The Future of Radio

I remember when I couldn’t seem to listen to any radio program without hearing the benefits of high-definition, the fabled, mythical, ever-present HD! At first, I looked at the technology as a natural product life cycle – the newer, faster, shinier version of the same-old, same-old. The more I heard these ads, though, the more I tried to look at the reason for this focus. If the tech was really so affordable (some portable receivers start as low as $50), as the ads claimed, why is the radio industries pushing for adoption so hard? Is media in trouble? John Bergmayer, staff attornery at Public Knowledge, seems to think so (http://www.publicknowledge.org/blog/despite-riaanab-unholy-alliance-force-fm-radi). He calls it an “obsolete technology no one wants.” Arbitron disagrees. They say that over 239 million people in the US alone listened to radio every week – nearly 7 million more than tuned in during the same period last year. (http://arbitron.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=43&item=693) So if radio is so prominent, why is everyone getting all worked up about this topic now? Well, there’s several reasons, and, of course, they all come to money. The RIAA has been trying to get radio to pay up for a while now. The current laws in place have the radio stations pay the songwriters, not the actual recording artists, for the music they play on air. Radio, of course, has been fighting to keep things the way they are – or at least at a decent level of profit. They may have even found a way to compromise by helping both themselves and the music industry: they plan to bring another booming industry into the mix – cellular phone manufacturers. The two groups are trying to get Congress to create a law that cell phones and other portable devices have FM transmitters built in (http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2010/08/cell-phone-makers-could-cave-on-fm-radiosif-price-is-right.ars). What does this mean for the advertising industry? Well, at 4.6 BILLION phones in the world right now (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/02/15/business/main6209772.shtml), we’re getting close to a saturated market. With nearly 75% of children between 12-17 with a phone (http://www.answerbag.com/q_view/2252291), and the vast majority of adults owning at least one cell phone, the potential reach is enormous. For an industry that is often speculated to be on their way out, this looks like a pretty lucrative plan about to be put forth. For me, though, I think I’ll stick with my Sirius!

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