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August 30, 2014

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09/03/07 Radio In 10 Years: Do You Really Want The Truth?
What will radio be like in 10 years? I am continually asked that question — from radio boards I sit on, at speaking engagements, and from our readers. Recently, a consulting client asked whether, based on statements I’ve made in editorials about radio’s future, he should sell his radio stations for fear that new technologies will kill radio. I told him no — if he follows my advice, never.

Radio has been my mistress for my entire career, and I still love and believe in her. I was told I was wrong when I predicted radio consolidation five years before it happened. My predictions for HD Radio and satellite radio were deemed technically impossible. Don’t shoot the messenger, though. Maybe I’m wrong this time. But here's how I see radio in 10 years:

1. Radio won’t be publicly held, because it won’t command the growth needed to keep investors excited. Its perception as a dying medium will foster less interest and more privatization.
2. Big companies will get smaller. Focus will be on the 80/20 Rule: Fewer stations make the required profit, and the rest are nothing more than a management headache.
3. Radio won’t run “commercials.” The :30 and:60 will go away in television, too, replaced by brief mentions designed to drive web traffic, and by sponsorships and promotions.
4. Radio listening will occur with those age 45+ who grew up on radio. Radio did not cultivate younger listeners, who were seduced by other distractions, and radio lost them.
5. Radio will be strongest among Hispanic listeners, who will be among radio's most loyal, and whose numbers will have grown exponentially.
6. Political correctness will drive firings of anyone with an opinion. Free speech is a thing of the past.
7. All national advertising will be direct response, and big brands won’t use radio or television because the Internet provides such powerful direct connectivity and micro targetability.
8. Satellite radio will dominate “radio” listening, and online streaming via WiFi and personal-device listening will dominate “audio” consumption.
9. Anyone in the radio business (and all business) not reaching personal media devices with video offerings will be considered irrelevant to all demographics.
10. Thanks to more granular, electronic ratings information from the Portable People Meter, radio “hype” and contesting for call-letter recall will disappear. Promotion will be about getting people to listen instead of getting them to write down call letters. This will result in more honest and broader radio programming, which could have a positive impact on developing new listeners.
11 The word “radio” — becoming as passé as the word “records” — will be replaced by “audio” and “audio devices.”

None of these things is bad for radio. They are simply a reality, which — if not embraced proactively — will hurt the medium. Negative trends, whether driven by our own lack of understanding or by stubbornly clinging to the past, can be reversed. We’re in a new era, which could be financial boom or bust. How we react now will determine our life in 10 years — if not sooner.



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