The following statement, which apparently originated on the Facebook page of Cumulus Atlanta OM Rob Roberts, has been shared by many in the radio industry since Apple’s announcement of “iTunes Radio” yesterday.
Movie Theaters are going to kill radio. TV is going to kill radio. 8 track tapes are going to kill radio. Cassettes are going to kill radio. VCR’s are going to kill radio. Satellite radio is going to kill radio. Internet is going to kill radio. Smartphones are going to kill radio. Apple Radio is going to kill radio. Let me know when you see the trend. And the hits just keep on coming.
Roberts has a point in that the radio industry has survived as newer technologies have come along. But what he fails to realize in the statement is that while radio survives, its market share dwindles as more options become available. iTunes Radio will be yet another service competing with AM/FM for ears and ads.
As Jelli CEO Mike Dougherty tweeted yesterday, the potentially bigger addition announced yesterday will be the syncing of iOS to new car dashboards beginning next year. It’ll take a few years for those cars to become standard as people upgrade and replace their older cars, but unlike technologies like HD Radio that are just starting to be offered as standard over a decade after their introduction, this is a feature that users will actually clamor for.
Its not just Roberts looking down on what iTunes Radio and other streaming services like Pandora mean to the radio industry moving forward. A pair of Clear Channel executives have come out swinging against their digital competitors.
CEO Bob Pittman told the Wall Street Journal that custom radio does not appear to be a viable freestanding business. Just because IHeartRadio’s attempt at custom programming has failed to take off against Pandora, Spotify, Slacker, Rdio, etc. doesn’t deem the entire model a failure. Plus Apple is going directly at Clear Channel with their curated channels and new artist spotlights that will compete with similar initiatives Clear Channel is doing with their stations and IHeartRadio.
Digital Music News quoted Clear Channel President John Hogan, “They don’t realise that not all people live in big cities such as New York City and Los Angeles. And not all people can afford to pay a $15-a-month subscription.” Hogan unknowingly spotlighted the issue his company is creating in the coming digital battle.
The smaller markets are the ones that have been gutted the most by layoffs. Is there really that big of a difference between a fully voicetracked/syndicated music station and a curated digital one. Both will have the same amount of cheap $8 a spot ads and limited local content. Hogan also looks past the fact that iTunes Radio is free. With over half of Americans already owning Smartphones, a number that will only continue to increase, digital music services are already reaching the masses.
Traditional radio will continue to serve a niche, but for anyone to think that digital music services are just going to be a small player they are refusing to look at the big picture. AM is no longer relevant to most potential listeners. There are plenty of demographics being underserved by FM, who are gladly being served online. The sky isn’t falling but, radio needs to redefine what it is and who it wants to serve. It has the ability to serve local audiences, but the more it gets away from serving them with local content it loses any uniqueness it has. Stop ignoring the enemy and start fighting back.