One of the more interesting sidebars of the upcoming Presidential election relates to computers and technology. Barack Obama regularly is seen checking his Blackberry, chills with his iPod (he likes Classic Rock, by the way), and is very in-touch with his Internet fund-raising efforts. In contrast, John McCain is essentially techno-phobic. He's not "into" email, gadgetry, and doesn't really seem to have a grasp of the Internet.
As Wall Street Journal columnist Lee Gomes asked recently, "Can someone who never touches a computer truly be in touch with what is happening in the world?" Anna Quinlen posed the same question in Newsweek.
I will leave that debate to you. (Gomes argues it both ways - that time spent online might be better spent interacting with real people. On the other hand, how can the President truly understand what is happening in the world if he isn't in-touch with what his constituents are doing every day?)
But when the conversation swings over to radio, the question should be more sharply focused. Can radio's leadership truly help craft solutions to the digital dilemma if they aren't personally conversant with all of the different technological tools and possibilities? How can they prioritize digital initiatives if they aren't in-touch with what their listeners (or better put, consumers) are doing with tech as it relates to entertainment and information on an everyday basis)?
Shouldn't they know how to buy stuff on Amazon, book air travel on Travelocity, write a blog, and listen to some of their own stations' streams? How can you truly understand how to prepare for the future if you're not part of the tech reality in the present?
But it goes beyond radio's moguls. Every PD, GM, and GSM needs to make that same commitment to technology as well. While we applaud Edison's "30 Under 30" campaign, the reality is that the average age of radio's managers around the country is probably well into the fortysomething range - a generation that may not necessarily know its way around an X-box console, an iPod, blogs, or Pandora.
If we're going to compete, we need to go to school. Everything we've learned about content creation, communication, and entertainment has value. But how it is distributed and enjoyed by end-users is radically changing, and understanding those dynamics is crucial for transitioning radio from the cozy business in the '70s, '80s, and '90s to the one that must compete with Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, and Sergey Brin.
Meanwhile, Obama should definitely upgrade to an iPhone.