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March 04, 2005



11. Listener-supported radio. Here in LA we have a number of really good college and independent stations that play contemporary music, as well as several jazz and classical stations. There are actual people choosing what gets played, and no commercials. There are also news and talk shows, but if you want music you can usually just flip between them and find it. And at least one of them is available online (not sure about the others), so you can tune in anywhere in the world. I haven't listened to commercial radio in years, and thanks to the web I doubt I'll ever need to, even if I move away from the city.

Thomas Hawk

I've long felt that radio is due for a pretty serious overhaul. Between podcasting, satellite radio and TiVo like technologies for radio I suspect the way we consume radio entertainment will significantly change over the course of the next three years.

Personally I'm looking for the following. An iPod or mp3 player like device which will automatically record satellite radio programs that I tell it to as well as automatically transfer podcasts that I subscribe to either wirelessly through a 802.11 set up or through a docking station in a real time basis. To further complicate things, the player should double as both a pocket PC or blackberry type device, gps, fm radio and a phone. When I'm listening to any audio I should have the option to have the program muted when a phone call comes in and my headphones should convert to a phone headset if I choose to take the call.

There should also be a skip forward 30 seconds button on the player for fast forwarding through podcasts, fm scheduled broadcasts, satellite radio broadcasts, etc.

The device should include iRock beam it type technology so that when I'm in the car I can broadcast my player to an fm frequency for listening over my car speakers.

I should at all times be able to have the last five days of Stern on my player for consuming (and definitely be able to fast forward through any commercials that may show up on his program once he's on satellite). I should have an option to record all of my cell phone calls to .mp3 for future personal archiving.

Talk about convergence!


Music is polarizing. This why MTV doesn't play music anymore--there is no lowest-common-denominator playlist that enough people agree on to slow the tide of channel switching.

Note, TiVo may help change that. I regularly watch music vidoes again, now that I can fast-forward through the songs I don't like or the videos I've already seen. I'd love to be able to do that with radio (only starting to play with podcasts).

And, like short films, it's perfect if you've got a few minutes to spare/kill and don't want to start watching an hour-long show. Definitely beats channel-surfing, of course.


Rags Gupta of Live365 emailed me to say that we underplayed Internet radio in our coverage. He's right. To be honest it seemed so familiar and accepted at this point that we couldn't think of much surprising about it that our readers didn't already know, but comprehensiveness might have pushed us into a sidebar at least.

There is indeed a lot going on with streaming radio, and you can start by reading his post here.

Ben Hyde

Local radio thrived on local advertising and local communities of listeners. Both are drying up. The consolidation of local retailing and services into national chains is an example on the advertising side. As the power-law curve growing more stern it destroys the out the mid-sized players. Leaving only the giants and the long tail behind.

Graham Webster

On the North Side of Chicago, there's an interesting model for successful radio: namely, two different noncommercial FM radio stations fill markets that are "underground" and coherent. The stations have different followings, and cover both new and long tail material on the air.

There's a lot of talk out there about the Internet as an antidote to the traditional media's filtering role. But people looking for a worthwhile investment of their time (even if they're going to download the music free after all) are looking for aggregators. If the centralized pop lists are eroding, this would explain the uprise of websites designed to serve people's individual tastes.

In this case, the two stations in Chicago are acting as aggregators -- nonprofit, amateur-operated broadcasters that bring obscure music new and old to the attention of certain markets.


For me it is all about internet radio stations and the fact that I can listen to my favorite radio stations online.

I live in Austin, Texas, but if I want to hear my hometown station WWOZ (the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Station) all I have to do is go to their website and listen in. And I know when I move back to New Orleans this summer, I will be able to keep listening to my favorite Austin channels, KUT and KGSR, since both broadcast over the Internet.

Right now as I type this I am listening to Secret Agent Radio (www.somafm.com/), a station I listen to most days when I am reading or late at night. I listen to several other internet radio stations depending on either my mood or what I am writing or reading.

As for the I-Pod, I find it influencing even those who don't have one with the ability of people to do podcasts. Every week I look forward to Warren Ellis' Superburst Mixtape.

Jonathan Marks

I don't think radio in Europe is on quite the nose-tail that is described above. Good radio contains emotion - usually radiated by someone behind the mike who has a passion to share something. With too many presenters being hired to fill-airtime, rather than say something meaningful, it is no wonder people look for alternatives.

I have just set myself up as a Podcasting consultant..the world's first? 95% of the podcasts I have listened to will quickly shrink to have a handful of listeners - since they are unfocussed and far too long. I am not suggesting they need to get a format like Clear Channel, but you can spot the podcasts where someone has been trained to tell a story. I'm helping to polish a few great ideas, to make sure the ideas get out there - and listened to.

Radio still suffers from the worst human interface ever designed (with hindsight). Millions of dollars of great content is hidden behind a silly number which no-one can remember. They say that radio listeners are loyal (as opposed to TV views). In reality, they are just shit scared they will never find the station again if they move the dial. It will get better when we get an i-tunes style interface on portable radios....probably a mobile phone with a FM/DAB/DRM radio fitted inside. It can be done...Samsung is already working on them for launch in the summer.

Kind regards from a snowy Amsterdam...biggest storm in 20 years

Jonathan Marks
(formerly PD at Radio Netherlands www.rnw.nl )
Critical Distance

Jonathan Marks

by the way, point 5 should read 4.7 B loss written off by Clear Channel... sounds like some of their stations will soon be living up to that name. Reminds me of "Worldspace", now there is a 1.2 billion radio network going nowhere - a real world space.


Jonathan: thanks for the catch. I've fixed that and the broken link to the Infinity results.

Bames Boardwell

Been doing a bit of research around radio consumption of late and i think that one of the factors in the decline of radio is the fact that as people's [and teenagers particularly] musical tastes traverse genres, as you state [they names bands now not genres], but the radio plays increasingly narrowly defined musical genres. What people want is the variety of musical tastes and eclecticism they like. Radio used to provide this. Interestingly, I believe the rise in BBC Radio 2 [now with more that 10million listeners - the most popular station in the UK] is due to their eclectic musical range - catering for the truly mass audience but not afraid to play music that reflects tastes within that wide group. But increasingly it is friends, clubs, but increasingly services like Last.fm. [www.last.fm]. Eclecticism is easier amongst a social group but not a radio station. Now social networks are radio stations.

Jonathan Marks

Picking up on the previous poster...

BBC Radio 2 is also great participation radio. Listen to the Terry Wogan show and hear how they integrate stuff sms'd to the studio into the traffic reports. Sounds like they are not taking themselves too seriously, sharing the day instead of shouting about it. You wouldn't want to invite most DJs around to your house...the Radio 2 (and Radio 6) guys/gals sound like a nice bunch of people.

Michael Shipp

I think you have to include the music industry's insistence on pushing pre-packaged "talent" somewhere on the list.


The death of music radio yes, but I think it safe to say that there is a rise in talk radio. At least where I am located, Albany, NY.

With respects to the obscenity crackdowns, a local radio shock jocker runs a quick ad for his show by explaining how you will get fined less for not properly regulating a nuclear power plant than if you were to say one of the "obscene" words on the radio. Its a funny bit but sobering to think if it is true.


Funny thing I heard yesterday on the local radio station. Right before the "words from our sponsor" came the request...
Don't Touch that Ipod
The end is nigh.

Bill Dettering

If you're into time shifting radio, try Replay Radio.

Replay Radio lets you record ANY Radio station broadcast over the Web as an MP3 file, and then copy it to your iPod or other MP3 player. It will even burn CDs automatically.

Replay Radio comes with a database of over 700 shows and 1000 stations, and you can easily add your own.

One more cool feature: with the optional Replay Player, when you listen on your PC you can easily skip over the ads. (If you use an iPod, just hold down the Next Track button to fast forward.)

Check it out! A free trial is available from here:



John Thacker

Even before the iPod, cheap cassette recorders and CD players in cars started the problem. An iPod is still fairly expensive; a CD player which plays burned CDs, including mp3s, is even cheaper.


well thank you all for giving this kiwi bloke a good laugh.
It seams to me from the original topic on of radio and all the facts above, you guy's have over baked your selfs again, when small people try to push other small people to out do each other you end up with a market full of worthless crap, iPod's over here are just a good walkman for when you've gone bush and can't get a signalfrom a radio station, i work as a drive host in a mediam sized local market in new zealand and when i leave the building in the afternoon there is allways people waiting out side for a chat or just to meet you, i have people following me into the urinal at the pub just to chat, so you can't tell me radio listeners are not loyal.

well enuf from me any way, I'll let you all get back to running round in circles tring to out do each other it's my lunch break, i think i mite go and sit by the beach and listen to the world


I'd be interested to hear some more views of where people think podcatsing is heading? I'm writing a paper for an academic conference early next month - which will be podcasted - and I'm trying to get a sense of where the medium is at. There are doomsayers predicting the end of radio, I'd doubt that very much but it could mean the end of radio as we know it. No more sloppy programming, more variety, more personality, more interaction and more suprises... in short everything it hasn't been, which is why people had turned off.

A previous poster suggested thar BBC Radio 2 is a bit of a model and it is. They've built up huge fugures, surpassing the more chart orientated Radio 1 which was the lead network. They've done this by getting people listening longer, to a wider playlist, more personality and a big element of unpredictability.

Chris Kenoyer

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As a former Clear Channel employee for a middle sized market, I would agree that radio is hosed. However, it is Not that radio is destined to being "hosed" by it's technological limitations, but rather that media conglomerates, like Clear Channel and Infinity, are too foolish to see the greater potential that local FM-band radio has.

These indirect competitors of radio such as podcasting and satelite radio have Not stamped a death label on radio, but rather simply "changed things." In fact, I believe that it has changed things for the better, becuase FM-radio will either recognize what it truly is or die...

FM-Radio is no longer about programming. It is now about worlds. You see, if FM-radio would focus on finding and crafting unique personalities for their stations, these competitors wouldn't be a problem. Radio is no longer just about the FM-band, it is about station staffs utilizing Internet(including podcasting), mobile internet, on-location events, and FM-band to craft unique worlds for people that embody specific cultures and peoples of specific walks of life. This is a difficult to explain in one post. I have written several pages on the issue back when I thought program directors were somewhat intelligent, and actually cared about people.

I think it is hilarious that Clear Channel's Less is More campaign is suppose to save them from these indirect competitors! No matter how few commercials Clear Channel plays, don't they realize that ipods, and sat radio have ZERO Commercials! I tried to warn them, and explain to them what radio really was. I actually use to believe that I could steer radio back to locality and the crafting of worlds!

I currently am unemployed from radio. I have interviewed with a few stations, and everytime program directors sit me down and explain to me about their 30 years broadcasting experience. They don't get it! I don't care about their 30 years of experience! They need me far more than I need them! Radio has changed. It is completely different than what it was 5 years ago, let alone 30. It is no longer about programming formulas and maximzing music. It is now about crafting worlds on all digital fronts that truly embody unique personality.

At this point, I say let radio die...I seriously tried to talk to PDs about it, but they pat me on the head and laugh becuase they have 30 years broadcasting experience. Not to mention, most PDs are not just PDs, they are PDs of 6, 10, and even as many as 50 stations.

I honestly think radio is about to be humbled. There truly is a hegemonic structure in place that encourages the advancement of stupidity within the radio world, and the punishing of critical thought. It is almost impossible for an intelligent, creative, and ambitious person to advance to the postion of program director! This is largely becuase people that care about radio actually believe in investing more than the bare minimum into programming(programming in the sense of on-location/on-air/on-net). I could go on, but this is turning into rambling. I would write a book about this, but why should I? I am 22 years old. This means I don't have 30 years broadcasting experience, which also means that I must know absolutely nothing about life, let alone radio. correct? Welcome to my world!

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The Long Tail by Chris Anderson

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