Podcasting Directly to Radios

One of my dear Australian friends sent me news last week of an initiative involving both Australian and Chinese commercial radio broadcasters.

I thought you would find this fascinating as I did.

Commercial Radio Australia and an affiliate of Radio Beijing are planning to develop a DAB+ digital radio application that will make it possible for podcasts to be sent via the broadcast band directly to a listener’s radio without having to connect with the Internet.

They call it “Push Radio” and it is an exciting new way to develop what I say is the next real radio – podcasting and make the content come out of regular radio speakers.

Imagine back in the U.S. what this would mean for Adam Carolla who has about a half million followers for his podcasts via iTunes.

Or for Dave & Geri who carry on their excellent Grand Rapids show via a daily “funcast”. This means sidestepping the middleman – the clueless radio consolidator – and going directly into a radio.

Many fans will want to continue to listen to podcasts directly from your mouth to their ear buds. But the idea of delivering podcast content to radios is a good way to grow the “radio” business.

The technology will send an audio file directly to a DAB+ digital radio receiver instead of requiring the listener to connect their iPod or mp3 player to the Internet to receive programming.

The Aussies and Chinese are working together to discover other ways this type of direct delivery system will work for them. They hope to be able to have a trial of the system up and running in Australia by the end of this year.

What is significant here is to embrace new ways to adapt changing sociology (the appeal of podcasting) to technology (different physical ways of delivering the programming).

That’s what we talk about in this space.

The sociology of emerging technology. Content and new ways to deliver it.

I am concerned these days when I hear good or bad news about the terrestrial radio business.

Who wouldn’t want advertisers to start spending more on radio? And who wouldn’t encourage radio stations to start charging more for their commercials?

But at the same time, we see advertisers rushing to new media. Big advertisers like Coke and Pepsi (among others) just invent their own commercials and try to get them to catch on online. It seems like there is a rush to find the next best thing.

But the next best thing may yet be what radio stations already know how to provide – that is, local content delivered in new forms and in new ways.

Stay with me for a second.

Imagine if everyone in Los Angeles could have their own commercial radio "station".

That would be a lot of radio out there. But it is exactly what is happening on the Internet where almost anyone can start a station. Imagine again if royalty rates for music were not prohibitive and streamers could afford to put music radio stations online.

No economic forecast satisfies me unless it cooperates with the inevitable.

1. Young people will have short attention spans and will want to be in command of their own content decisions on-demand.

2. The medium no longer dictates the programming – that is, because terrestrial radio can broadcast 24 hours a day doesn’t mean listeners need to hear the stations 24 hours a day.

3. Some component of social networking will have to be part of it. Remember, there is a generation of 80 million young people who vote with their fingers as they tap text messages and Facebook replies on their mobile devices. To imagine a medium without a social networking connection is unthinkable.

4. Content and advertising together is no longer the default choice for commercial communication. Paid sites and event marketing models may work better with the delivery of other types of content. And where traditional commercial advertising survives, radio stations will have to reinvent the commercial to make it believable, credible, understandable, shareable and interactive. Lots of luck with that when most radio consolidators still think a radio commercial is a spot that runs in 8 unit sets.

5. Local trumps national even on the worldwide web and even on consumers’ mobile devices. There is nothing that beats local. GPS is all about local. Technology changes but people still care about what is happening around the corner. Traditional radio lost site of that, but it is never too late to rediscover the magic of local communications.

Do you want a view of the radio and media business in the next five to ten years?

All sorts of content – using differing models of monetization – pushed through technological devices such as smart phones, iPads, mobile tablets, auto entertainment systems, laptops and maybe even old fashioned radios.

But, pushing podcasting to radios or even car radios is exactly the strategy that forces radio companies to become content companies that distribute their programming over a vast array of technologies.

While traditional media execs do not tend to see it this way, entrepreneurs get it and my prediction is that years from today we will look back on the decline of traditional media with a laugh and say, “why didn’t they adapt as their audiences changed?”

Radio isn’t going to die.

The Internet isn’t going to become the sole media king.

What’s more likely is that content providers will get better at using and embracing technology changes just as their audiences have.

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