On a different site in 2014 I wrote an article about the future of traditional radio. Within the content, I made the following assumptions:

  • Traditional over the air (OTA) radio will decline as new mediums surface providing more accessible means of entertainment
  • Mobile mediums will rise in the realm of entertainment and information access from OTA radio
  • Music streaming and the introduction of new mediums will be the interest of new generations over that of OTA radio

In this article, I want to review those statements.

My focus in the original article was on the heated debate surrounding the intrusion of paid advertisements from Pandora and iTunes radio into the realm of traditional radio. I expressed the view that traditional radio, a seemingly timeless medium, might withstand this new onslaught but not well, drawing parallels to its resilience in the face of past challenges from television and satellite radio. These new mediums will challenge its existence to be a major player in medium access.

However, my perspective has somewhat changed in 2023. In retrospect, traditional radio has faced its share challenges, and the radio industry has been forced to confront a changing landscape. While television did seize a significant share of the home audience, it didn’t sound the death knell for radio. Satellite radio posed a formidable challenge, but it survived, partly due to cost considerations that deterred many potential subscribers.

Yet, what looms on the horizon today, and is already a fixture in our vehicles, is Internet Radio. I likened it to satellite radio in my earlier analysis due to the subscription costs associated with data usage. But what I hadn’t fully considered then was the fact that a considerable portion of Internet radio listeners are already footing the bill for data services on their devices. Mobile phones have become an integral part of our daily lives, and it’s common to see them connected to in-car radios via Bluetooth or aux ports. This isn’t just about radio; it’s a vastly superior and versatile experience.

Today’s car radios offer seamless integration with our smartphones, providing not only music streaming but also telephone integration and navigation. The emergence of navigation apps like WAZE has even rendered the built-in GPS of car radios somewhat obsolete. In my view, with a few adjustments to modern car radio systems, they could effectively replace many of the functions that mobile devices offer. This shift could spell the beginning of the end for traditional OTA radio.

Add to this the evolving landscape of radio content, the rise of syndication, and the ever-advancing technology of the digital age, and it’s evident that traditional OTA radio faces formidable challenges.

To station owners and industry stakeholders, I would echo my 2014 call to action: Take note of the competition, and adapt your product to thrive in this tech-driven generation. The radio industry is at a crossroads, and staying relevant in this ever-evolving media landscape will require innovative thinking and the willingness to embrace change.