One of the findings from the focus groups we did for Arbitron in the fall is that our 18-34 year-old respondents often referred to radio as keeping them company. While there are many aspects of FM radio that are falling short - the inability to program their favorite music, commercials, etc. - this interpersonal aspect of radio came through in multiple groups. It's just that radio's ability to keep listeners' company has become more checkered over the past several years.
Recently, Mark Ramsey interviewed media futurist Douglas Rushkoff, whose "Merchants of Cool" documentary on PBS' "Frontline" was mandatory viewing in our offices a few years back, and what led us to book Look-Look's Sharon Lee at a Jacobs Summit.
Finally, I would say the purpose of radio is to keep people company. And in order to keep people company there’s got to be a human being on the other side of it. The more truly human your radio station is the better it is at keeping people company. And the more computerized and business-like it is the farther outside the box you'll find yourself.
We talk a lot at Jacobs Media about humanizing the listening experience, integrating the listener, and working toward making radio sound less "scheduled." When you think about the competition we're facing now - and you imagine how much it will intensify in the next year or two - it's this local, human element that will keep terrestrial in the game. Assuming of course, that we don't let it go by the wayside.
Jockless Jack stations, boring HD Radio channels, and card reading DJs are the quickest paths to obsolescence for our business. Hopefully, we'll realize that simply saying "content is king" isn't going to get the job done for us. We truly must start walking the walk.