What is “Radio,” anyway?

Recently I came across an article that referenced, as an illustration, Baltimore’s Jazz HD station WSMJ-HD2. And it asked an interesting question: Can this be called “Radio”?

The question arises because this HD station, like most at this early stage, is pretty much a large selection of music punctuated by a series of rotating positioning lines. As the writer says: “You decide if this is ‘radio,’ or some variation of jukebox music.”

I was reminded of my college days when the small market station in the town next door was automated to the extent that my pals at school could literally predict the sequence of songs. This station, of course, was cheap to run but was routinely overwhelmed in the ratings by “live” and “connected” competitors.

It’s an interesting point, and it’s central to our HD radio plans (not to mention the plans for Internet radio and, dare I say it, good old-fashioned terrestrial radio).

When you take out (or never put in) the personality, when you lack the voices that connect us to the music and each other, when there is no promotion, no news, no traffic, no weather, no contesting, no feeling that what you’re hearing is in any sense “live” or, for that matter even “living,”…

…is that really “radio”?

Is that what we want “radio” to be?

Is that what the audience comes to us for?

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