FM Sports is not "the next big thing" in radio.
FM Talk is not "the next big thing" in radio.
The "next big thing" in radio is the gradual disappearance of music stations to be replaced by non-music stations, whether they are Talk, Sports, or new formulas yet to be devised.
The fact is that music stations will increasingly be at a competitive disadvantage regardless of their legendary status in the radio industry. That, obviously, is due to the rise of the Internet and the plethora of music distribution options it makes available in our homes, workplaces, and cars. As I always like to say "heritage" is worthless unless it adds value to the audience. Otherwise, "heritage" represents "old radio stations."
I'm not saying all music stations will eventually disappear. I am saying that this trend is inexorable.
So if you're in the radio industry, I recommend the following:
1. Stop using the term "FM" in front of Talk formats as if they live on some other planet. "FM" is a channel of distribution – the most popular one – not a format descriptor. To use "FM" in the label makes us focus too much on the channel and not enough on the content. A few years ago I was on an opening panel at a Talk convention and the first question was "Does FM Talk have a future?" And although my answer wasn't "stop asking dumb questions," it should have been.
2. Get busy dreaming up new formulas. If you think that the appetite for non-music content begins and ends with Sports and Political Talk and whatever slim recipes we have beyond that you will miss the boat completely. Want ideas for new formats that are non-music? Just turn on your cable TV. Your company can't afford to experiment? Even online? Too bad. It will mean your demise.
In the long run, radio's advantage – whether it be on-air or online – will be related to the compelling power and distinctiveness of our content. And the sheer clutter of competition will make compelling and distinctive music brands with loyal audiences far fewer and farther between.
So get busy.