The death of radio is a topic that has been and will be talked about for a long time. Whether it’s true or not, the things radio gave us are nowhere near the chopping block, and that means there’s hope.
The rise in music streaming and podcasts is often cited as the newest nails in radio’s coffin. This technology doesn’t have to be an opponent to broadcasting, though. It could just be the next step in radio’s evolution.
There’s a lot of differences between the internet and FM, but there’s a lot of similarities too. The key difference is accessibility and individual customizability. Beyond that, the only thing keeping a podcast like WTF with Marc Maron from being a radio show was him leaving Air America.
The audience’s move to the internet makes sense. Why should you wait until 5 p.m. to listen to a talk show when you’re free right now? Convenience is the driving factor in a lot of industries, just look at cable as an example.
But the move shows more than just a desire for convenience and individuality. The fact that content similar to radio’s is thriving on the internet means there’s a chance.
The interest is still there. The rise of podcasting shows people are still interested in talk shows. “Playlist Curator” is a job title for people who create and maintain playlists that others listen to on streaming services, and that’s essentially a DJ. Live talk and music on websites like Mixer and Twitch pull in thousands of viewers, meaning people are still interested in getting both of those things live. There’s a young audience that likes what radio can offer, but they’re getting it somewhere else.
Stations are getting increasingly behind in the race. Not only do many lack the finances for huge changes, they’re fighting against insane business models. Many smaller stations can’t compete with podcasts in general, let alone music streaming giants.
Podcasters are often hobbyists or independent. Not only is their content free to the listener, no one has to employ them to make it. On top of that, some newer podcasters are actually paying to have their content hosted and advertised. The money flow is going backwards. Websites are being paid to get free content, and then some even run ads over that.
If stations want to compete, they need to start being more than just broadcast or internet radio. Maximum Fun, a podcast network born from an NPR show host, Jesse Thorn, is a great example of what some investment could do.
The self-described “podcast and radio production organization” makes its money through ads produced by its showrunners. It also runs a yearly pledge drive, which offers exclusive content and items in exchange for donations.
The company mainly operates by finding independent podcasters and contracting both them and the rights to their show. Several programs are recorded and produced on-site, but that leaves the majority of their shows produced entirely by the hosts themselves.
Obviously integrating something like that isn’t easy, but a lot of radio stations are already part of the way there. The only resources required to get into the game are a website and servers, a studio, and employees to make the shows. Most, if not all stations already fit this criteria, they just need to use it for more than raffling off concert tickets.
If you’re someone who’s in love with radio and its traditions, it’s fair to be upset about its decline. Just remember that it’s not over. Stations can do more than just hold out, they can thrive, given that they air more than just news and weather, of course.
– Shudder Hurd-Burnell