I'm not what you would call a radio fan, even before iPod and other music players I had the tendency to carry enough music with me, just to avoid having to listen to anyone else dictating what I should be listening to.
Obviously the advent of iTunes, podcasts, iPod and other mp3 players has changed the stakes quite profoundly. At noon I attended a presentation from one of Belgium's biggest commercial radio stations (Q-Music) who placed a lot more importance on interactivity and live action, which is one way to go. But it struck me that modern technologies didn't really feature at all in their presentation, apart from a podcast that went online this afternoon with snippets off the test program by Wim Oosterlinck.
I do believe we are a radio-friendly country, which is largely due to the fact that public broadcasting house VRT has built a very big market with quality programming and some well-targeted channels. Satellite radio is pretty much non-existent here, and DAB is taking a very slow start. So I'm curious what these evolutions will bring when they arrive.
Scenario A: Everyone has Wi-Fi or WiMAX in their car. Once that happens, we're not talking about 200 XM radio stations, we're talking about 2 million, and all bets are off.
Scenario B: The aftermarket people get very focused on putting hard drives and iPod docks in cars. If that happens, again, radio is in trouble, because people are gonna bring their own pre- recorded content with them.
Scenario C: We end up in the satellite world, they figure out how to get a little bit more content through those pipes and we end up with 300 or 400 channels in the car. I had XM radio for a year to check it out. What's interesting is it doesn't matter how many stations there are, sooner or later you end up with four. And so the thing is, what do you have to do to be one of the four, and how do you live in a world where you've got hundreds of competitors a click away, but if you spend all your time not offending anybody, you'll never get anybody.
Scenario D: A hybrid of what we've got now: Traditional analog radio combined with HD combined with satellite. This scenario will, I think, not make anybody particularly happy, because the advertisers are going to be faced with an increasingly splintered audience that's hard to address, and as a result, it will be hard for that local car dealership or that politician to do a sensible radio buy.