cleveland.com: "Cleveland radio faces incursions by Pandora and others, as well as a still-ailing economy."

Having spent more than twenty years in this town's radio industry, I feel safe saying (though it be a subjective statement) that there's less quality content flowing over Cleveland Ohio's airwaves.

One paragraph in this Plain Dealer story of a city carrying great weight in radio's history states: "Keith Abrams, operations manager for Clear Channel locally, twice declined to comment for this story. Clear Channel's corporate offices in San Antonio, Texas, also did not respond to a request for comment." We all know that if things go well, people in positions of power rush to get behind the story and speak. If things are going not-so-well, we get this type of response.

Let's not focus solely on what's happening in my home town, though. Here's some data supplied by 994 participants of Audio Graphics' 55th survey of online radio listeners that suggests there's more trouble coming around the bend. You can dwell on more data here. For this part of the discussion, I'm only going to bring up the answer to one survey question: "By this time next year, what do you see yourself listening to most?"

These are two graphics showing the preferences, according to age groups, as to whether people intend to spend more time with broadcast radio or internet radio by this time next year. Knowing that these respondents already listen to internet radio has a built-in bias, but this could also be interpreted as showing that these folks like what they hear online.



A phrase I've stated dozens of times is that the broadcast radio industry is not dead, and won't die within our lifetime. Though, for anyone in it to assume its future is anything more than its past is foolhardy. They are not facing the realities stated in the comment section of that Plain Dealer article mentioned above.

People are not listening to "radio" anymore. They are listening to audio entertainment, be it talk or music based. What's pushed out over the airwaves has diluted itself to a near equality with what's being offered online in terms of programming. Also, online there is no element of "local" which cannot be found in a few seconds of searching. So the chant about delivering "local" content in the radio industry loses potency with each passing year.

Radio made its money being the sole occupier of audio entertainment on the dashboard. Now Detroit, Japan, Korea, and European auto manufacturers are redesigning that area of the vehicle. The monopoly is ending.

By this time next year the radio industry will be down another couple of notches on the public's "must have" list, and at this stage of the slide there's not much that major corporations can do. The warnings have been ignored far too long. The online competition has been honing itself. The naysayers are no longer saying nay, but being proven correct in their forecasts.

Online radio listeners are showing an interest in growing numbers. By this time next year look for advertisers to be showing increased interest, too.

Following the ears has always been the reason the radio industry had such a strong run. It's just that the new breed of radio manager looked too closely at the expenses and knew too little about programming to keep radio fans from trying alternative sources of audio delivery.

And now it's time to face fact: Radio, as we knew it, is not coming back to its former days of glory. By this time next year, change will be much more evident - so say the listeners of online radio today.






















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