On the Wrong Track

In this Inside Music Media post, Jerry Del Colliano quotes radio consultant Alan Burns, who concludes “radio is in danger of losing its future adult audience”:

Note Burns said “future adult audience” not young audience which radio has arguably already lost. This notion is not new to those of you who meet here at this space every day. We’ve been warning of these dire consequences for years as radio companies ignored their product for foolish cutbacks.

What Jerry says about commercial radio and its cost-cutting pink slips also pertains to public radio, flushing their budgets with HD channels and canned content from on high while cutting loose local shows and talent and replacing them with playlists:

Radio is not a main attraction on a cell phone which is why Steve Jobs has been stingy with putting the FM chip in his devices.

For some reason we in radio have a hard time seeing that consumers have changed. We are still trying to offer them what we’re comfortable offering them — 24/7 broadcast radio.

I agree with Burns when he says, “the more like a jukebox we become, the more we’ll lose audience to digital alternatives.”

Absolutely.

Yet those of us who believe this are already speaking to the converted. Even as we speak, more morning talent is being cut loose to make way for voice tracking.

The real story?

1. Personalities like the ones being fired by radio stations are the antidote to iTunes. Especially if these personalities are music trendsetters. The very thing that differentiates an iPod from a radio is the thing radio executives apparently do not value enough to keep them employed — on-air, live and local personalities.
2. Radio as it is now configured is not a major influence on musical tastes as it once was when it had no digital competition and before filesharing. Come on — playing the same tunes over and over again ad nauseam does not directly address the more potent competition — music discovery by peer group and online websites. Pandora and peer-to-peer filesharing is today’s music discovery not top 40 radio.
3. On-demand listeners will continually opt for short form “radio” whatever that turns out to be. In other words, entertainment that has a beginning, middle and end and that can be carried around on mobile devices or eventually available from the cloud anywhere. It can be consumed on-demand. This is anti-radio 101. Keep fighting this and in a few years some consultant will tell you what we just said right here.
4. Local is what is missing from radio. An iPod is impersonal. When iTunes updates its music offerings, it’s the big Apple out there for everyone to see and hear…. iTunes is good for what it is, radio doesn’t need to aspire to a poor imitation.

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