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Radio’s biggest challenge: The Internet

I don’t always know what to make of Bridge Ratings’ predictions of radio’s future. In part because their sample is gathered from only ten markets, in part because mall intercept is one of their techniques, and in part because they are bold enough to project something as ever-changing as technology all the way to 2020.

They also – like any good research company – have a way of updating their projections so the closer you get to the predicted period the more right they’re likely to be (can’t complain about that!).

But if you take those reservations into account, their latest projections are interesting not only for where the numbers fall but for what their commentary says.

By 2010 (and that’s as far into the future as I or they should feel comfortable guessing at), they say there will be in the U.S.:

– Less than 8 million podcast listeners – Just under 9 million HD radio listeners – About 36 million satellte radio listeners – About 21 million folks who listen to their “radio” on their mobile phones – Almost 190 million Internet radio listeners (!!)

And here is their editorial clincher:

According to this updated data, the entire spectrum of digital audio alternatives, and especially Internet radio and its wireless distribution continue to represent the biggest challenge to traditional radio.

And they add:

Internet radio could greatly benefit from pervasive Wi-Max or Wide Area Wireless Access which will bring Internet Radio to portable devices, including car radios by 2008.

Once the Internet can be in cars, it will be. The demand is already organic and profound. There is no sales pitch or explanation required. Everyone knows what it is and what it does. It will likely be a fabled “killer app.”

So what’s the biggest threat? Not satellite radio, not iPods, not the radio station across the street, and not HD.

Isn’t it about time for the hottest topic in the radio industry to be our Internet strategies, not our HD ones or our anxieties over satellite radio and iPods?


Note that regular old-fashioned (if you will) terrestrial radio penetration – even up to 2020 – while down, is still vast. As one reader pointed out to me, the implication is that these new technologies can augment the utility of radio, not replace it altogether.

So where’s the content going to come from on all these pipes? And who owns it?

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