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Regarding Radio, And A Speech At The National Association of Broadcasters Conference

Posted by: Jon Fine on April 15, 2008

Got a few emails about this speech given yesterday at the National Association of Broadcasters conference by NAB President-CEO David Rehr, in particular this part:

Rehr then turned to radio, first talking about a widely reported BusinessWeek column by Jon Fine, headed "Requiem for Old-Time Radio." Though Fine believes radio isn't well-suited to moving its business model online, he wrote that he remembers radio with "ridiculous fondness" and recalled "huddling with it long past bedtime, the volume set low, hoping to hear something I loved."

Rehr said, "Ladies and gentlemen, that is romance, that's longing, that is a connection. Listeners still want what they've always wanted. Technology hasn't changed that -- it has just changed the devices of delivery.

What I had written about in said column wasn’t that technology had changed delivery, it was that it had changed access. Which is a significant distinction. When I was huddling with my radio late at night when I was eight or ten or twelve, it was because that was the only medium on which I could hear music. (I am old enough that MTV did not exist when I was eight or ten or twelve.) The riches available online, from myspace to to excellent sites like this one run by independent record stores, long ago blew up radio’s distribution monopoly.

You don’t need to huddle with a radio long after dark to hear new music; you can form that romance or connection with a hundred other things.

This is the heart of the problem.

Reader Comments


April 16, 2008 6:30 PM

Clear Channel "corporate radio" and their clones have destroyed radio. The heart of the problem is radio doesn't have one. They've forgotten radio was meant to be entertainment! Voice tracked DJs who say nothing have made radio boring. FM music radio is nothing more than a wireless jukebox. And today like never before better jukeboxes have blown radio away. I'm sorry, hammering the same songs down my throat and playing 10 ads back to back isn't very interesting. I deal with corporate all
day long and thing I want is corporate on my radio!!! I’ve got choices now and I’m taking them. I guess corporate radio didn’t count on that.


April 17, 2008 10:21 PM

Oh but John, you are so off base. Sure you can listen to other things besides radio, and Tiger Woods can ride a skateboard. But radio is personal, and surprising and endlessly interesting. And, unlike the Internet or even television, it's untethered. It goes where you go and stays on when you're busy with driving or working or even making love. Do you really think your internet connection, your cell phone or your Wii has that kind of power?

Radio has crossed the chasm into new technologies and will continue to do so, but that's not the only way it will remain important. It is, and always has been, a medium that captures our hearts and imaginations.

Joel in Japan

April 18, 2008 3:30 AM

Sorry, not related to this post, but you wrote an article about a niche, exotic travel magazine not too long ago but I can't seem to locate the issue. All I remember is that is costs $10 per issue and it features far-flung locations such as "Svalbard" is what I think you wrote.
I think the gist of the article was that print media is not dead. I any case I want to check out this magazine if you can give me a hand.


April 18, 2008 3:35 PM

Captures our hearts and minds" Sounds like out of date spin from the RAB. How does a voice tracked DJ capture anyone’s heart let alone their mind? 10 ads in a row make my mind go numb. There was a time radio did everything you've mentioned. A time long ago when someone behind the mike with passion was allowed to open their mike and speak.. At least with Fm's you're stuck with the morning zoo or generic artist intros, promos and lame sound bites of nothing. And the great empire, Clear Channel is now reducing mid-day jocks to voice tracking or just plain eliminating them all together. Be warned some day the computer will be the size of your portable radio. Will use less power and run on batteries. And soon wimax wireless internet will be in most cars. Portable radio’s that receive Wifi/wimax are already here. The problem with radio isn’t the device.. it’s the lack of content. People still pay the price of admission to see a good movie because of content. Imagine a world where movie budgets are cut to the bone and every picture sounds and looks the same. Sounds pretty bad right.. well that’s what we have with radio.
I might have a cd or mp3 playing in the background while making love.. but the radio come on…

Bucko here’s a news flash. Adults 18-34’s don't love radio! The erosion of radio’s future, 18-34 adult hasn’t stopped because they’re choosing to find music, romance and a connection anyplace else but radio. Radio is out of touch with it's listeners and advertisers.


April 20, 2008 11:36 PM

" is personal, and surprising and endlessly interesting. And, unlike the Internet or even television, it's untethered."


I cannot agree with that statement at all.

When I broke down and bought a blackberry my internet connection became untethered. I could get email from my job and friends while in a store on a Saturday- much more personal than radio. I could check google maps for nearby restaurants, find their phone numbers and call them in seconds.

It's well-defined that in the race to the bottom line many companies can increase profitability in the short-run, while dooming their company or industry in the long-run. I posit that radio reduced costs by hiring fewer DJs and news people and as such, killed spontaneity and repartee that made radio exciting. They got high ratings with Morning Zoo shows and Limbaugh-esque shock jocks, but they focused on one audience and lost everyone else.

The telegram is dead. The telegraph is dead. Analog TV broadcasts will be dead in 2009. There is no reason to suggest that radio will exist 30 years from now as soon as 18 year olds with no connections to it are in power and they auction off FM for cell phone usage. There is no reason to expect radio will continue past 2040.

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