Recently Seth Godin wrote the blog post “An End of Radio”. Seth predicts that radio as we now know it is about to fall off a cliff. Indeed, this will be faster than anyone expects. (You can read the full blog post here).
Seth chose his words carefully – he didn’t say “the end”, he said “an end”. Everyone knows the replacement: podcasts, spotify type streaming services, internet-only stations and other downloads.
Although I’m not sure about the timing, I agree that traditional radio is going to take a major, major hit. What I find intriguing though is that in small to medium sized markets another alternative is possible. This possibility isn’t necessary going to happen, but I see it as a future of radio (in those markets), something that could happen and indeed something I would like to happen.
What I’m referring to is “community access to programming”, a phrase from the CRTC that really means volunteers from the community becoming actively involved in the production and delivery of on-air programming. The terrestrial station of the future could well be a hybrid of professionals and volunteers. In addition, the deejay of the future, professional or volunteer, will be like the deejay of long past. They’ll be far more involved in programming their own show and selecting their music. We have so many “Fred-fm” type stations today that are nothing more than glorified ipods, with each station playing pretty much the same thing.
The CRTC isn’t mandating community access to programming for commercial stations. They are not going to, and I don’t think they should. But I do think some stations can take up this strategy to differentiate and survive and thrive.