Every so often someone in the radio industry trots out a study which says iPods really aren’t that threatening to the radio industry’s long-term health and welfare. “Folks get tired of maintaining them,” they will say. “They’re just a new form of Walkman,” say others.
One might ask oneself what it means, then, when Apple’s iTunes site went down on Christmas because millions of new iPod owners were installing their units at the very same time.
The fact is this: For younger consumers in particular, the iPod is no more difficult to use than a radio. Our research has shown this definitively. And while folks may occasionally tire of maintaining an iPod they will also tire of their radio stations. But tiring of something and abandoning it are two different things. Two billion downloads can’t be all wrong.
“In the future,” says Italian designer Gaetano Pesce, “consumers will expect original objects.”
An iPod – indeed, any mp3 player – turns radio into an original object. Making a mix tape was never so easy. Nor did a mix tape make you look cool to your friends (except, maybe, for the recipient of the tape).
The radio industry will have to come to terms with a future where your favorite radio station may always be on your hip and may always plays the songs you program yourself.
This general trend, more than anything else, is why the growth of satellite radio will not be about music and why the distribution of HD radio will be forever hampered.
If you want more music choice, the solution is in the palm of a ten-year-old.
While satellite radio seems to inherently understand this, the powers-that-be in HD radio seem to have no such clue. And that’s too bad, because facing reality is how you make the most of reality.
Between-the-music is everything to radio’s future.