Radio Dying? Depends On Your Perspective

Believe it or not, I am not the most pessimistic person out there when it comes to the future of radio. If you haven’t been reading Inside Music Media, I recommend you begin post-haste.
The blog’s author, Jerry Del Colliano, is a consummate radio professional. I remember reading his Inside Radio newsletter back when I worked in the business. That publication infuriated Clear Channel so much – in large part because Jerry was so good at decoding the company’s predatory consolidation plans – that Clear Channel actually began a slander publication to drag Jerry’s good name through the mud. He didn’t take that lightly, filing a $100+ million suit against the radio titan.
An out-of-court settlement and collegiate teaching gig later, Jerry’s far from cowed by his experience. And his post of February 6 caught my eye. In a nutshell, he predicts a wholesale restructuring of the industry – or else:
Radio consolidators never intended to be in the radio business today — in 2009. They were supposed to cash out. They knew what many feared — that these mega platforms called clusters could not be operated efficiently and profitably. …
No exit strategy — because it never occurred to them that the radio business could dry up. They never considered what do you do if something goes wrong (the economy, the lending market, inability to manage huge debt service, the onset of digital media as a competitor and so on).
Jerry then goes on to lay out a six-point forecast for the future of the radio industry; the last point (“no innovation”) may be the most salient. And, he adds, “Without a digital footprint, terrestrial radio will die on the vine no matter who owns the stations and a digital footprint is not — I repeat not — streaming the terrestrial signal or using text messaging for contests.” Nor is it HD Radio.
In fact, his teaching experience has convinced Jerry that the next vector for “radio” as we will know it in the future is through the mobile phone – and it won’t come with a built-in AM/FM receiver. Adapting to this potential sea-change in the method and mode of transmission isn’t even on the “old-school” radio manager’s radar.
That being said, perhaps the industry could take some cues from artists, who are pushing the boundary that Jerry’s talking about in quite an impressive way. Take this creative Japanese, for example, who’s combined stencil-art with cellular telephony in order to uniquely publicize London’s pirate radio scene. This sort of thinking is light-years beyond where U.S. radio “professionals” are at. And, at some level, that gives me hope for the medium.