In a recent Friday Morning Quarterback column, I suggested that radio's problem of declining listenership was not driven by newer technologies, nor would our own new technologies, whether it is HD radio or streaming on the Web, reverse this decline. Read the entire column here. Here's the essence of my argument:
Radio is suffering from a serious case of technology envy. Trade publications, consultants, pundits, group heads, and Wall Street analysts are all absolutely convinced that declines in radio lisstenership has been driven by the multiple threats of satellite radio, Internet radio, and iPods. Frothing bloggers are aghast that radio hasn’t responded quickly enough by more aggressively rolling out HD radio. They argue that once listeners discover HD radio, our problems will be solved.
It’s very convenient to blame our troubles on these other technologies and propose that our own technological response will solve the problem, because that way we don’t have to look any further. We don’t have to take an honest look at 21st century commercial radio and wonder whether our problems perhaps have nothing to do with technology. If we did, we might rethink both the source of the problem as well as the solution.
The fact is, radio today is Boring with a capital B. Ask listeners, and they will tell you. Radio is boring. And we have no one else to blame but radio itself. Radio is boring. And that fact will not change if all we change is the way we deliver it. Boring HD radio is just as boring as boring AM radio, which is just as boring as FM radio. Let’s be honest. The sad state of radio has little to do with technology.
We need to stop believing that the source of our problems is newer technologies and that some new technology is going to solve radio’s problems. Innovation in programming and offering what people want to listen to is the only thing that will save commercial radio. It saved radio from television, moved millions of listeners from AM to FM, and is HD radio’s only chance. Radio programmers need to be empowered, encouraged to innovate, and supported. Otherwise HD channels, streaming technologies, and all the other technologies we might embrace will be nothing more than quad stereo for the 21st century.