I have regularly warned about the coming of WiMax which will create much more formidable competition to the radio (and satellite radio) industry than any existing alternative to radio itself.
But I think more than a few broadcasters are confused about this threat, thinking it’s as simple as thousands of new music options competing against the dozens available on radio now.
In fact, as this new Google/Sprint deal suggests, the availability of audio entertainment wirelessly and in real-time will permanently alter the very experience and definition of radio.
That’s because the portable radio-like devices will be pointless unless they are much more than redundant to radio. Like the Internet itself these new gadgets will be en ecosystem, a platform for plug-ins which are produced by programmers in every corner of the world and which add an infinite variety of functionality and customization – gadgets which enhance the radio experience in multiple sensory dimensions making it, as a result, much, much more than radio alone.
This, indeed, is one of the flaws of the radio industry’s thinking – and satellite radio’s along with it: That it’s all about fidelity and choice.
As the Washington Post notes:
Products such as music players or portable video players, which connect to a computer to access songs or video clips from the Internet, could be built with WiMax chips that allow users to bypass the computer and download new content from the back seat of a car or in a Metro tunnel, for example.
It’s all about empowering the consumer to control his or her listening experience and dramatically enhancing the experience of radio by mashing up radio with IM and TXT and social networking and interactivity and pictures and video and dozens of other capabilities yet to be dreamed of.
The future of radio is to be much more than radio. Not simply what’s on the radio.
The future of radio will be more interactive than passive, more customized than homogenized, more visual and visceral.
The future of radio will be an experience, not just a station.