“After all, when was the last time you turned on a radio?”
The death of radio has been preached since television took over the living rooms of the 1950s-1960s and it even led to a hit song by the British New Wave group The Buggles. “Video killed the radio star” is a cliché mentioned in every comment ever on the difficulties faced by the traditional FM radio since 1979. The problem with the quote of course is that it got it wrong; or when is the last time anyone has seen a music video on MTV?
Indeed, I am not quite so sure whether we are currently closer to the death of the radio or the music video, but in this day and age they are both in danger of being trampled by a common enemy: The Internet.
After surviving and then happily co-existing with television, CDs and music videos, the existence of radio broadcasting as we know it is now being threatened by the internet. The chances are you are currently listening to songs on an internet streaming service or radio station of sort, be it Spotify or Youtube or iTunes Radio among many. These numerous services offer you something that the traditional radio doesn’t do; they allow you to choose. They allow you to skip that song you hate. Furthermore, they enable you to pick and choose from playlists made just for you and, usually with a small compensation, to reduce your daily dose of advertisement. And consumers like this; the evidence lies in the declining number of FM radio listeners.
The strength of radio was for a long time its portability. Although television took over as the main source for gossip and a way to keep people company, it has always been stuck in living room corners and local pubs. Similarly, the internet was, up until relatively recently, bound to desktop computers and cybercafés. However, that has changed now with on-demand services being downloaded into the phone/computer/MP3-player hybrids in people’s pocket. This edge is thus taken away by the technological advances of the modern age.
Even the car audio system hasn’t been allowed to stay as the last fortress of FM radio. Car manufacturers are constantly trying to find ways to integrate streaming services straight into their cars. Add the growing number of streaming apps and you can start to say goodbye to the drive time radio.
Format radio has mainly been in utter confusion on what its audience wants with responds like playlist fuelled ‘the same six songs every hour’ programming and overplaying the safe bets while reducing itself to mainly a promotional tool for the music business. Losing any edge in trying to appeal to as wide audience and as many advertisers as possible has been the curse of modern media in general. The internet, on the other hand, is now providing podcasts and music programmes on nearly anything there is to know for one to explore. With fewer constraints these services are able to be more in-depth in content and to specialise in certain genres or issues.
While it has to be said that reliable internet access and smartphones aren’t yet as common as one would like to think, they are increasingly gaining ground in our rapidly digitalising world. Therefore with the accessibility to internet radio stations and streaming services rising, more and more consumers will have the means to find and access these online businesses.
This progress may well indicate the beginning of the end of radio broadcasting in its current form. Take into account the generations growing up with all these new technological possibilities and you have the blueprint for a life changing development for radio.
After all, when was the last time you turned on a radio?