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Can you read radio’s future between these lines?

The more universal broadband Internet is, the more radio is vulnerable to it.

A recent PEW study shows that growth in demand for broadband seems to be leveling off. 53% of homes accessing the Internet now use high-speed access, compared to an only slightly smaller figure six months earlier.

And the folks who are online but don’t use high-speed access are not good candidates for broadband: They’re older, lower income, less educated, and less interested in using the Internet.

Meanwhile almost a third of adults in the U.S. don’t use the Internet at all – a number that has held steady during the first few months of 2005. Obviously, the less apt you are to use the Internet now, the less apt you are to use it later, high-speed or otherwise.

This means a couple things:

First, if the U.S. starts to fall behind other countries in broadband adoption, this might accelerate the development of municipally-owned networks, i.e., broadband for everyone – for free.

Second, if high-speed Internet becomes, as I expect it to, a source of talk and especially music programming competitive with radio, universal high-speed access would be devastating to the radio industry as we know it today. Even if high-speed access stalls in the high 50% range it has the potential to leave radio with what’s left: A smaller, older, lower-income, less educated audience base of significantly less interest to advertisers.

It’s time to change our models, folks.

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