Change You Might As Well Believe In

Every week, it seems, brings news of yet another new-medium threat to radio. Such threats are so pervasive that even the most isolated, out-of touch broadcaster can’t help but be a little concerned, so you can imagine—or share—the quiet panic at the epicenter.

We keep throwing things against the wall; some gain traction, some do not. . .but all are subject to the Law of Unintended Consequences.

After praising iHeartRadio and the similar Slackeresque radio plays, it turns out—at least according to one respected resource—such applications are hastening the demise of Radio As We Know It.

But isn’t that the point? Eventually RAWKI will be gone, the victim of market forces that are well underway. But that doesn’t mean the essence of our industry won’t survive and thrive; it’ll just do so in a very different way.

The clues are there before us, in three versions:

  1. The air staffs of defunct formats who recreate their stations online.
  2. The DIY deejays who use Live365, UStream and YouTube to put themselves and their outlier ideas up for approval
  3. The reformed pirates who wake up and realize they don’t need no stinking transmitters to transmit their message.

This is an interesting trend for a couple of reasons:

First, it puts control of these new airwaves in the hands of the little guys. The newbies. You know, the people with ideas that defy radio logic—and might just work because of it.

Second, it removes corporate overhead. Traditional radio groups wouldn’t know what to make of all this if they tried.

Third, it marks the return of the product-led sale. Instead of making product decisions based on revenue projections based in turn on researching existing models, somebody has a great (he or she hopes) product idea, the success of which generates the money flow. (Think Apple. Think different.)

Back to that second point for a moment. As this new form of radio gains traction, there will emerge some company—maybe a radio group, maybe not—that sees a parallel with IBM’s gutsy decision to set up a bunch of weirdos with their own stealth lab in Boca Raton. The result then was a little thing we like to call the personal computing industry. For the right players at the right time, lightning will strike again, and the “personal radio industry” will be born