In the nation’s top media markets, the online “radio station” Pandora is now the most-listened-to service, beating on-air radio in key demographics in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco. As of July, Pandora was number one in the number of persons 18-34 years old listening in those four cities, and Pandora was number two or tied for second in the nation’s other ten largest markets, except Boston, where Pandora is number 3.
And, according to my friend, top-flight radio consultant Holland Cooke, the erosion of radio ratings to internet services is not just about Pandora; the internet’s top 20 audio-casters are up 27% in the past year.
I’m pretty sure neither of my kids (ages 26 and 28) listens to radio. I think radio’s goose is pretty much cooked, and that it will largely disappear within my lifetime. And I’m 62.
Any radio station that plays music of any sort as its stock-in-trade was doomed a long time ago, when the mp3 player became popular. Smart radio group operators have already realized that news/talk/sports (called “spoken word” formats in the industry) is about the only remaining viable role for radio, and in the biggest markets, station owners are dumping the music format on their FM stations and simulcasting their news/talk format on their FM’s. In Chicago, CBS radio has just dumped the music format on its FM station (which used to be “Fresh 105.9”) and is now simulcasting news/talk WBBM-AM on the frequency. This sort of thing is going on all over the nation.
Nearly every car sold today has a sound-system (we used to call it “radio”) input for your mp3 player; Ford has pioneered in-car internet connection; and it won’t be long until every new car sold will come equipped to get the internet.
By and large, broadcasters have no concept of how to deal with these massive changes, and continue to pare the payroll of the best and most experienced on-air talent (read: most expensive), replacing veterans who have long-standing connections with the community – attributes which are most likely to slow the constant erosion of listeners – with lower-priced, less-experienced personnel. Most radio stations regard their website as a glossy brochure for their on-air product, offering almost no value to people who stumble across their website. They’re riding the horse backward.
Radio’s days are numbered, and it seems most station owners are doing what they can to hasten its death.