New Technology Is Already Replacing Radio

My longtime friend Dan Mason, the CBS Radio President who is leading the dramatic turnaround of the company made a statement the other day about technology and radio.

Dan reportedly told his new media road show in New York that "$1 billion in ad dollars were telling you that the iPod or satellite radio will lead to the death of radio. That's a myth. To say that an iPod or satellite radio, with little or no human connection, will ever replace radio is absurd." (from

Well, maybe not satellite radio, but iPods have already changed the dynamic for radio. Just ask a young person who is not listening to a Walkman and is listening to an iPod. Not radio. But an MP3 player.

CBS is moving in the direction of trying to get radio into new technology. It revealed a new media player that will feature several radio stations at once including Internet brands. They've jumped into the personalized radio business with Last.FM. Have a deal with AOL. Their own individual station streams and so on.

My experience with the next generation does not bode well for any strategy that proliferates traditional radio onto new delivery systems.

The next generation doesn't like radio.

Not the stations. Not the concept. There's simply less need for it in their lives.

New technologies will not only replace radio among the next generation, they already have. And this generation is huge -- with as many Gen Y'ers as there are baby boomers.

I agree with Dan that the idea that new technologies will replace radio is -- to use his word -- "absurd" if you're talking about older Gen X'ers and baby boomers. This group loves radio and will appreciate receiving something they already like on their computers or mobile devices.

But that's as far as you can go.

Without the next generation the radio business will continue to hit the wall. Once the present economic downturn ends -- still a long way off -- there won't be enough new young listeners to help radio continue to grow. It becomes a losing proposition. More radio listeners die and fewer new radio listeners use traditional radio.

The next generation wants to stop, start, time-delay and delete its programming.

This generation wants to mash it up -- have a say in what it sounds like or how it is used.

They want to deliver it to each other -- share it -- at will.

They want community (what we used to call local radio) through social networking online.

One of the hardest things for me to deal with in my years of working with the next generation is that they don't like radio and don't understand what I like about it.

When I describe it, they say what I am describing is not what they hear on the radio.

We're an industry in denial that technology has changed the game. But only radio people have the power to adapt and create new content for a new generation and on the devices they use.

But to begin, we have to understand that more has changed than how to deliver radio programming.

It's not about the technology.

It's the sociology.

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