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Radio is dead; Long live radio

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Radio is officially dead, especially when wireless internet access comes to your car.
–Seth Godin

When disruptive technologies comes along it sometimes requires us to look more deeply at the traditional concepts we have and the terms (words) that we use to describe these concepts.  There are many changes taking place simultaneously having complex interactions that no one can predict in advance.  Complicating all this is human reflexivity in response to technology and cultural changes.  What’s happening?  We are all living in a maelstrom of change.  For some, it is the biggest opportunity of their lives.  For others, it is nothing but fear, trepidation, and avoidance.  Change initiates the great sorting out of people and companies – an act of differentiating individuals and companies, one from another.

So what about Radio?  What is “radio” anyway?

Seth wrote the above in the context of Podcasting back in 2005.  There is a segment of the time of day that each of us prefers to listen to media that is limited to an aural presentation.  One of these places is your car.  When the wireless internet comes to your car will “radio” be dead?

When wireless internet comes to your car in a “taken for granted reality” sort of way what will take a hit for sure is your traditional AM/FM radio.  What will also take a hit is your local radio stations.  Local radio stations along with the traditional delivery mechanism of limited reach (transmitters, antennas, and power) may be in a fight for their life.  The FCC granted your local radio station a license to operate at a certain frequency within a certain limited spectrum of available frequencies.  They (your local radio station) have a privileged position due to scarcity of available frequency spectrum and the reach of the traditional distribution mechanism.  You (the consumer; the listener) don’t have much of a choice when listening to your AM/FM radio in the car.  Locality and limited choices may trump content as a preference for your listening.

What if the spectrum of  available frequencies for AM/FM radio was infinite?  And what if no one needed a license from the FCC to broadcast into that radio in your car?  What if the reach of your radio was not just the local stations but stations anywhere in the world?  What if, as a listener, you had infinite choices?

Well, that is essentially what you will have when the wireless internet comes to your car in a taken-for-granted sort of way.  And, as Seth remarks, Radio – as traditionally understood – will be officially dead.

But let’s think more deeply about this.

The AM/FM radio in your car is just an end-device.  Far from being dead, Radio as an aural presentation by content providers will celebrate the most liberating event since the advent of broadcasting.  Local radio stations will lose their privileged position as granted them by the FCC made possible by the scarcity of frequency spectrum.  When wireless internet in your car becomes as common as your traditional AM/FM radio then you will literally have tens of thousands of radio stations to listen to all around the world. 

Ruling the airwaves

The traditional idea of a radio station will be challenged.  Why not a radio station which is really one person?  This is the capability made possible by podcasting.  Radio stations are radio stations in the traditional sense only because the large amount of capital one needed to start one.  The cost to podcast on the internet is only the cost of your internet connection and that is available to everyone.  It is the democracy of broadcasting.  The idea of a Pirate Radio Station is obsolete.  Anyone can get the word out – for free – and without breaking the law.  (Read more)

On a traditional AM/FM radio the tuning dial is what you use to select a radio station.  What is your tuning dial in the age of internet distribution of aural media?  How about an RSS feed?  Or a number of RSS feeds?  Will you tune your car radio using Apple iTunes?

The biggest opportunity for Radio since the advent of broadcasting

Radio as aural media broadcasting is not dead.  Just the opposite.  Internet (wireless)  distribution  is the biggest opportunity for radio since the advent of broadcasting.  What is near death is a specific end-device called a radio which operates only on specific frequencies that were known as the AM/FM broadcast band and assigned by the FCC.

The Take

What’s out

  1. End-devices traditionally referred to as AM/FM radios
  2. Analog
  3. Separate devices for different media types (television, radio)
  4. The privileged position of local radio stations (RF broadcast reach and frequency assignment by the FCC)
  5. Limited broadcast spectrum
  6. A license to broadcast
  7. Limited choices for listeners
  8. Appointment listening.  Be there or you miss it
  9. Country culture
  10. Luddites – individuals as well as corporations
  11. Local-limited reach for radio broadcasters
  12. Legacy RF technology and engineering

What’s in

  1. The wireless internet distribution of digitally encoded aural content traditionally referred to as Radio
  2. The digitization of all media
  3. Converged devices – one device capability of decoding and presenting  any digital media
  4. Global replaces local-limited availability distribution of aural content
  5. Infinite broadcast spectrum
  6. Broadcasting open to everyone.  No license; no gatekeeper;
  7. Nearly infinite choices for listeners
  8. Podcasts of aural content available on-demand.
  9. Cosmopolitan culture
  10. Survival and flourishing of the most adaptable – individuals as well as corporations
  11. Global reach for any radio broadcaster – local or international or personal/private
  12. Innovation in RF engineering and protocols related to the wireless internet

Caught in the Maelstrom

  1. Local radio stations that do not stream content on the internet
  2. Any radio station with high infrastructure costs for RF broadcast
  3. Content.  Content is king.  Physical geographic locality of content productin will no longer be an advantage
  4. Too many choices is stressful and disruptive to many people,  (The great sorting out; test of adaptability and judgement)
  5. A cultural’s sense of identity and priority in the global distribution of  information and other-culture awareness (pluralism)
  6. The competition for, and allocation of, RF spectrum in the context of scarcity.  (read the tragedy of the commons and rivalous resources)

Radio is dead.  Long live Radio!


From Barrons

Read about Creative Destruction

See it in action

Written by frrl

April 8, 2011 at 10:11 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with ,

One Response

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  1. I already said this 3 years ago. Got laughed at by my boss. Said we should start internet channels…same result. I, I, I, I! dammit!

    Ron Hyatt

    April 10, 2011 at 5:55 am

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