Peer-to-Peer Radio

One of the more startling things to traditional broadcasters is that today's young audience wants to sometimes be their own program director.

The iPod is an example of how a generation decided to program their own "radio stations" with the music they choose to buy or steal online. And their stations really do have fewer commercials and more music unlike the promises we've made and broken to them for decades.

Broadcasters do what they have always done -- broadcast. When radio programming got more specific in the 70's we used the term narrowcasting to reflect how the broadcasting service had adapted.

But one thing never changed -- broadcasters made all the content decisions. Radio may have flirted with research and focus groups but in the end a PD made the call.

Music, news, weather, traffic -- whatever was being offered started as an idea from radio's vast and talented group of program directors and found its way to the transmitter, the tower and into the ears of an appreciative public.

I've written about the great divide between all previous generations and Generation Y -- the next generation. I understand why they reject record companies that dictate how these young people must consume and enjoy their music and why they are abandoning radio -- the one medium almost every modern generation grew up addicted to -- until now.

There's a new worldwide study by Nokia, the cellphone manufacturer, about the topic of "circular entertainment" -- that is, content produced, edited, contributed to and adjusted by peer groups. Nokia estimates by 2012 up to 20% of entertainment content will be created, edited and shared within their peer circle rather than coming out of traditional media groups.

This is how circular sharing works:

1. Say someone shares video content taken on their mobile device -- let's say a picture of a family member or friend doing something interesting.

2. The friends or family members then add an MP3 file soundtrack before sending it along to another friend.

3. The next friend edits the footage and adds more pictures before sending it on to another person and so on until the life of the event ends naturally.

Now, this example is one that uses video, but I can promise you that audio and text applications will also be included in "circular entertainment" -- the concept of user generated content being edited, supplemented and forwarded without a formal broadcaster.

We see an early example of this trend now in YouTube which does act as a de facto broadcaster but the content is absolutely user generated.

The next step could cause a tremendous problem for traditional broadcasters who even to this moment cling to the hope that they will remain the decider.

That is, of course, unless this concept excites you as much as it does me. I don't think traditional broadcasting is going to go away -- after all, most folks still like to be entertained from time to time. But traditional broadcasting will never be a growth industry again unless it wraps its arms around these new sociological changes.

One good start is to get your content and marketing people to brainstorm the idea of incorporating user generated content into your traditional format. By the way, I'd even encourage Gen X and baby boomers to participate.

Since any two or more users can create and edit their own content without a broadcaster, how can you be of help?

How about offering prizes and stage competitions. Think of the marketing possibilities.

In five years maybe we'll stop looking for the next Woodstock and create a virtual competition in Second Life of user generated content. The Super Bowl of the people's content, if you will. Want a piece of that?

Traditional broadcasters have the ability to lead as well as participate in new trends -- even radical ones that terrify them.

In the future, radio stations are no longer transmitters and towers. They may be Internet based, podcasted or otherwise distributed to mobile devices.

Someday soon broadcasters will assume the role of aggregator and stimulator -- fanning new trends and encouraging participation. (Isn't that what radio did in the 60's when it started putting real people on the air for call-in shows?)

The radio company that might eventually show vigorous growth might be the one that pulls together broadcaster-prepared content with user generated content and makes a conscious decision to push the content through to every new technological invention.

If this new age of "radio" or "records" disturbs you, you won't like it any better in another few years.

Record labels are stuck in the manufacturing warehouse because that's what they've always done -- manufactured things -- vinyl, plastic. The action today is digital and they've missed it.

Radio stations keep obsessing over getting their groove back after ten years of distraction at the hands of consolidation and unprecedented technological breakthroughs. The real action is in content -- not the transmitter or towers.

And even without catching up to this exponential movement, we see a glimpse of what's beyond.

User to user generated content.

If we learn from our past mistakes, now is not too early to get involved.

For those of you who would prefer to get Jerry's daily posts by email for free, please click here. IMPORTANT: First you must check your mail or spam filter to verify your new subscription before service can begin.
Thanks for forwarding my pieces to your friends and linking to your websites and boards.