By Dave Seyler
Mar. 30, 2013
Former NPR CEO Ken Stern, who has just written a book on the current state of charities, found himself talking to Motley Fool about traditional radio, which he said may be gone in 15 years. Here’s why that prediction should be taken with a 50-pound bag of salt: He said the exact same thing 10 years ago.
Stern was asked about the proliferation of new competition facing AM-FM radio, coming from sources like them SiriusXM, Pandora, Spotify, iTunes, and what that would do to broadcast during the next decade.
“It’s a hard question,” he replied. “I’ve been making predictions about the demise of traditional radio for some years. About 10 years ago I said, “It has another 15 years. Now I’ll sit here and say it has another 15 years. Someday I will be right in saying that it has 15 years.”
Stern said, “Let’s face it: No one would build a radio tower now. It doesn’t make much sense in terms of all the options, but in fact there’s a built-in audience for it, a huge embedded audience for it now, and the force of habit.”
As for Sirius XM, Stern added that nobody would launch a satellite now, saying as new as that platform is, it is already dated.
RBR-TVBR observation: A long series of technologies and seismic social shifts have all had a crack at knocking radio out of business. Stern noted the results himself – radio is still an engrained habit.
The only reason nobody would build a radio tower now is that there is no space for them where there are enough people to form an audience. We guarantee there are plenty who would be thrilled to build a tower in any metropolitan area; and indeed, the clamoring for the smallest of towers, for LPFM and FM translators, is louder now than it has ever been.
Radio’s future is not guaranteed – but it has always shown an amazing ability to transform itself and adapt to new market conditions.
To our way of thinking, survival will key on holding on to radio’s core attributes which can not be duplicated by national digital platforms – in particular, the provision of compelling content geared to the tastes and needs of a population only the broad broadcaster knows; while at the same time making use of the best new digital technologies and taking a big heaping helping out of the slice of the advertising pie that is currently migrating in that direction.
If radio can manage this feat it will be around for many more years.