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Chrysler redefines “Radio” and brings Internet to the Car

From Orbitcast:

Chrysler is saying it will be the first car company to provide in-car Internet access – availability will come later this year. The third-largest U.S. automaker will have the capability added to existing vehicles by dealers beginning this year, and later will be factory-installed on the assembly line. The Washington Post is reporting that Chrysler will use a cellular signal and a mobile phone account to give passengers access to the web. “We want to make the radio itself a WiFi port,” said Frank Klegon, Chrysler’s product development chief.

Now, “access” doesn’t mean good access or easy access. And nowhere in this story does the topic shift to audio entertainment (in the form of radio) per se. Nor are there references to what might be “standard” vs. “optional” equipment. These are all important issues.

Still, it’s interesting to note that final point: “We want to make the radio itself a WiFi port.” That implies a dramatic reinterpretation of what the “car radio” will be. As we all know, a radio is a wireless entertainment device, and transforming it via WiFi makes it all the more so. The new definition of radio will mean entertainment and information services which are out of the control of your station or your competitors.

This is the thing that’s terribly important for you to understand: Your radio station and your audience are not the same as “the radio.”

“The radio” is a technology device which will transform according to the capabilities of technology, assuming those capabilities are consumer-based. There is no necessity that any of these capabilities will have anything whatsoever to do with your station. Instead, these capabilities will be driven by the desire of consumers to be empowered – to control their entertainment and information experience – to have more fun in more places and to solve whatever problems they face on the open road.

If you’re a News or News/Talk station, look out. It is inevitable that the Internet will provide better mobile solutions to the problem solved by “Traffic and Weather on the 8’s.”

If you’re a station that’s all about music, look out. There will be a million just like you only a button away.

The problem with HD radio in this context (and satellite radio, to a lesser degree) is that it was trumped by the Internet. HD, in particular, was created with the needs of broadcasters in mind, not listeners. It is, in other words, a “station-centric” technology, not a “consumer-centric” one.

And Chrysler’s moves are proof of that, since they want nothing more than added value in their vehicles which translates to increased consumer demand and higher profits. They know the future is online, not on the radio, per se.

So the strategy for your station is to think beyond the radio. You are not “the radio,” you are an entertainment brand which distributes across multiple channels and has (hopefully) deep relationships with clients and hundreds of thousands of listeners.

If we can’t make money with that combination of elements, then shame on us all.

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