Saturday, April 4, 2009

Radio In 5 Years

Here are a few paraphrased observations from the blue ribbon panel on this topic at the National Federation of Community Broadcasters conference in Portland Oregon this week:

Norm Stockwell, WORT, Madison WI: Commercial radio is in terrible trouble due to its lack of localism. Community radio's strength IS its localism. It is important for stations to start distributing content across as many platforms and new technologies as possible. This is also making it possible for many stations to share content internationally.

Mark Fuerst, Integrative Media Association: Public radio is holding its own, but overall the industry is in decline. Public broadcasting may and should become "public media." 75% of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's funding goes to public television. He said "there is no optimism there." Only 3% is going into new media. He said 2 to 3-person staffs are too small to implement new media strategies. Those strategies are too complex. He praised Northern Community Radio as the only community radio organization he knows about (in the NFCB--there is one other, Atlanta Public Broadcasting) that is trying to see itself as a media company and not just adding new media to a station website. (He was talking about the Northern Community Internet project)

Rebecca Martin, Youth Media International (formerly Youth Radio): YMI is in complete experimentation mode, and not "tied to a transmitter." They aspire to "the buzz of YouTube, the participation of Wikipedia, and the credibility of the New York Times." Besides written and audio pieces, they focus on short form video and photographs.

Skip Pizzi, Media Technology consultant (formerly w/Microsoft and BE-Broadcast Engineering-Magazine): It's hard to predict radio in 5 minutes, let alone 5 years. Trends: HD radio transition is continuing, but very slowly. Internet radio expansion is proceeding very quickly. He called radio the first "social network" and a "secular church." He said "wireless broadband could be your next transmitter." Reminded us that radio stations are both content companies and service providers. Radio is a delivery system, but the platform may not be as important as the content.


HD Radio Farce said...

The HD Radio transition has stalled on AM, and just about stalled on FM. HD Radio is being turned off en-masse in D.C., and probably slowly elsewhere (Twin Cities?).

Maggie Montgomery said...

many are saying hd is doa. imo, it was a bad plan from the beginning, being tied to one for-profit corporation from the start. also has introduced a lot of noise into what was once a clean spectrum. other stations' hd signals are causing interference at the fringes of kaxe's signal. the fringes are important to us, but the fcc isn't interested in anything outside the protected contour. how far are they going to go with this thing? said...

This was the first I'd heard about HD radio. This is likely a Bad Sign, and part of the problem.

The problem is loss of interest by listeners, not audio quality. The medium isn't the message anymore.

If you can put the radio on the Internet, couldn't you put the Internet on the radio?

Radio Ann said...

I don't agree with Norm about commercial radio. Commercial radio is in trouble because in the late 90's and beyond they lobbied hard, and got, legislation passed to effectively kill online archiving, which hurt their audiences, and in turn, hurt their appeal to advertisers. They've lost a whole generation of listeners who want to choose how they get their content.

Public radio is almost in a state of civil war over NPR's online push and distribution across mobile do member stations raise money if their listeners can go directly the source and not through their local radio stations? It's thorny.

In some respects independent stations, like WORT and KFAI, may be in a better position to survive because they produce so much of their own content. Their revenue streams have always been driven by donations for a lot of local programming - but I wonder how stations that rely heavily on network programming will fare. I'm predicting some consolidation, and indeed it's already happening.