11/09

Wake up, Radio, to the Mobile Challenge

I’ve been pondering this question:

Which way would consumers prefer to listen to the radio on their mobile devices, over the Internet or via an FM receiver built in?

We have seen answers to questions like this before (and I have some mobile phone/radio research answers to give you in the next few days that will make some people very unhappy), but the more I look at the question the more I think it’s exactly the wrong one to ask.

This question assumes a number of things.

First, it assumes that “radio” means one thing.  Does radio also mean Pandora?  It should.

Second, it assumes consuming “radio” is all about hearing it, when consuming “radio” should also be about interacting with it.  In fact, the value of radio’s presence on mobile devices is as much about the interaction as the portability – more, I think.

Third, it assumes that the source of the content is more important to the consumer than the experience of that content on the mobile device.  It’s not.

What if we were to ask a different question:

Would you like to experience new aspects of the radio content you love – games, polls, videos, TXT, contests, customization, playlist creation, song discovery, etc. – all interactive and fully social and sharable on your mobile device?

Would anyone who loves radio say ‘no’ to that?

And if I can get that using an FM chip, please bring it on.

We need to recognize that it’s not about how consumers get our content – FM chip or IP.  It’s about what that content is, how consumers can interact with it, and how they can interact with each other in its presence.

To presume this argument is simply about the pros and cons of FM chips is to commit a grave injustice to our consumers and our future.

But, you might ask, shouldn’t people just be able to listen to stations on their mobile devices the way they do on their radio?  Just simply listen?

No!

If you believe otherwise you are missing the point of a mobile device:  Virtually every element of these devices is enabled by interaction. To use the SAT analogy, “mobile devices are to radios as video games are to movies.”

Take a photo – interaction.

Check your email and TXT – interaction.

Create iTunes playlists – interaction.

Check in to Foursquare – interaction.

Find an address on Google Maps – interaction.

Customize your Pandora station – interaction.

Play a game – interaction.

There is no point in trying to turn a mobile device into that thing which helps us pass time in the car.  Quite soon enough, the mobile device will be stealing time from that thing in the car anyway, and where will you be then?

Wake up, Radio.

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