Radio Disrupted

Amid all the media disrupted by digital technology, radio seems to get the least notice. But a panel yesterday morning for Bill Sobel's New York Media Information Exchange Group showed the upheaval. Already under assault from consolidation, radio broadcasters find their bread & butter-- news, information, traffic and weather -- nibbled away by an on-demand digital universe of Web, mobile and even phone reports.

The smart radio folks realize the Internet is simply an extension, and a way to solidify the communities they've created. Joel Smernoff of Paltalk told of video chat rooms that let Opie & Anthony fans not only interact with and see each other, but that have also led to meat-space meetups. How's that for creating 'brand loyalty'?

Meanwhile, moderator and radio personality Paul Harris of St. Louis station KMOX lamented the competition and fragmentation the Internet brings. NPR's Ira Flatow said he was looking for sponsors for his Science Friday podcasts.

And consultant Denise Oliver sounded the death knell for radio by noting that young people no longer need to "listen to radio to find out what's popular," as they did when she was in her teens more than 20 years ago.

Shelly Palmer, in his column today for Jack Myers Media Business Report (where I also write), writes about the panel and says radio will be profitable "as long as they keep putting AM/FM radios in cars and as long as people have to drive to and from work."

But then he points out that the day when it's wireless Internet connection that goes into cars (connected perhaps to WiMax) isn't too far off. "The propagation of RF signals in the AM and FM bands will die. What will replace it? Nothing. Consumers will have alternative means of consuming the very same content on, what they perceive to be, very similar devices," he writes. I agree.

It also will bring a change in programming as niches get deepened and broadened, and every program gains national and international reach.

Addendum: The whole discussion struck me as oddly "old media," in many ways. I have trouble thinking in one medium. To have panels about "radio" or "TV" or "newspapers" seems archaic, perhaps arcane in a world when a simple blog has all three. OK, a "blog", this blog, is a medium. But it's got text, video, audio, links, photos, widgets, ads, and more. I have created video, Podcasts & Flash applications. To compete today, you need to be conversant in all of it, I believe.

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