It’s audio, dammit - and the sooner people inside the “radio” business recognize what a fast-growing minority of mainstream American listeners already know - the sooner the industry can get out of its own silo’ed way and be relevant to listeners (and advertisers) again.
1) Unlike the broadcast industry giants, listeners do not distinguish the difference between “broadcast” and the audio content they access online, and increasingly, via mobile broadband-enabled access. An enabling example: TuneIn - where listeners can listen to Internet-only streams, terrestrial simulcasts (in-market or out of market), podcasts, and even the excitement of air traffic control and local emergency responder communications.
2) Traditional radio stations have a double-edged opportunity to re-invent themselves as both boundary-less international broadcasters (Chicagoans who yearn for their beloved rocker WXRT-FM, for example) AND as renewed owners of the local broadcasting experience, which industry consolidators seem to have forgotten.
3) Similarly, online-only stations have the power to become boundary-less content brands in their own right, catering to defined and target-able niches that break down traditional content definitions and challenge conventional geographic boundaries. And only exacerbated/enhanced with wherever mobile broadband access can take it.
4) The race to who becomes the first true converged audio entertainment company is on. Traditional legacy broadcasters like CBS and Clear Channel have incrementally begun to evolve; SiriusXM has consolidated the pay “satellite” space and awkwardly stumbled into online; and digital music services like Pandora, Spotify and the delicious Rdio.com, have disruption written all over them - all with bona fide shots at putting the big pieces together in harmonized, consumer-friendly ways. (Hint: those who solve the guidance/navigation/discovery problem will win).
In retrospect, it is important to remember that the radio industry has morphed itself into renewed relevance numerous times in its short history, and absolutely has the opportunity to do it again as mobile broadband becomes the norm. (The best telling of this history can be found in Washington Post radio guru Marc Fisher’s excellent Something in the Air: Radio, Rock and The Revolution That Shaped a Generation (Random House, 2007).
Just as long as the industry realizes that the future of the medium can’t be confined to the term “radio” anymore.
(photos, respectively: markramseymedia.com; ford.com; and powells.com)