August 7, 2006

The future of AM/FM radio?

How to keep your radio station's slice, in the ever shrinking media pie.

You remember the Media Pie? New Zealand has been long overdue to move into the digital download domain, perhaps because there's been no firm light at the end of the tunnel. A big unknown, and thats not what you build corporations on. Radio can exist in NZ for now, they way it is.

Portable devices like iPods are set to double in sales by 2009, and by then, Microsoft will have their own device out there as well. Kiwi iPod owners have had half the package so far - that is - we get the device, but not its full capability, namely the iTunes shop. I hope the NZ music industry will wake up when they compare their profits to our neighbours in Australia. Our artists are impacting there, so I'd think that'd be a good place to start comparisons, in relation to potential.

Apple have struck a deal recently with Ford, General Motors and Mazda, in which iPod input plugs will become standard. As you'd expect, Digital Radio in the US are gonna feel the bite, as traditional radio has. When these massive car companies filter their models down through the rest of the iPod capable world (NZ included), we will be able to do away with those shitty iTrip's and plug straight into the dash.

This means less listening time to any form of radio - AM/FM or digital. So how will our existing radio industry survive this, considering that the future is making itself more and more apparent every damn day?

Radio needs to go back to being live. Right now radio. The only way someone will consume radio, is for live events. Breaking news, sports coverage, live social events etc. At the moment, iPods are only capable of playing back files that have been downloaded onto them. I suspect Apple won't take long to build in a tuner and for people to use that, they've got to have a reason to listen.

Radio may only have one real chance to capture an iPod/portable device consumer. Radio has to prove its worth for one to consider it a valuable addition to ones "very personal iPod", otherwise its game over. Music stations will thin out massively and the NZ music industry will very very likely have to bite the bullet, rebuild and go online as its major income earner. Live niche radio broadcasts will be an obvious attraction (the original purpose of radio, really), and just wait till iPods become internet capable and streaming becomes an option, then we'll see who listens to what!

I see myself writing these things, in disbelief. It seems all too far-fetched to ever happen, but every day its becoming a reality, somehow.

Its interesing just how portable media devices like the iPod, have become the catalyst (maybe a baby to something bigger?) in the technology revolution, and how it is changing our traditional media landscape, often faster than we can keep up.

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2 comments:

Smarty said...

You're right Richard. However this simply means that broadcasters need to make sure their content is what makes the radio station worth listening to.

While the punter can get their music from anywhere, they can't get the entertainment / information factor and we all HOPE with our mortgages and family front of mind that what announcers say + music = good listening.

We also have to get onboard with the podcasting - if you can't beat em, join em!

Richard said...

Podcasting is definitely a way ahead for radio, as "content providers" in this very real future.

I remember way back as a kid, taping Sunday night talkback on bFM and sharing the cassettes around with my friends at school. They would do the rounds for about a month before it'd get back to me. The idea is still there, this is just an updated way of that - not to mention the playground just turned GLOBAL - and radio really should be using this as another way of promoting itself and measuring listenership.

Thats good news for the mortgage.