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Wednesday, December 7, 2011
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Pulling the Plug on Traditional Communications

We're going to deviate, just a bit, from our normal course of conversation. On January 15, 1997, was created to discuss how the internet affects the radio industry. Since then, thousands of articles have appeared here. Many were predictions (some may call them warnings) that radio wasn't giving enough attention to consumers' online activity. Many times there were examples outlining new approaches to using the internet, and suggestions derived from experiments conducted on one of Audio Graphics' web sites.
"In all, there's little difference between what was and what is." Today we have the discussion of another experiment. This one comes from personal experience, though; one that's removed from the radio industry but attached to how people are pulling the plug on traditional ways of receiving media. It's not a warning, nor is it a predication. It's just me relating how the Dardis household has dropped its last connection to how things were in an attempt to see how things will be.

About a year ago our son - who lives in another state - suggested we consider dropping cable TV. He explained how it was something he and many of his friends didn't have, and how not having it had little affect on his life. At the time I didn't quite grasp how a person could live their life without being directly tied to a television broadcast or cable program.

We have a few radios in our home, but they have been rarely turned on since a snowfall dumped over a foot of snow on Northeast Ohio in 2005 - and my efforts back then to find information about the resulting electric outage on local stations proved futile. I still listen to radio in the car, but at home? No. Like many, I now simply go to an online radio station.

The parallel is that this was exactly what my son was suggesting I do with TV; drop cable and start picking up everything we watch at home from the internet. Sounds crazy, doesn't it? It took a while to get up the courage, but I'm finding out that it's an enlightening move.

Last week we had our cable TV disconnected. The first day was filled with as much angst as when I walked away from cigarettes. The second day, I fumbled with the computer in search of getting some type of visual on the screen. I admit this was a challenge because my fingers were shaking - withdrawal has its symptoms.

By day three, though, the wife and I were watching "BBC News" along with "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart." Shuffling between the iPad and PC, we started pulling in programs and movies that were formerly found on our cable package (which we were about to be charged $150+/month with the latest increase).

It's now been a week without cable, four more days of exploring video on the internet. I've also had time to adjust in using the PC for program searches. Having the PC connected to our flat screen TV makes this as comfortable as previous years of viewing.

In all, there's little difference between what was and what is. We do have to wait a couple of hours each night for NBC Nighly News to be posted online. But, after 8pm EST, Bryan Williams sits on our screen as if we were watching the network feed.

Now, without a phone line into our home, with no cable bringing 500 channels of redundant programs, a radio that sits behind me gathering dust, I'm contemplating dropping the cable-provided internet connection and going with a 4G package (like my father-in-law did six months ago).

As stated above this isn't a warning of doom, and it's not a prognostication that a shift to all internet communications is going to happen in the near future. This is, though, an example of what many youth now believe: There's little need for traditional media in a world that's as connected as ours has become.

Drop cable TV? Are you crazy? Stop listening to radio? What's that you're smoking? Cancel the newspaper delivery? Oh, did that in 2005!

Traditional media is not in any way threatened by what's described above, at least not today. But I'm now wondering, what's it going to be like in 2015 and beyond.

If you work in the radio industry, that question should also be circulating in your thoughts today.

Pulling the plug on traditional media is not as much of a big deal as you'd expect. I know, because I can now claim to be one who has pulled the plug - and it doesn't hurt as much as expected.

On this the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, please spend a minute reading these words.

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