An iPhone Is Not a Radio

The radio industry gets excited at even the mere thought that radio will be included in the Internet and mobile future.

Remember the high-fiving over HD radios that dock an iPod and allow music heard on HD sub-channels to be purchased by listeners on iTunes? It was going to be the next big thing.

It wasn't.

Now that Apple CEO Steve Jobs has introduced iPhone 2.0 with applications that enable a consumer to easily dial into AOL (powered by CBS) or any other station through other apps, many industry execs think this will mean new life for terrestrial radio.

Not so fast.

We're leaving out the sociology -- as usual, always a mistake.

Existing and available radio users might like to listen to radio on their cellphones but not the next generation.

Gen Y wants to be in control of their music.



Listen when they like.


Previous generations who listened to radio on a Walkman or before that, a transistor radio, might just assume that today's youth generation would also like to hear their radio in real time on the go.

But that's not the case.

They don't even like radio. I'm sorry to say that but my experience working with Gen Y makes me believe it is true.

There is no debate that the formatics, content, personalities (or lack of them), commercial loads and senseless clutter don't resonate with Gen Y. The radio industry must be smoking something to think that an iPhone will make this demographic return to what they don't like and have already rejected in its present form.

As Tim Westergren, the brilliant founder of Pandora, the Internet's customizable radio channel that actually plays what they want says:

"I think the key is the question. Do they listen to radio at all? I’ll bet the car is the only place they still listen to radio, and that’s because they’re captive. It’s a whole new ballgame if they have control over it, and they like the songs coming out of it".

They love Pandora, the customizable radio. I can back that up from anecdotal evidence.

I'm not certain this love will translate to streaming over the cell phone although Westergren tells me the Pandora app is one of the most popular on the iPhone applications store. He claims the average listener listens about an hour over their Pandora-enabled iPhone.

One of my students at USC wrote:

"Well, I don't know a lot of people my age with smart phones (most kids only have a phone that calls and text messages and there is something about a Sidekick that just doesn't qualify as "smart"). I also don't know a lot of kids clamoring to have radio anywhere. If anything, they wish their car just knew what music was on their itunes or ipod and continued the soundtrack. So I'm guessing no one's jumping out of their seats to get radio on their phone--smart or dumb."

The Opera browser allows streaming terrestrial and satellite stations on the AT&T Tilt.

Again, no threat to the younger generation where satellite radio is a non-starter.

I was surprised to find that when I downloaded the AOL app on my iPhone, I was happy to hear WCBS-FM in New York and KYW Newsradio in Philly but I don't find myself listening on the iPhone the way I used to listen to a Walkman. (Betcha the radio execs, programmers and employees have similar experiences).

So, if there is anything we can take from the easy addition of radio to smart devices like iPhones, it's that:

1. The next generation wants you to create shorter content for them to consume on a phone.

2. They will decide if, when, where and how long they will listen.

3. Bringing terrestrial radio to a smart phone is like inviting Bill Gates to a frat party -- so uncool.

I agree with terrestrial operators to try and make their programming available everywhere possible. That's just smart business -- smart, as it pertains to their older, available listeners.

But be careful not to confuse radio on the iPhone for a new opportunity.

It isn't.

Gen Y wants new programming. Shorter. Preferably not programming that has been condensed or repurposed from terrestrial radio -- with mashup potential. They go against the grain of traditional radio programming philosophy -- to play the hits and win.

Consider five, ten, 30-minute "shows" not done by radio personalities -- breaking all the formatics of traditional radio, monetized in ways radio people can't bring themselves to do and linked to major league merchandising opportunities -- and they may get into it.

Now that sounds like a business to me.

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