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Is Radio’s Non-Music “Content” NOT “Content” Online?

It’s common to say that radio is in the content business – because obviously we are.

And in the digital arena, traffic is the primary measure of the popularity of that content.

What most folks in radio don’t know is that nearly half of all web traffic happens on peer-to-peer (P2P) networks – that’s the place where fans share music and movies.

Now radio stations spawn a lot of content – some of it available in mp3 files and podcasts. But have you ever tried to look up your favorite morning show on a P2P network to see what, if any, of their content resides there?

I have, and the results come up way short. There’s very little authentic content from even the best known morning shows (with the possible exception of a certain “Howard Stern”).

Why is this, and what does it mean?

P2P content is shared content. And shared content is content that I or you save. When you don’t find your radio station’s non-music content on a P2P network that means it’s generally not saved in folders which are open to sharing, which is another way of saying there’s little interest in sharing it in the first place.

Now granted, a morning show interview with a music star or a comedy bit is in a different category than, say, your favorite song (the former you want to hear once, the latter many times) or a movie that has yet to hit DVD.

And I know you might argue that P2P is driven largely by the sharing of illegal content, but you can find plenty of free TV shows on there, why not free radio shows? Sure there’s a bunch of Howard Stern and NPR content there, but where’s your “content”?

Could the relative absence of commercial radio non-music content from P2P networks suggest that what we consider content is not easily labeled as such for the audience – that passively-experienced “content” is something altogether different from the kind of content one seeks out and shares online?

Is there a market for the entire podcast of your morning show from February 11, 2008 (for example)? Or is that morning’s show so much like every other morning’s show that the value of any one episode is diminished and not worth sharing or seeking out?

And how do you label such a show, anyway? I may want to find Howard Stern’s interview with Pamela Anderson, but not “Howard Stern’s show from February 11, 2008.” If I can experience a show every day only the hardiest of fans will seek out those episodes which are lost. It’s the scarcity of a show which helps makes it special and valuable and sharable (a TV series only has twenty-some episodes a season, if that. A song is one-of-a-kind).

What I’m getting at is that a lot of what passes for non-music audio “content” on radio does not pass for “content” online, or at least not the kind of content worth saving and sharing – which is a pretty good indication of value.

Is radio’s non-music content comparatively disposable, like an old newscast? And what does that mean for the value of that content in a digital world?

And is this a problem that haunts all podcasts, not just the ones radio makes?

In the digital world, people like what they share and share what they like (hence the reason why “hits” are shared in abundance).

And on the Internet, that which isn’t shared risks becoming invisible.

What do you think?

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