Tom Shales, legendary TV critic for The Washington Post, has seen the tube go through lots of changes. From cable to satellite to DVRs, and from black & white televisions to flat screen plasmas. In a recent column, he also discusses the demise of television "seasons," network control of what we watch, and the rising popularity of cable shows from John Adams to Mad Men as the most award-winning shows out there.
But it was this line that caught our attention:
"But no matter what path TV takes to our eyeballs, one requirement remains: There must be programs, even if some are only 2 1/2 minutes long."
Yet, in radio, we are still thinking in terms of "dayparts" and traditional radio content. No matter how the future evolves for radio, we have to keep thinking in terms of entertaining, compelling content. Whether it is through podcasts that listeners control, forums that get our audience involved, blogs that take listeners behind the scene, community and concerts events that are happening right in town - it is our content in various forms that will separate the winners from the also-rans.
There will be growing pains, to be sure. As Shales reminds us - "We don't watch television, instead we access programming through content providers." Who are YOUR content providers at your station and cluster? Who will be the content providers when the old guard hangs up their headphones? Those are the relevant questions that radio's chieftains need to be considering, long after today's Wall Street crisis fades.