Future Radio

There is increasing evidence that using your cell phone can cause brain tumors.

In a British study some scientists say there is a chance that talking on a mobile phone for as little as 10 minutes could trigger changes in the brain that are associated with cancer.

And a new Israeli study says regular use of mobile telephones increases the risk of developing tumors with certain gland growths nearly 50 percent higher for mobile phone user more than 22 hours a month.

Of course, rumors about cell phones and cancer risk have been circulating for many years but apparently the soothing voice of the cell phone industry has reassured us.

Perhaps not.

Perhaps cell phone usage is addictive and will someday require a warning similar to the Surgeon General's disclaimer on cigarette packages.

Our society is addicted to cell phones -- and smart phones such as the Blackberry or iPhone.

I reported what happened recently when I assigned my USC students a project to go cold turkey for two days -- they suffered high anxiety and couldn't wait to connect again to their phones and resume text messaging.

Simple cell phones are to today what portable radios were in the 60's. And what smart phone devices will be to tomorrow.

The iPhone has taken consumers' breath away. And as it evolves -- and other companies compete -- we are going to see the mobile device become the main delivery system for entertainment in the future.

It may not matter how dangerous it is to a consumer's health or for that matter to other consumers' well-being. For example: have you noticed how many young people are text messaging in their cars -- while driving?

A recent informal poll in one of my USC classes showed 100% of the hands raised when I asked how many of them texted while they drove. They laughed but reassured that they can multitask. No problem.

It is a problem.

In Phoenix it's a hefty fine if an officer pulls you over on suspicion of text messaging. I guess cops have nothing else to do out here in the dessert. My car was totaled two years ago when a young driver ran a light that had been red for 30 seconds! She readily admitted she was distracted on her cell phone.

Then CBS President (and now Sirius CEO) Mel Karmazin spoke at one of my Inside Radio management conferences. Mel said as he often did that radios helped people drive better (radio usage is not frequently mentioned as a cause of motorist distraction). Mel's a sly fox, indeed -- and the consummate salesman. He was saying it's safer to turn on the radio than talk on the cell phone.

Imagine the strength of a mobile medium that consumers would fight to keep in their hands -- even risking cancer or accidents.

That's how powerful the mobile phone is becoming -- more addictive than the transistor radio or Walkman of the past. And while linking cell phone usage to cancer is an overreaction at this point, it makes you think. I wouldn't give mine up. I don't know too many people who would give theirs up, either.

The mobile future is becoming pervasive.

You talk.

You text.

You take and send pictures.

You might email.

You might listen to music or watch a video.

You don't listen to radio.

There's a reason radios are not standard equipment on iPods and iPhones. Continuous radio is not something that young people listen to -- they want to pick and choose their programs and they want to have a say in them. Their shorter attention spans make traditional radio listening a thing of the past.

Some radio people distracted by how to save their terrestrial franchises fail to see that putting streaming music on the mobile phone is not the future of radio broadcasting.

But the real radio of the future is likely to be a podcast delivered on a docked phone or better yet on the fly with short form programs -- not constant music streams. For music programming this is not possible right now with so many copyright issues unresolved, but coming soon it will be. Short attention span radio.

The cell phone is simply a mobile delivery device.

It is not the medium.

The medium is no longer the message.

Great news for content providers including the talented and experienced people from the radio industry.

Today content is the message. The medium is just a delivery system.

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