I was visiting a friend of mine last week, who owns several stations in Virginia, and we were discussing the current state of the radio business. We both agreed that these are interesting and turbulent times. Direct to consumer satellite program delivery has changed many of the rules and made the radio game much more challenging.
In my opinion though. the real threat on the horizon is WiFi. Radio executives are ringing their hands and fretting over the growing strength of satellite and justifiably so. But they seem to be ignoring altogether the real challenge WiFi broadcasting will represent...very soon. Imagine, if you will, getting into your car, slipping your cellphone into a cradle on your dashboard, punching a few keys and suddenly receiving your favorite Internet radio broadcast. The signal will be digital and as good as satellite. And wherever there is WiFi service, you'll have access to shows that interest you. And don't poo poo WiFi service. The day will come, in the not to distant future, when it will be everywhere. Think of how cell service has improved over the years. Not too long ago we were talking into phones the size of bricks that had very limited range. It's improved so much, in a short time, that we now become irritated when we drop a call or are in a poor service area. And already there are hundreds of Internet only stations out there; many offering programs that are much more interesting than the run of the mill fare found on traditional terrestrial radio.
I've said this before and I'll say it again. The key to radio's future is the aggressive implementation of creative programming. And they can't wait until the attackers are at the gate because if they do, it will be too late. Radio can't be content with offering the same old, same old. It has to be aggressive, bold and innovative. If they remain complacent then the new kids on the block are going to muscle them out of a market and make them an afterthought.