What Happens to Radio when Technology Kills Mobile Phones?

There remains a drumbeat among some broadcasters to install FM radio into mobile phones, but what happens when some new technology kills off those mobile devices?

From Business Insider:

There is a line of thinking that the smartphone era will perish almost as quickly as it began.This is, after all, the natural way of technology. It’s defined by creative destruction. Just as the smartphone killed the flip phone, and the iPad is killing the traditional PC, something is going to come along and kill the smartphone. Wearable computers are widely believed to be the next computing fad.

The point here is that the power of technology and the benefits which accrue to that power will remain personal, but they will not necessarily be encased in the device until recently known as a “cell phone.”  Thus making the device the focus of our attention is missing the larger trend. Instead, we should be focusing on the context of technology and how that will interface with each consumer’s audio entertainment experience.

Today that technology may be in our pockets but tomorrow it could be on our wrists or built into our glasses or even embedded into our bodies.

Our goal should not be to “get FM into mobile phones” per se but to make the content compelling enough and ubiquitous across enough platforms that demand drives it into the devices of the consumers’ choosing. Because the context in which that content is needed never goes away and our content is never substituted with anything “better” because it’s just that darn good.

Already a vanishing device category, the notion of a “radio” per se will cease to exist. Radio content will live on, of course, with abundant new sources and forms, some more feature-filled and tech-powered than others.

Consider the new car dashboard.  There is no “radio” there – there’s now an entertainment console.  And “radio” per se is only one of the options.  What’s the best way to stand out in a much more crowded neighborhood?  By being that good and that essential and that fundamentally unmatchable.

The right content in the right context.  This is the key to radio’s future.

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  • Ray Knight

    This article is so “on it”. My response to a recent question from All Access. It may seem like common sense, and it is, but also often forgotten. Ray Knight

    What are your top 3 tips for programming a really
    great Country station?

    A) I truly believe in today’s highly “digitized” world people are actually looking more and more for “real” interaction with other people. So, you need to figure out ways to “engage”
    your fans. Hard to do in today’s
    automated world, but we all know it can still be done; it just takes a little
    more thought. Have “utility” and serve
    the community in which you broadcast.

    B) People can get their music “fix” in more places than we can count today. It’s what’s in between the songs that sets
    you apart and keeps fans coming back.
    Whether it’s a voice track, commercial, promo, PSA, or piece of imaging,
    it needs to be “special”. If you stop
    the music, make sure it’s compelling content that serves a purpose.

    C) Over the last 15 years we have done a great job of taking the element of “discovery”
    out of radio. I know it’s tough to do in
    today’s environment, but you need to find ways to bring excitement back to the radio station, and that includes outside of morning show’s. Get fans to believe that once again they can come
    to your show and get turned on to something new. That’s right, your SHOW. If you want to do a shift go make lawnmowers. This is show business.

  • Msc Radio Network

    Internet radio is the way of the future and Fm radio will be dead in another 10 years…

  • Your premise is that there’s a difference between the two, and I don’t think there is.

  • Msc Radio Network

    There’s a huge difference between the two of them.. Internet radio can be heard and SEEN around the world and FM is only in the city you live until a few years ago when they came out with a app for your phone to listen to other stations… Plus Internet radio has less commercials or no commercials.. Fm radio is a dying industry and you can also listen to your favorite show anytime you want with podcasting and with FM most shows don’t have this… The list is endless on the difference between FM and Internet radio.. I’ve been doing internet radio in Cleveland for the past 7 years and I see fm gone soon..

  • Internet is a distribution channel as is FM. What’s on one can be on the other.
    Mark Ramsey

  • Msc Radio Network

    Well I wish you the best and I said my piece on this and there’s no reason for me to continue.. Nice article.

  • thanks!

  • Greg Fitzgerald

    I Agree with a lot of your assumptions. Apple actually sold a device years ago that you connected to your iPod classic. Software in the iPod, once connected to the tiny device, provide an FM tuner on your iPod. It failed miserably giving credibility to the argument that it’s probably too late to try to re-introduce old technology to new devices. It would be much like adding a TV tuner to a Roku Box. It’s just not what the audience is looking for. They are coming for the content and the best content for these devices shouldn’t be produced in formats that support the old technology.

    On the other hand I’d add a qualifier to the assumption that “‘radio’ per se will cease to exist. Let’s add “over the next few decades” to that. It’s going to be difficult to convince the 26 million listeners each week to NPR programming that radio will cease to exist in the near term. I’d bet most of these listeners already own a smartphone, iPad or other device – but the device by their bedside table and in their car (the one that still has knobs) is just too damned easy to turn on and forget about.

    Radio broadcasters should take advantage of the simplicity and universal nature of this legacy media but make sure they are also jumping head-first into creating content for all devices. Many are already doing this; the ones that don’t are doing it at their peril.

  • Thank you for your comment, Greg!

    I agree with all of it. When I say “radio per se will cease to exist” the emphasis should be on the “per se.” By that I mean radio “as we have usually thought of it.”

    The dashboard is changing and for many folks the gadget on the bedside table has already changed. Habits will keep the FM and (to a much lesser extent) AM band chugging along for some time. But the brands are either much larger than that or they will be held captive to changing tastes and changing habits.

  • Either commercials or subscription. If there’s another model somebody had better come up with it.

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