06/04

The Future of Mobile Radio?

Broken radio This week AT&T announced an end to their "one price fits all" data plans for new mobile subscribers.

At the same time, publicity swirled about the radio industry's efforts to push for radio chips on mobile phones.

My belief is that neither of these things will have anything to do with the future of mobile radio.

First, the folks most likely to be affected by the AT&T price hike are a very small fraction of total users and it's hard to disagree that these folks should pay more than the rest of us.  Further, these rules only apply to 3G usage – not to WiFi use – thus making the issue less relevant in many locations (especially work ones) where streaming content would be accessed.

My conclusion:  It's a non-issue.

Second, that which we call "mobile radio" is unlikely to look (yes, I said "look") and sound like the kind of radio we get over our FM and AM receivers.  To quote a phrase, the medium is the message, and the expression of radio on mobile devices has lots of possibilities which go well beyond simple audio – and certainly well beyond the banal and interruptive and untargeted spots audiences currently do their level best to avoid.

In other words, we do radio a disservice by limiting it to the form it's experienced in on your average $10 clock radio.

And that leads to my third point: Radio chips in mobile phones.

I don't care if you can produce survey data saying that consumers want this.  Here's the secret about what consumers want:  More.  Of everything.

That is why "feature creep" is one of the banes of digital existence and anything but an assurance of popular success.

Pushing to get conventional radio on mobile devices means you see our challenge as "how do we spread our conventional medium to more gadgets?"  That, I submit, is the wrong question.  

The right question is: "How can we use the special advantages of more gadgets to further the goals of our brands, to better tackle the unserved jobs of advertisers and consumers, and to better link them for their benefit and ours?"

And don't even get me started on the utter lack of ratings validity when factoring in "radio" on mobile devices in a world where PPM can't hear what's on your earbuds.

So stop wishing that every mobile phone had a radio attached.  It's distracting you from the larger opportunities.

If you get only what you wish for, you'll have to settle for what you deserve.

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