The Death of Radio

This might be obvious and maybe others have posted this but it’s clear to me radio will be struggling to stay alive within 10 years just like newspaper is today.

It’s already dead for me. Why? Because I bought an iPhone last year. Since that time, on the way to and from work I listen almost exclusively to either podcasts (This American Life, Radiolab, Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History) or streaming music (Pandora, Shoutcast). I get a good enough connection that I can stream all the way to and from work.

If you ever read this article about the death of newspapers, it points out that the only reason newspapers exist is because getting the news out was expensive. Someone with enough money needed to pay for a very expensive printing press and also organize distributing the printed newspaper (trucks and paper boys). Before the internet that was how the news got distributed because it was basically the only way. Now though, anyone can post news and everyone in the world can read it. Of course there are the issues of good news and good reporting but the main barrier, the reason the newspaper was special, the expense of printing and distributing the news, has gone away.

Well, the same thing is happening in radio. I live in San Francisco now and our local NPR radio station is KQED. Like newspapers they exist in large part because until relatively recently they were the most efficient way to get certain programs to people in this area. That has changed though. I don’t need KQED to give me This American Life, I can get it directly from the source. I don’t need KQED to give me Radiolab, I can get that from the source. I don’t need KQED to give me any program that is not locally produced which is probably over 50% of their content.

The same can be argued for music radio. It used to be the way to hear new music was to turn on the radio. Each radio station brought that new music to their local area because only they had the funding to run a broadcasting station and hire DJs. Well, I don’t need that anymore, I can get exposed to new music through thousands of internet stations on Shoutcast, Pandora, Last FM, and similar systems, anyone who chooses to can start a radio station.

I understand that this death of radio isn’t going to happen today but given that I personally was able to make the switch to internet radio even in my car 100% today, it’s only a matter of time before the average person follows suit. In 1995 when mp3s first game out no one would have guessed 10 years later CDs would be dead and the music industry struggling to stay relevant. Today, pretty much every one has an mp3 player. This year I turned off my radio and started listening though my iPhone. My guess is within 10 years, either through iPhone, iPod or other cell phones or through car stereos or car navigation systems supporting internet directly radio will be on it’s death bed.

  • Lasko25

    QUOTE – I don’t need KQED to give me any program that is not locally produced which is probably over 50% of their content. QUOTE.

    Well, what about that other 50%?

    What are the disadvantages of internet “radio”?

  • The other 50% I can get directly from the producers. For example I get This American Life from their podcast. I get Radio Lab from their podcast. Before the internet I needed KQED to get those programs for me since I had no way to get them directly. Now I don’t. I picked 50% to be conservative but the majority of the programs on KQED are not made by KQED. It’s probably more like 80% I don’t need them for. Talk of the Nation, Science Friday, All Things Considered, Fresh Air, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, Car Talk, Marketplace, The PBS Newshour, On The Media, Intelligence Squared US, etc etc etc are all non-local programs and so I don’t need KQED to distribute them anymore.

    The disadvantages of internet radio are basically only that there isn’t always great mobile internet connections everywhere yet. But that’s only a matter of time. The advantages of internet radio I would argue is that the various programs I mentioned above can get donations directly from all their listeners instead of having the money filtered through local companies that probably take a cut. I’m sure there will be a transition period where that doesn’t go as smooth as people hope but for example, I’ve already made donations of several of my favorite programs directly. Before I would make a single donation to KQED with no idea how much of that money went to programs I liked vs programs I didn’t care for.

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