...don't even ignore 'em.
-- Samuel Goldwyn

Friday, June 24, 2005

How to think like a radio guy, II; Futureshock.

Had lunch with one of my best friends from my radio days today. Talked a lot about the big trouble over-the-air-radio-station radio (I refuse to use the amazingly condescending geek term: "terrestrial radio", except in parentheses) is in in the long run, now that it has real competition from satellite radio, (which is encroaching on radio's formerly exclusive mobile position, the dashboard, new-car-by-car, day by day), Internet radio, radio direct-to-cellphone, and, of course, The Ipod Age, which includes that weird and incredibly clunky practice, podcasting. I told him I'd send him a real howler of an article written by a prominent radio research executive--it helps to know that radio people cannot select a toothbrush color without consulting a consultant brandishing a printout of multivariate toothbrush-color auditorium testing results. This researcher, a Mr. Webster of Edison Research (!) tries desperately to relate to Infinity Broadcasting's (Viacom) KYOURadio in San Francisco, which has rolled out an all-podcasting format. KYOU's effort is only the goofiest attempt to shake something loose for traditional radio in the post-digital age. Despite the fact that San Francisco is probably the only market where such a stunt might make the minutest glimmer of sense because of its relatively dense population of geeky young males. Still, can you imagine the podcast-interested person, known to be tech-savvy, listening to an AM station? Or listening to a podcasting radio station's stream on his computer, when he can take his choice from thousands of podcasts, without cheesy promos between them? Is the radio guys' choice of casts better than yours? But even funnier, Mr. Webster tries to relate KYOU to the now-traditional, irrational-though-thoroughly-researched conventions of commercial radio. Even if you're not a radio guy, you'll have trouble holding yourself together through this poor dude's tortured try at professional analysis. Stuff like, "It is clear there is some kind of rotation, as I heard several podcasts repeat during the past week, but there does not appear to be any kind of 'clock'..." "Clock" being the radio guy's name for the typical hour schedule of the classic formatted station. Hello! The station's just throwing podcasts against the electronic wall to see if they stick. It's hilarious and touching to watch these tunnel-brained number-fumblers try to wrap their heads around the new age of user-defined media. Will on-air radio stations have to turn in their poorly utilized bandwidth for cellphone and PDA channels? Or will they come up with programming that slows the departure of their formerly loyal listeners? If waves-from-a-tower radio survives, it will be, as my lunch pal suggests, the work of non-radio guys. More to come. I'm just getting warmed up.

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