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Don’t Pop that Champagne over the idea of FM on an iPhone

Will Apple activate the dormant FM receiver capability in the iPhone and the iPod Touch?

Like the one-time Soviet Union activating a mole agent?

Assuming the Nano experiment yields a bounty of new iTunes sales (and that's a big assumption, but it's my bet), of course they will.  Why would we even consider this gossip anything other than "jumping to the obvious conclusion"?

The whole idea of this was once laughable – until Apple linked the radio experience to the iTunes store directly and thus turned the radio dial into its own private revenue stream and discovery engine.  

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

It's puzzling to me that we celebrate this the way we do.  Of course, adding FM to the iPhone does place the idea of "radio" under the i-Halo, and that halo shines brightly.  But radio – in all its streaming and app-related forms – already resides under that halo, so what other incremental value can we gain from a presence on these devices?

We can gain more minutes and hours of listening, sure.  But the radio industry needs to come to terms with the idea that its fundamental problem is not distribution.

People aren't listening less because we're not on the devices they own – the average household contains five radios, after all.  They're listening less because alternatives to radio pack more value, more compelling content, more experiences worth experiencing, more entertainment, more utility, more customization, more choices, more – something.

And that means the way to fight shrinking TSL is not by encouraging wider distribution in a world of already wide distribution.  It's to add value to the experience – for consumers and for advertisers.

And that is not going to happen when we pop champagne over an iPhone.

Now if the radio interface were such that radio broadcasters could add new revenue streams of their own, that would be another matter.  But that will likely be an app made by somebody other than Apple – like YOU, for example.  And isn't that what the app store is for?

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