What’s the biggest threat to radio over the next few years? Perhaps it’s satellite radio or maybe it’s Internet “radio.” Yet, terrestrial radio can compete against both, if we focus on what got us to the dance. We’re going to be a cheaper alternative to XM and Sirius, and if we start streaming initiatives en masse, we have the best established brands on the World Wide Web.
Some feel the bigger threat is the iPod. We’re continuing to see research that shows that as many as one-third of listeners own an mp3 player, many of whom are spending less time listening to the radio.
I have read many differing opinions about whether to-embrace-or-not-embrace iPods. Some say these mp3 players are just souped up Walkmans. While there’s some truth to that, remember that most Walkmans contained AM/FM radios. While some people enjoyed listening to cassette tapes, the Walkman was a very positive development for radio. It made portability cool.
The iPod problem? Apple doesn’t build them with AM/FM tuners. While other Mp3 manufacturers have moved in this direction (like Nomad), Steve Jobs hasn’t headed down this path. They’re creating iPods that hold photos, but radio has been left behind. Given that the iPod is obviously the category buster, wouldn’t it make sense for the NAB and/or the RAB to mount an initiative to convince Apple to manufacture the next generation of iPods with AM/FM tuners?
While it’s one thing to focus on generating PR for radio, the proliferations of iPods is another of those incredible technological forks in the road that could have the cultural impact of the personal computer. If radio cannot find a way to lobby itself into Apple’s boardroom, we’re going to miss yet another golden opportunity to hang onto our ubiquity. Let’s send a team to Cupertino now and start playing offense.