A large part of my interest in all these issues (like the long tail) is that as a fairly young guy (38) I want to examine what broadcast radio is going to look like as we move into the future – MY future. Our Future.
I have far too many working years ahead of me to simply “go with the flow” and hope it all works out.
I’m reading the Rushkoff book “Get Back in the Box“. He identifies the one sure way to tell that innovation has come to a halt in any business is the degree to which that business depends on mergers & acquisitions as it’s prime force for growth.
Some might argue that pretty much describes where broadcast radio is at.
Others will point to HD Radio as an example of innovation.
Maybe radio is doing both. I can’t help but wonder if the HD effort might be better off if the industry had ANY legacy for innovation on which to draw.
Really, since FM 35 years ago – what innovations have taken place in broadcast radio?
The improvements we might be tempted to call “innovations” have mostly been about squeezing more efficiency out of the same basic model.
Those aren’t innovations that drive growth – they are incremental improvements that reduce costs. Important indeed – but not the same thing.
Radio has no experience with innovation. And we often take an adversarial attitude towards any attempts at it.
When CBS Radio created a pod-casting station here in San Francisco on a little AM signal no one even listened to – the response I witnessed among many radio insiders was amusement and ridicule.
We have no R&D effort in radio and even if we did – it appears we’d end up cutting it down with scorn before we were even able to learn anything new.
HD Radio offers us an unprecedented LIVE, local and national RADIO LABORATORY – to TRULY experiment – try brand new ideas – mix chemicals we would never mix on our “real radio stations”.
We have an opportunity to break ALL the rules – to question EVERY one of our “radio 101” sacred cows in a LIVE environment with MINIMAL cost and next to ZERO RISK to the main business in the short term. How amazing is that!
Instead it appears that we’re looking at these HD side channels as “terrestrial” versions of Satellite “channels” (blues channel, jazz channel, salsa channel, etc…) that will be “allocated” by a central authority – and not as places to discover and INNOVATE tomorrow’s brand new mainstream radio products.
There’s a wonderful question that gets asked in my circles –
Ok smarty pants – you have a radio station in this market – what do you do with it?
My response has ALWAYS been – does it have to make money?
With HD we have the luxury of saying NO – it does NOT have to make money right now – it simply has to help redesign the future of the fucking broadcasting world!
To some people that’s frightening. To others – it’s exhilarating. Let’s let the people with the latter response take a whack at this.
Edison said success is about finding the 1000 ways something won’t work. In radio we’ve deluded ourselves into thinking we’ve already done that. Maybe we did – for radio 20 years ago – but today?
Does this business’s future depend on mergers and perpetual cost cutting for it’s survival?
Or are we interested in REAL growth?
Rushkoff’s books suggests getting BACK to core competencies. I think radio needs to develop a NEW core competency in innovating it’s FUTURE product offerings. And we actually have the labs to do it.