On the Slow Death of Radio

17 Sep ’06

The NYT reports on radio’s declining fortunes. This is not to say that radio isn’t still profitable – the business still generates considerable cash, and requires little investment to continue operating as it does, but its audience is dying and young listeners are now listening online and to their iPods. Inevitably, advertisers will follow them. So, “It’s not a debate any more that radio is a structurally declining sector.”

Radio lost me after the format changes in the 70’s and the 80’s; talk radio has always struck me as bait for a lowest common denominator kind of market, and music programming has for a long time been more about reducing cost and complexity for the programmer and managing the audience as a herd, rather than delivering a product that addresses the customer’s needs. So it’s no surprise, surely, that at first sight of a viable alternative the audience is fleeing from the fleecing.

The real question is what comes next – the NYT article canvasses some new directions being taken by some in radio, but nothing I’ve heard so far strikes me as meaningful for the great majority of the audience. I personally think this is the beginning of a long process that will see radio ultimately as a means to reach niche audiences only; essentially, these are the last of the mass-market days for radio.

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