Radio: Jumping Jack Flash Drive

Young people tell me they love two things that we should keep an eye on:

1. Cars that have large hard drives built into their on-board entertainment center -- allowing them to download music from other sources for personalized listening.

2. Portable flash drives that hold whatever they want -- use your imagination. In fact, the students from one of my labs last year brought in a flash drive that looked like a guitar and held lots and lots of entertainment. Very cool.

Then, a few days ago, one of my readers wrote:

Recently I met a man who frequently travels to China and attends trade shows. He told me the Chinese are building everything around flash drives. Building them into phones, ipods, you name it. He even purchased a combination DVD / Flash machine, which he equates to our DVD/VCR machines (still available in the USA) but is antiquated technology in China and no longer available in that country.

He contacted me because he wants to see if there is a market for a radio station to do promotions involving giveaways of ipods / mp3 players filled with content, whether that be music, information, advertising, etc. He sees this as the future of radio promotion.
And his idea lends itself to lots of other applications, such as promotions featuring mp3 players at concerts (filled with that artist’s music), NASCAR races, (race information), sporting events (stats).The players can be set up to last a day, a week, a month, based on the number of hours of content loaded into it. It is endless in his eyes.

In light of the anecdotal evidence I witnessed with the next generation, this email resonated. I am not a big believer that hard or flash drives will be a worthy radio promotion.

On the contrary.

It's just another competitor for radio.

Unless radio stations plan to offer content for these flash drives and hard drives, giving them away as promotional tools would be like offering listeners an iPod for winning a radio contest.

Radio is faced with a real dilemma.

Continue being mono-dimensional or face the music (ouch) because the next generation prefers just about everything but radio. Remember we need Gen Y -- there are more of them than baby boomers. Keep in mind, also, the startling fact that there are no more members of this Gen Y age group being born. We've already moved on. So while Gen Y has not yet come of age, they are now coming of age to be a potent force in everything from consumer goods to entertainment.

And the record industry is fighting with them -- suing them for stealing music. The next generation has control of the Internet. You can't stop them from stealing unless you can regain control of the technology -- which you can't.

Any other ideas?

Apparently, no. Record labels are going down with the CD -- the record, if you will.

The radio industry is ill-prepared for the next generation. We think that all we have to do is come up with a new format (without the benefit of research, a consultant or a program director who can do it) that will make Gen Y compelled to return to -- analog radio.

Any other ideas?

Apparently, no. Radio companies are spending nothing or next to nothing on an Internet strategy or mobile content delivery. They are startled that podcasting for the next generation would be more desirable than listening to the radio. Luckily broadcasters don't have the money to commit to Internet and mobile projects anyway, because they also don't have the vision to pursue the future.

Time to go to school on the next generation.

Both the radio and record industries are inbred. We live in our world with the same people, same ideas and same vision of the future. That's the problem.

Now the world has changed as never before.

The next generation dictates the delivery system.

Is anyone home?

Only a computer company (Apple) responds while the industries that should be leading are retreating deeper into the past.

So, consider this for a moment.

Portable flash drives -- cool ones, at that -- will be another way for the next generation to do something other than buy music from record labels or listen to music on a terrestrial radio station.

Massive hard drives installed in automobile entertainment centers are devaluing the radio that also resides in that unit. Someday the radio may not be necessary equipment to future generations.

WiFi is coming.

WiMax is being tried in major cities. Streaming Internet radio in the car is getting closer -- thousands and thousands of choices for young listeners.

My parents, old Italian folks, would never subscribe to cable because they truly believed television should be free. After all, they installed antennas on their rooftops for most of their lives. Who would argue? They wouldn't pay for more choice.

Now young people are saying they don't need to pay for more choice -- they are demanding it for free.

And they are prevailing -- to the disdain the radio and record industries -- because they have managed to wrestle control of the technology that constitutes the delivery system away from the program suppliers.

Game over?

No, game changer.

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