It seems like ‘a week ago last Tuesday’ that the doomsayers of the technorati predicted the death of radio. It seemed a foregone conclusion that they’d be right.
What has unfolded in those few years since the high-watermark of FM domination and AM talkback has been not the end of radio, but a new beginning of new content, served-up in different ways. What has been killed is the ephemeral nature of radio. Part of this reason is a new way to make radio accessible to people everywhere.
Accessibility has always been the key to radio. The ability to listen to radio in the car is an example of this: built-in, baked-in, wherever you are, you are usually within distance of some type of broadcast. It is, ubiquitous: simply there, able to tuned-in should you need a soundtrack to your drive.
Rewind back to 2007 and the smartphone revolution of the iPhone: pundits quickly said the lack of radio functionality either would (a) kill the usefulness of product or (b) mean radio would be defunct. As much as digital radio workarounds could be made, it didn’t factor in the need to pick-up the usual signals for regular accessibility. And, thankfully, on both fronts they were wrong.
The app economy has created a swathe of ways you can listen. You can stream live content from almost anywhere. Say you want some ska music? Tune in to Trinidad over the internet; Some bluegrass? you can hear Arkansas loud-and-clear. Now the broadcast distance of the radio-waves are limitless.
One of the keys to accessibility of this “radio revolution” has been the maturing of podcasting since 2004. Content has emerged from beyond the usual channels and content curators (including people operating out of their own garages—think Marc Maron’s WTF show). This has allowed the folly and shortcomings of traditional radio programming that betrayed listeners to be supplemented, offering an alternative and springboard for new and emerging public radio content.
Is podcasting the same as radio? I’ll leave that question to the picky people who want to delineate nuances between navel oranges and their navels. What I will say is that it makes it simple to listen ‘when you want’ to ‘what you want’. The question is not about allegiance to a station, but to content and trusted deliverers of that content. Notable podcaster and traditional broadcaster BBC Radio4 may already have a starting point, but their programs are challenged by anyone with a laptop and a microphone. Ted Forbes, Roman Mars and Ira Glass have all seen the opportunity this revolution brings: play to your strengths, keep things simple and accessible and an audience will grow.
They have learned much from the stalwarts of public radio: you can be true to your roots and give-away content for free; you will be able to find an audience who is willing, through subscription, crowd-funding or sponsorship to support you and your endeavours.
So, dear listeners, tune-in and put your feet up in your car: the driveway moments* that only great radio content can bring are now provided through some additional channels, and we are all the better for it.
That brings me to my own station and it’s radio revolution: 2XX FM Canberra was Australia’s first public radio station and is still the best: delivering local content that, on many shows shows up the government and commercial broadcasters for what they are: simply bloody hopeless!
2XX is conducting it’s Radiothon (November 10 to 23) and are asking you to put your money ‘where your ear is’. Station Manager Declan has some exciting plans (possibly incorporating podcasting) amongst other things and we need money to move it forward: so mosey on over to 2xxfm.org.au and see how you can lend a dime to support 2XX and the continuing mission to deliver great content as part of the radio revolution!
*For the uninitiated, a ‘driveway moment’ is where you pull into to your driveway with your radio or a song on, and you don’t turn off your radio and get out. You stay in to listen to the end of the program (or segment) because it is to good to miss.