Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Radio Still Matters

As mentioned in the previous post, over the course of the next few weeks I will be discussing the power of Internet radio. Before getting into the nuts and bolts of this new medium, it's important to underline why radio still matters.

Considering current moves by corporate giants like Bell Media, it's tempting to assume that radio is a dying medium. For terrestrial radio, declining listenership and marketshare over the past two decades certainly paints a grim picture. This decline can be attributed to a number of factors, the growth of alternative mediums such as on-demand streaming, podcasts, satellite and Internet radio. But people don't opt for an alternative just because it's different. What has driven listeners away from traditional radio has been the steady decline in quality content. Listeners are hearing more advertising and promotion and fewer voices and personalities.

In many ways, media companies have secured their own demise by overlooking the core value of their product. One would think that the response to increasing competion from alternative mediums would be investing in innovative programming and diversifying the delivery model. Instead the strategy has been circle the wagons, consolodate operations and cling to whatever audience is left. Then again, it's never really been about the product for media companies, it's always been about delivering profit to shareholders.

That said, the growth of alternative models is an obvious sign that as a medium, radio has never been stronger. What makes it such a valuable form of communication is not so much the technology, but rather its humanity. Radio does what its traditional rivals could never do. It is the power of music and voice delivered to virtually any context. You can't read or watch television in the shower or while driving...although you could, but I wouldn't recommend it. Beyond its broad accessibility, radio captures the human conversation which is about thoughts, ideas, expressions of art, our reaction and experiences with local and global events. It becomes the soundtrack to daily life that is as intimate as it is enlightening. It is a community voice and it is also that voice in our heads that connects our common experiences.

For those that are alone or feel disenfranchised, radio can be a familiar and comforting voice. The emotional connection listeners have to this medium is unlike any other. It resonates with our basic need to be part of a greater community, to belong.

It amazes me that companies could be so blind to the inherent power of radio. It is to their detriment that they chose money over people in an industry whose most valuable asset was the human voice. Thankfully there are alternatives. Radio still matters because people matter.

- Graeme McDonald