WiFi and NoFi

Next year BMW will introduce the Internet to its upscale car buyers.

That’s only the start. Other auto manufacturers are already in or planning to offer WiFi on wheels.

It’s coming – as promised – and the youth generation has been waiting for a way to access the entire Internet on the go.

This is like what FM was to us – and more.

What about terrestrial radio?

If terrestrial broadcasters are afraid of 100 plus extra paid satellite channels as competition, you can imagine the arrival of WiFi to cars as a Depends moment.

Terrestrial broadcasters will have to make many changes not the least of which will be to program to local communities – or at the very least – to a targeted group of people. Demographics will be so out – and the novel idea of finding a target audience will be so in.

That’s the gift WiFi will bring to the terrestrial radio operators who are paying attention.

Just making terrestrial radio signals available on the Internet is senseless – after all, drivers will continue to have radio available in the car’s entertainment center. But if you want to hear KLOS, Los Angeles in Chicago – well, there’s a new use for WiFi radio.

But that isn’t going to make it with the next generation who – I’d like to remind you – is beginning to age very nicely like the rest of us. They’re becoming consumers, employees and moms and dads.

The richness of WiFi will be the variety not available from terrestrial operators. After all, you saw how consolidators and their lemmings rose to the occasion to program their much-touted HD channels.

Don’t put your head in the oven – yet.

If I’m owning a group of radio stations right now, I’m seriously trying to super serve the available listener.

Cutting back on things they like is not super serving them.

Then, I am looking to anticipate the arrival of auto WiFi by doing the unthinkable – creating new stations – you guessed it, aimed at target audience groups not demographics.

These stations will reside on the Internet but I’d package them for WiFi. WiFi promises to be a household word like texting. Good time to plan for it.

Remember my mantra:

• Programmable and customizable

• Short form not 24/7 (in other words, fewer hours of quality programming repeated is better than 24 hours of blandness).

• No commercials or a different type of monetization other than the proliferation of spot radio

• No terrestrial radio djs or personalities (that’s broadcasting, remember?) Our goal is something better than broadcasting – at least in the perception of the next generation. So if you employee a great terrestrial talent, pick broadcasting or streaming. Not both.

Listen, this is taking nothing away from radio formatics that have served the industry well for decades. It’s simply something new.

You should see what happens when I get a group of broadcasters together to lead a brainstorming session on broadcasting and new media. Their initial reluctance when we get to new media is replaced quite quickly by fascination and then by innovation. At the end, it’s a sin to send them back to a terrestrial radio station and waste their ideas and enthusiasm where they can’t be heard by the next generation.

WiFi is radio’s best chance.

WiFi is just a delivery system. Using WiFi as the product -- well, that would be NoFi.

But to create and brand content specifically for WiFi that is truly compelling to the next generation.

That would be another new business opportunity that radio broadcasters by their track record are likely to miss.

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