Radio: Watch Out for Twitter

Have you heard about Twitter?

It's the hottest new social networking tool that allows people to "stay in touch" all day by exchanging frequent answers to the question "How are you doing?" (or as we say in South Philadelphia, "How ya doin'").

Try this thing to get the hang of it. The next generation will.

Less than 200 words -- so you have to keep it short.

And what are young people saying on this site? Well, they are narrating their lives -- from the meaningless to the significant and they are doing it in real time.

It's just another of the many things listeners can do other than listen to radio.

Nothing against radio, but if you've been following my observations about these young folks then you are not surprised to find they want to be active, part of the action, and it doesn't hurt if what they are doing is about them.

Twitter can be as addictive as texting.

When I told my classes that my old Italian mother used to remind me that the world isn't built around me, they would look at me in amazement.

It isn't?

Well, it may not have been for me (or you), but it revolves around the next generation in every way. It helps that they have control of the Internet and mobile media -- and they've mastered it.

Last summer when I was vacationing on Long Beach Island at the Jersey shore, it struck me how many joggers on the beach were running with their cellphones up to their ears.


Out of breath.

But in touch with someone while running -- phone held to the ear, not even bluetooth. Obviously the sound of the ocean was not enough of an attraction in our digital world.

In Arizona, when nine months a year the weather is to die for, walkers enjoy the climate with cellphones up to their ears -- and they're not always young walking with their phones to the ear.

Go to any supermarket and you have to wonder how anyone previously shopped without a cellphone. Is there a better way to ask, "what do you want me to pick up for dinner", continue socializing or doing business while loading up the shopping cart.

I know many of you like me to share insights on new trends, but my point here is that if someone could reinvent radio to be the most compelling thing the next generation ever heard, it would still have an uphill battle.

That's because increasingly the short attention span young generation and even the rest of us are getting increasingly distracted.

You can't ignore it.

I know it is blasphemy, but the fabled Randy Michaels radio motto, "the noise you can't ignore" is no longer valid. The next generation can ignore it. And they do.

None of this concerns me.

What concerns me more is if the media industry does not deal with the reality of living in today's social, technologically advanced, increasingly in the moment mobile world.

Again, cooperate with the inevitable -- don't deny it.

So, play with Twitter for a while.

Remember when I asked you to do the same thing with Facebook six months ago? And in a few more months Google is going to introduce a new social networking system that can be accessed on individual websites of all kinds -- not just Facebook or MySpace.

Obviously, to be in the communications business today we've got to master the art of social networking.

But for radio, we've got to catch up.

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