Radio’s real hope for the future

Yesterday Billboard interviewed me about the influence of emerging trends on the radio industry. What will impact radio and what kind of impact will it have?

In answering these questions it seemed to me that the largest problem facing the radio industry is not what our would-be competitors or substitutes are doing to us but is, rather, a problem of our own making.

And it amounts to this:

We cannot cope in a world of infinite possibilities.

In a world of infinite possibilities you’re in the same mental zone as the budding entrepreneur out to eat your lunch. You’re not asking the question “what can we do to protect what we have?” you’re asking instead “what can we do to grow into the future?” That key distinction – offense vs. defense – is the difference between cowering in fear and boldly building the future.

For example, suppose I have stations in Philadelphia, which is destined to enveloped by FREE wireless broadband by the end of 2006. Is this a threat…or an opportunity?

After all, wireless broadband city-wide turns every computer (or other wireless device) into a radio – especially in those tall office buildings which so often have signal penetration troubles.

And Philadelphia is just the opening bell to a much broader trend.

Is your job only to protect your old business model or to build a new one?

How different would newspapers look today if instead of zealously trying to mimic their offline contents online they had exploited the strengths of the Internet to organically create their own competition – which THEY controlled?

I’m not going to give you my answers in this column, but I do urge you to check inside and see if you’re asking yourself the right questions.

Indeed, my primary objection to HD radio is that the entire concept of it closes off discussion of a host of alternative strategic solutions to radio’s troubles, all of which are already in the technological and audience ether today. It’s the difference between “an” answer and “the” answer.

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