When radio towers become obsolete

towerIt’s a cold hard fact that making money is more important to radio station owners and investors than being the best they can be. Don’t get me wrong. Making money is vital. However, when making money trumps being your best, radio stations become mediocre. The proof is in the production room where sloppy mistake-ridden commercials make it to the air, and in the control room where fewer and fewer actual live shows occur because shows are voice-tracked days in advance. So the DJ forgoes being fun or interesting and instead reads uninteresting PSAs or station promos (which most listeners could care less about) in order to quickly whip through the six shows he needs to record in one sitting.

It’s not the DJs who are to blame — who are often overworked and underpaid (they’re lucky if they make $12 an hour). The blame lies with radio station owners and investors. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to recoup the high costs of buying property and broadcast equipment. But, unfortunately, many of them are simply trying to get rich quick.

What many broadcasters won’t admit is that the Internet is an interruption to the broadcast industry. Wi-Fi will soon be everywhere, including vehicles. And when that happens, radio as we know it will change. It’s already happening — with new Internet-only radio stations popping up daily. When the Internet makes it to every car and truck, the playing field will be level for broadcasters and Internet-only stations, the FCC will be useless, and traditional broadcasters will have to get better … or go dark.

The good news for broadcasters is that they are beginning to use the Internet effectively — actually getting a jump on up and coming Internet-only radio stations by creating good-looking, sticky websites where listeners can learn more about their stations, on-air staff, and artists.  And broadcasters are finally understanding that phone apps are critical in getting and keeping new listeners. Unfortunately, smaller market station owners are not keeping up with technology. Many of them believe that if they keep promoting the pancake suppers on the air, local listeners will be happy. I’m afraid that’s not going to work with younger listeners.

Broadcast towers will come down … sooner than later. And like what’s happened to your favorite television shows (for example, Orange is the New Black and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), streaming will be the way radio works in the very near future. So next time you believe you have a better use for that cable that’s feeding your control room signal to the Internet, or you don’t want to pay the monthly streaming costs, or you believe that nobody listens to radio on the Internet, think again.

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