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Terrestrial Broadcast Radio: The end of an era?

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Terrestrial Broadcast Radio: The end of an era?


If you are a regular reader of this blog it should be no secret – I have an Apple iPod Touch and I am diggin’ it.  Before you spend several hundred dollars on a Wi-Fi radio you might want to see what the Apple iPod Touch – or some of your existing technology – can offer you.

What is Wi-Fi Radio?

“Imagine listening to more than 5,000 radio stations from all over the world in a radio in your home, office or hotel.

Internet radio stations offer an endless audio entertainment. Some of it is a simultaneous broadcast from NPR, ESPN, the BBC and so on. Others are Internet-only stations that serve both mainstream and niche tastes. The variety is staggering, all of it is free, and it is largely uncluttered by ads.

You tune into radio shows just like you have for decades, but the antennas of the radios are internal Wi-Fi that connect to a wireless home network. The reception is excellent: the wi-fi radio can pull in thousands of Internet radio stations from all over the world, without a single pop of static. It can also play podcasts, a copious source of free, generally ad-free prerecorded audio programs. The radio comes with several Internet stations already listed in the menus, sorted either by genre (Comedy, Kids, Latin, Hip-hop and so on) or by geographical location. At the service platform – you can easily add new stations of your choosing.”

What’s at the Apple Application Store for Wi-Fi Radio?

ipodRadio_iHeartRadioThere are an amazing number of free applications in the App Store for the iPhone and the iPod Touch that can get you linked into Wi-Fi Radio.  Of course, for the Touch, you need to have a home wireless network.  If you are going to use the Touch as a Wi-Fi Radio appliance surrogate then get a docking station.  My 50 Watt iPod Docking station was $50 – a good buy.

These are just a few of the Application that can link you into WiFi Radio

  • Shoutcast
  • Stitcher
  • iHeartRadio
  • FlyCast
  • NPR Mobile

All of these applications are free to download and use.  These applications provide you the capability to listen to literally thousands of radio stations.  The challenge of all of these applications is how to organize and present thousands of radio stations and internet streams in a usable form for search and selection.

ipodRadio_ShoutCastSome of the applications organize the stations by genre; some by city then genre; some apps organize by categories (sports, technology, world news); one application is focused on public radio broadcasts and archives of those broadcasts.  Some applications will tell you how many people are listening to the stream.

A clever feature in iHeartRadio is the “Shake It” city and genre selector.  You “Shake it” and two lists roll – and where she stops – nobody knows.  You can choose to listen to that city and that genre of try your luck again.

The benefit of the iPod Touch – small size and portability

No matter what audio stream you choose, the real advantage of the Apple iPod Touch is the small size and portability.  Choose your favorite station and listen via the built-in speaker or use the ear buds.  In either case, you can carry the Touch in your pocket or place it on the table where ever you are.  The device is small and portable.  You can’t do that with the Wi-Fi radio pictured at the top of this posting.

No Apple iPod Touch?  Then use your PC or Mac

If you don’t have a small portable device on which you can listen to Wi-Fi radio then the next best thing is to use your PC or Mac desktop or laptop.  Again, no use to buy the $159 Wi-Fi radio appliance.

The big boys

ipodRadio_RecivaLogo The grand daddy web site of streaming radio/audio stations is Reciva.

You can get to Reciva via this link –

Registration is free.  You can listen without registering.  If you register you can build a list of favorite stations and listen with one click rather than searching for the station each time you go to the site.

How many audio streams are on Reciva?

Listen to any station, anywhere in the World  Reciva brings the world of Internet radio into your home. We provide access to an extremely diverse range of Internet radio stations from around the world, with broadcasts from nearly every country on the planet. We provide both live and on-demand (“listen again”) content and we support Real Audio, Windows and MP3 streams.”

Site Information: Our directory contains 16747 stations (and 21242 on-demand streams) in 280 locations and 67 genres.  86,145 registered users.

Reciva by Genre’s

|60s |70s |80s |90s |Adult |Adult Contemporary |Alternative |Ambient |Bluegrass |Blues |Bollywood |Christian |Christian Contemporary |Classic Rock |Classical |College |Comedy |Contemporary |Country |Dance |Discussion |Drum & Bass |Easy |Electronica |Experimental |Folk |Gospel |Greek |Hip Hop |Indian |Indie |Indie Rock |Jazz |Jungle |Kids |Latin Hits |New Age |News |News Talk |News Updates |Oldies |Pop |Public |Punk |R&B |Rap |Reggae |Religious |Rock |Soft Rock |Spanish |Sports |Talk |Top 40 |Unknown |Varied |World |World Africa |World Asia |World Caribbean |World Europe |World Mediterranean |World Middle East |World Tropical

Reciva By Location – Shortwave listeners, please take note

|Afghanistan |Albania |Algeria |American Samoa |Andorra |Angola |Anguilla |Antigua and Barbuda |Argentina |Armenia |Aruba |Australia |Austria |Azerbaijan |Bahamas |Bahrain |Bangladesh |Barbados |Belarus |Belgium |Belize |Benin |Bermuda |Bhutan |Bolivia |Bosnia and Herzegovina |Brazil |British Virgin Islands |Brunei |Bulgaria |Burkina Faso |Burma |Burundi |Cambodia |Cameroon |Canada |Cape Verde |Cayman Islands |Chad |Chile |China |Colombia |Comoros |Cook Islands |Costa Rica |Cote d’Ivoire |Croatia |Cuba |Cyprus |Czech Republic |Democratic Republic of the Congo |Denmark |Dominica |Dominican Republic |Ecuador |Egypt |El Salvador |Eritrea |Estonia |Ethiopia |Europe |Falkland Islands |Faroe Islands |Federated States of Micronesia |Fiji |Finland |France |French Guiana |French Polynesia |Gabon |Gaza Strip |Georgia |Germany |Ghana |Gibraltar |Greece |Grenada |Guadeloupe |Guam |Guatemala |Guernsey |Guinea |Guinea-Bissau |Guyana |Haiti |Holy See (Vatican City) |Honduras |Hong Kong |Hungary |Iceland |India |Indonesia |Internet Only |Iran |Iraq |Ireland |Isle of Man |Israel |Italy |Jamaica |Japan |Jersey |Jordan |Kazakhstan |Kenya |Kiribati |Korea |Kuwait |Kyrgyzstan |Laos |Latvia |Lebanon |Liechtenstein |Lithuania |Luxembourg |Macau |Macedonia |Madagascar |Malawi |Malaysia |Maldives |Mali |Malta |Martinique |Mauritania |Mauritius |Mayotte |Mexico |Middle East |Moldova |Monaco |Mongolia |Montserrat |Morocco |Mozambique |Namibia |Nepal |Netherlands |Netherlands Antilles |New Caledonia |New Zealand |Nicaragua |Nigeria |Norfolk Island |Northern Mariana Islands |Norway |Oman |Pakistan |Palau |Panama |Paraguay |Peru |Philippines |Poland |Portugal |Puerto Rico |Qatar |Republic of Korea |Republic of the Congo |Reunion |Romania |Russia |Rwanda |Saint Helena |Saint Kitts and Nevis |Saint Lucia |Saint Pierre and Miquelon |Saint Vincent and the Grenadines |Samoa |San Marino |Saudi Arabia |Senegal |Serbia and Montenegro |Seychelles |Sierra Leone |Singapore |Slovakia |Slovenia |Solomon Islands |South Africa |South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands |Spain |Sri Lanka |Sudan |Suriname |Swaziland |Sweden |Switzerland |Syria |Taiwan |Tajikistan |Tanzania |Thailand |Togo |Trinidad and Tobago |Tromelin Island |Tunisia |Turkey |Turks and Caicos Islands |Uganda |UK |Ukraine |United Arab Emirates |Uruguay |USA |Uzbekistan |Vanuatu |Venezuela |Vietnam |Virgin Islands |Wallis and Futuna |West Bank |Yemen |Zambia |Zimbabwe

What is the future of Terrestrial Broadcast radio?

So all of this begs the question – What is the future of Terrestrial Radio?

This blog is being written near Chicago, Illinois.  The 50,000 Watt blow torch AM radio station in the area is WLS.  On a business trip to Detroit Michigan I could not hear WLS on a radio near or in Detroit.  Fifty thousand watts and all the infrastructure to produce 50,000 Watts of RF energy could not make the trip 300 miles from Chicago.

But, in the hotel room with wireless internet I was able to listen to WLS in crystal clarity on my laptop – via Reciva.

The New Paradigm

Way back in 1997 Clayton Christensen of Harvard Business School wrote a book: “The Innovator’s Dilemma When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail”.

From the work of Christensen came a number of new terms.  Among these were “Disruptive Technology” and “Disruptive Innovation”.

… a disruptive innovation is a technology, process, or business model that brings to a market a much more affordable product or service that is much simpler to use. It enables more consumers in that market to afford and/or have the skill to use the product or service. The change caused by such an innovation is so big that it eventually replaces, or disrupts, the established approach to providing that product or service.

Of course the disruptive technology is the Internet.  And what it disrupts, in this case, is the traditional delivery/distribution mechanism of “Radio”.  The term Radio is now in quotes as the disruptive technology put’s the term into question.  What is radio?

TerrRad_QuoteRaisonWhat do we mean by “Radio”?

It is important to make a distinction between the medium and the message.  Traditionally, these have been conflated.  Ten or twenty years ago when one heard the term “Radio” it generally denoted a delivery mechanism and an appliance that was designed specifically to receive that delivery.  What was delivered was a variety of audio content based on the market served.

So, “radio” mostly signified a form of delivery.  Shortwave Radio was also about delivery and also denoted a special type of content or programming.  You can read the sidebar’s for the special focus on Shortwave Radio.

So what happens when you radically separate content from delivery mechanism?  What happens when you free the content from the constraint of a particular delivery mechanism?


The game changer is all about the opportunity of radical change in distribution and the radical reduction of cost of distribution.  Prior to the public Internet, radio RF was the only viable global delivery mechanism.  Distribution of content by RF can be expensive.  There are huge capital and infrastructure maintenance costs in RF distribution of any content targeted to a global audience.

When I posted the information on the radio station WLW – a 500,000 blow torch –  I found an article with an anecdotal comment that the street lights dimmed with this station went to full power.  That gives you some idea of the power required to run a one-half million watt radio station – the cost of distribution of the stations audio content.

Cost of distribution

With the Internet, what is the cost of distribution?  If WLW wanted to distribute it’s audio content via the internet what would be the ratio of costs of Internet distribution vs distribution via 500,000 Watts of RF?  The difference in cost is staggering.

What happens when the cost of distribution is reduced by many orders of magnitude and all distribution is worldwide by default?

It disrupts markets.  For example, WLS programs to the local Chicago area market within a competitive space of other local radio stations.  But what happens when it is as easy for a listener in Chicago to use an Internet Radio to listen to any radio station in any city in the United States or any city in the World?  The competitive landscape for WLS programming has now changed radically.  Geographic boundaries are erased.  WLS competitors are no longer limited to local radio stations.

The same disruption of distribution is now well known to newspapers and magazines.  Traditional newspapers and magazines are now affectionately known as the “dead tree edition”.  No longer do local newspapers compete only on a local basis only.  A person with a internet connection can view newspapers from a thousand different cities.

Who wants to wait for a magazine to be published on paper and delivered to your door step or the local news stand?  Again, its about distribution – cost and speed.  If I can get the information at the speed of light why would I prefer a delivery mechanism that only delays the information?

And the US Post Office?  The medium on which information rides is slow, cumbersome, and inefficient.  Again, I can send e-mail at the speed of light at nearly zero cost.  The US Post Office will charge me 40+ cents and take days to deliver my message.  What is the future for this business model and service?

New Vision; New Mission; New Goals; New Strategy

Let’s get back to radio.  If the playing field has been leveled on distribution so that no radio station has an advantage on distribution and geographic boundaries are erased then what remains?  Content.

Traditional shortwave radio stations will most likely be at a greater disadvantage than local stations.  The unique programming of traditional shortwave stations could be seen as irrelevant post Cold War. The advent of ubiquitous global communications over the past decade made possible by the internet has made the mystery of other cultures evaporate.  What is the reason for the existence  of shortwave radio?

“Radio” minus its unique distribution mechanism (RF) will collapse into the aggregate category of “content provider”.  These “radio stations” will enter a new competitive landscape along with “television”.  Like “radio” traditional “television” stations separated from their unique mechanism of distribution will also collapse into the aggregate category of “content provider”.  The same for traditional newspaper and magazine publishing – they are all (merely) “content provider’s” when stripped of their unique delivery and distribution mechanisms.

Digital Convergence of all content providers

Once distribution and delivery from all content providers converge in the digital internet pipe there is nothing to distinguish between “radio”, “television”, “newspaper”, “magazine” or anything else that was once distinguished by the method of delivery and specialized appliances for reception.

This creates a new competitive space for all content providers where there was none before.  This will cause all content providers to re/think and re/invent themselves.  At least it will present to them this opportunity.

What business are you in?

For these content/programming providers to redefine themselves might be the key to their survival.  How an organization or company defines itself limits them or positions them for new opportunities.  For example, at the turn of the 20’th century what business were Railroads in?  If Railroads had the idea that they were in the Transportation business as opposed to the Railroad business (=tracks and engines) then how much better would they be positioned at the dawn of aviation.

What about the Oil companies?  Are Oil companies in the oil business or are they in the “Energy business”?  If Oil companies understand themselves as fundamentally in the Energy business then they are well positioned for the future beyond the nations dependence on oil.

The same analogy can be applied to traditional radio stations.  For a radio station – what business is it in?

New Competitors

There will be some surprises.  A classic book on corporate competitive strategy is Michael Porters “Competitive Strategy”.  In that book Porter lays out five competitive forces that determine the intensity of competition of a particular market or industry.  One of those 5 forces is the threat of new entrants.  Some of the barriers to entry of new competitors are: high capital requirements and proprietary technology.

Decades ago the barriers to entry of new competitors into broadcast radio included huge capital requirements.  How much does it cost to build out the infrastructure for a new 50,000 Watt radio station?  Today in 2009, anyone with the technical knowledge of a high school student can set up a audio stream on Shout Cast and make the stream available globally.  Capital cost is negligible and technology is simple and free.  The barriers to entry in this area are nearly erased.

So the surprise might be new competitors that incumbents have never considered.  The same surprise was experienced by traditional brick and mortar bookstores when Jeff Bezos and bust onto the scene in 1995.  The business model of selling books at a discount on-line (enabled by the disruptive technology of the Internet) caught traditional booksellers off guard.  It took them many years to catch up to a competitor who entered the market from outside the traditional bookseller industry.

Ding – What do we do now?

One of my favorite quotes from Apple CEO Steve Jobs is: “I want to put a ding in the Universe”

Well, someone did, and it’s called the Internet.  Probably the most disruptive technology of the 20’th century.


So forget all this.  Let the corporate strategists figure it all out.
Let’s just have some fun listening to the “radio” – or whatever it is now.

If you have an Apple iPhone or iPod Touch – iHeartRadio, ShoutCast, FlyCast, or Stitcher in the App Store – free.
If you have a PC or Mac desktop or laptop – is the hottest game in town.


The sidebar is from this article from a decade ago in Monitoring Times (January 1999) –  To their credit International Broadcasters were thinking about disruptive technologies and re/evaluating what business they were in against a changing and uncertain environment.
A Tuning Point for International Broadcasting: what does the future hold for shortwave.

Clayton Christensen’s web site –

A (old)  classic book on Corporate Competitive Strategy –
Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors (Hardcover) –  Michael E. Porter

One of the best books I have read on how to deal with strategic uncertainty.
The Strategy Paradox: Why committing to success leads to failure (and what to do about it)  by Michael E. Raynor

More on WLW the 500,000 Watt blow torch of  Cincinnati

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.


Written by frrl

May 14, 2009 at 6:57 am

3 Responses

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  1. Technology is something that has its hands over every aspect of business and life. I recently visited and it provided me a wealth of information about my competitors in the IT industry. It helped me with my business planning. I’d highly recommend it.

    Industry expert

    May 22, 2009 at 1:37 am

    • Here are a few more sites for competitive analysis and trends I used to do competitive analysis against the Porter model for an e-business incubator in the dot com era. We had a corporate subscription to Hoovers which was reasonably priced. Hoovers is an excellent quick resource. Hoovers also provides some free content.

      McKinsey has a free newsletter and some free content.
      The McKinsey Quarterly

      Gartner has some free content as well:

      Of course, for all these companies, the free content is a tease to get you to get a subscription or use their consulting services (which is the real value). Using these services can give a company a clear competitive advantage. Knowledge is power – and a competitive edge. This is what these companies provide if you know how to effectively use their services.


      May 22, 2009 at 4:55 am

  2. Thank you for teaching me an important lesson. Your posting among many others continues shaping my perception, attitude, and personal philosophy.

    I’m reminded of Toffler’s Future Shock and Power Shift both books suggested a future sculpted by the speed of information and its transformative power. It appears that businesses built from the post World War II paradigm did not grasp the implication of technological capacity such as the Internet.

    Today, I’m connected to a factory that can produce a tee-shirt for example of my own design then manufacture limited runs. I enjoyed reading about RF delivery of content and the impact of Wifi going into the future. Are production costs approaching zero? I read somewhere a few months ago, “Analog dollars, digital cents.”

    Thank you for stimulating my thoughts and expanding my reading list as well!

    Scot KA3DRR

    Scot R. Morrison

    May 14, 2009 at 11:27 pm

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