January 12, 2005

Beginning of the buckle

To use a really horrible metaphor, will radio survive the Technology Tsunami?

An ongoing idea in my petite brain for a while now, has been the future of radio. Specifically, a common tune-in and listen to a DJ give away a CD, talks a bit, plays music "radio" while I listen in rush hour. I give a definition because it gives pause to the question of "what is radio" and "is that correct anymore". The answer is not moot yet but will be in time. Internet streaming is a great example of a challenger to these questions, ultimately rejected as a form of radio.

I read today that virtually every NAB radio station (and non-affiliates) in America are about to air a 6 week radio campaign (worth $28 million so far) to promote.. radio. The big sell is "Radio: You Hear It Here First" voiced by moderately famous singer/songwriters and rappers. They will explain how it was radio not iPods or the Internet that gave them their first break.
Excuse me Mr Ludacris, Sir, but dude - yes radio gave you your break, but dog, you can't expect radio to keep your boat afloat in this changing age can you? Check yo self.

In 5 years (as Stern boldly says), Digital radio will be the future. Wether that's true or not, the dynamic of radio will change at that time. The medium still very much the same. Who would like to know that our existing radio stations are already suffering from networking backlash? It's teething say the bigwigs, and they're right. Why else is TRN's Coast expanding so quickly, why else is TRN filling frequencies with brands like Flava and Hauraki?, Canwest's Rock/Edge/RadioLive etc etc? Why else are these two companies making deals left right and centre with private and independent frequency owners?
Its mainly about filling your ears with your favourite wallpaper (or marketshare). Advertising fuelled wallpaper. Sometimes funny and interesting wallpaper, but wallpaper nonetheless.

Wake Up Call:
The next generation of radio listener (by that, I mean the next 'target market') are in their 20's and media savvy, like totally dude, psyche. An informed lot. They clearly see the catch in a box of promotional cardboard gold bars. They're wildly aware of the real reason why many radio promotions in summer are at the hotspots, and why iceblocks and drinks are the free giveaways today.

Radio that targets this next generation listener will miss, and miss and miss their ace, not because these people are deliberately avoiding or defusing anything presented (although some will because of the common hatred for radio ads), the truth of it all may be the fact that radio can no longer be their everything. They no longer hear a song for the first time from radio. No longer their primary news source or entertainment portal. Radio becomes less of a priority, because we gain more gadgets for sure, but we never gain any more time with the darned things. Quality time is becoming extinct. TSL will become extremely low.

i-Pods ARE the start of it, or more to the point - Portable Digital Audio is. The internet - secondary. We're all buying into it now, and don't think for one minute that Im saying its bad, coz I think its quite the opposite. When Sky TV started, it was Movies, Sport and News. Wow Nana. These days its around 100 freaking channels of icelandic paint drying competitions, russian pole-vaulting on stilts, MTV, and reality. My point is, there's much more variety, more to choose from.

When free to air TV goes digital, TV will have the same issue. These products that serve society will change and suddenly become products for society's lifestyle, rather than public interest or requirement, like the 6 O'clock news.

Before I digress, and to wrap this thought from my tiny brain, radio will just be one vague Lassard-like* element of our lives. It already is today, but with the Technology Tsunami about to hit radio hard this year, next year - whenever Digital Radio is King, the term 'radio' of our yesterdays will die, although in a Blaze Of Glory no doubt for the current X+Y generations.

*awaiting approval by Urban Dictionary

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