It’s been almost a rule – every time a new technology comes along, older ones don’t die…they just morph into something else and coexist. Radio was supposed to destroy the phonograph, television would annihilate motion picture theaters - and radio on the way past. Seems like the same should be true for radio’s surviving its current onslaught from, wow, every direction.
Well, there’s a flaw in that morph theory. It really refers to types of entertainment – not the delivery mechanism. If that weren’t the case, we’d all still have players for 45’s and 8-tracks connected to our systems. And when was the last time you watched home movies?
The roadside of tech advances has dead formats everywhere – and homes and offices packed with media for it. Fact is, they’re not coming back and they didn’t morph into anything usable.
Today, broadcast – that’s-over-the-air – is facing its maker. True, radio and TV are forms of entertainment, but broadcast is a very definitely a delivery mechanism and one being rapidly displaced.
Looking at just the front line of offenders, there’s the iPod, then streaming, then XM and Sirius and Slingbox and even CD’s (which play .mp3’s, of course). Tough to fight a war on three or four fronts…especially when you look at the model.
First, it’s a WYWWYWI (what you want when you want it) world. Not many restaurants survive serving ham only between 6 and 6:30, pizza from 6:30 to 7, fish from 7 to, well, you get the picture. So hearing the song you want only when a station plays it, well, who’s kidding whom? Watching CSI at 9 isn’t convenient. Then there’s the sorting through the clutter. When commercial loads are as high as they are, existing viewers and listeners abandon in droves, knowing they have at least three minutes before they need to punch back in.
Add to that the disappearance of live talent. Hey. You may think you’re listening live but there’s a lot of voice tracking going on out there and even more music coming out of the sky from New York, Dallas, or Denver, picked by a PD that has never even been to Phoenix, let alone programmed to it.
And, on the TV side, more and more comes from a “network” or other central source. “Centralcasting” has taken hold. We now see the same news stories multiple times and, often, they incorporate – are you ready for it? – amateur cell phone footage.
Then there’s the quality issue. That one’s being skewered on two fronts of its own. First, faced with a choice of quality versus “now-lity”, now wins out. Witness the number of iPodders who choose to store thousands of songs at slightly better than AM quality versus hundred at higher quality. BTW: even at its highest quality, the coding dictates that out ≠ in. Hasn’t slowed sales. And streaming to 2½ inch cell phone screens is commonplace. Yet on another front radio, through the wonders of IBOC, is scrambling to improve quality. Who ordered that focus group? “Let’s see, we can only feed one song at a time, we’ve got a ton of commercials. I know. Let’s improve technical quality.”