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.