Mobile Terrestrial Radio -- The Prognosis

An Ann Arbor based weather service called Weather Underground launched a new Apple app within the past few days that promises to be very popular with some potential audience members.

For $5.99, you get the app for your Apple iPhone. It has a GPS function that can find local stations with ease from wherever you are with your phone. It also offers thousands of stations seamlessly. Great audio. Intuitive interface. Sounds like radio's greatest wish -- to be on an Apple mobile device.

I paid my money. Downloaded the app. I didn't need AOL Radio or FlyCast or anyone else. Everything worked just fine. The audio was great. There I was listening to as many stations as I could think of from my sunny Arizona locale.

For radio this must be nirvana -- small "n".

Not so fast.

I'm not 25 years old even if I try to Photoshop my picture tomorrow. In fact, most of my friends, radio people, trade press -- are not 25.

I have often cautioned that one of the problems the radio industry faces is that it does not understand the next generation. They make costly, foolish decisions based on this ignorance. Some arrogantly think that Gen Y -- the next generation -- isn't that important in spite of its numbers and coming of age.

All they want is to put radio on a mobile device -- even an Apple device.

Problem is the next generation will be nonplussed.

1. Gen Y doesn't like to pay for things. They steal music, share it and believe they are entitled to free video and audio. So far, they're right. They control the delivery system -- not the broadcast stations, not the record labels. Charging $5.99 for an app is asking for payment, not a big one, but nonetheless a payment. But let's say they spring for the money, then what?

2. The next generation doesn't like terrestrial radio. They'll listen when there's nothing else. You don't have to be a parent to know that Gen Y will almost always choose another alternative to radio if available.

3. Thousands of stations that many young people presumably do not want is not a solution to radio's lack of growth potential. Here's the generational media secret: they already have thousands of stations to choose from. It's called Internet streams. And they much prefer anything that is not produced by traditional terrestrial radio.

4. This WunderRadio Apple app is limited by -- yes, Apple CEO Steve Jobs' anal-retentive instincts. As iPhone users know, you can't listen to streaming radio on an iPhone and do anything else in any other application simultaneously. Therefore -- now think of this -- an attention deficit challenged young generation would have to choose WunderRadio and stay with it -- and not, I repeat not -- multitask. Lots of luck!

5. This app may be cool and it may be on a cool device but it is for us -- a formerly "hip", but not a presently cool, generation. A baby boomer or Gen Xer is used to listening to a radio -- so WunderRadio may work for them and that's fine. For the next generation, are you kidding? There's zero chance they are going to choose terrestrial radio on an iPhone and do nothing else but listen. Nothing against WunderRadio.

To borrow a phrase from drug advertising, "see if listening to only radio is right for you".

In fact, even if they could multitask, they're still not going to listen to terrestrial radio. Have we learned nothing? This generation grew up without a love of radio. They love the Internet.

I'm saying it's a great addition for an older, available radio listeners. And not an option for young ones. Time will tell. I may be wrong, but I think a year from now we'll see that easily accessible terrestrial radio on mobile phones and devices will not make a dent in radio's greater problems.

Their content sucks -- at least as far as young listeners are concerned.

Therefore, radio applications such as WunderRadio are an added advantage for people who like radio and want to listen to it everywhere -- usually older demographics.

Pandora's apple app is free and Gen Y loves Pandora.

New Internet streams such as AccuRadio, a wide-ranging music service and individual branded Internet streams are also available on the fly without a lot of terrestrial radio's baggage.

WunderRadio is WunderWhy radio when you try to figure how in the world the radio industry it is going to have a future when they continue to leave young people to everyone else.

Radio's problem is content first.

Lack of new, younger audiences second.

Monetization third (you have to attract them to market them).

Delivery last. And when it is delivered don't be surprised that a specific program is more attractive than a continuous feed.

If you build it they will come. Look no further than the Internet for your evidence.

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