Mon, 08/31/2009 - 8:25pm
Brian Santo

Online operations like Rhapsody and Pandora
are redefining what qualifies as "radio."

Brian SantoI’ve been reminiscing with some contemporaries (I’m closing in on AARPitage) about radio. For us, radio provided a soundtrack for our youth. For some of us, it was the British Invasion, for others Motown, or punk, or new wave.

We recalled “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Light My Fire” and “God Save the Queen” and a handful more. Maybe we’re just past the age when a song can change our lives. Few of us pay much more than cursory attention to the radio.

On the other hand, maybe the culture as a whole is past the time when a song could change things. The last one might have been “Smells Like Teen Spirit” 18 years (18 years!) ago.

Meanwhile, over the last five or 10 years, I cannot recall observing a kid deliberately listening to a radio. Some kids with iPods might presumably be listening to a radio station, but I doubt it – FM tuners are an add-on for the most popular music player today.

During that same span, broadcast radio stations have been axing staff and automating. Satellite radio couldn’t sustain two competitors.

Internet-based radio has been growing rapidly, however. In 2005, 8 percent of Americans listened to Internet radio, according to Arbitron. The next three years, listenership remained at about 12 percent (+/- a percentage point), but this year the figure leapt to 17 percent.

Broadcast stations are streaming, but online operations like Rhapsody and Pandora are redefining what qualifies as “radio.”

Arbitron says Internet radio is gaining because listeners want more control over a greater variety of music, and also want to avoid ads (and DJ patter), and that’s pretty much in accord with what I hear from the folks I know.

Even Pandora had to change its tune and adopt a subscription model and advertising, though.

Internet radio is almost virgin territory for advertising. Of course, lading Internet radio with ads will kill it for me, and no doubt for others – the issue there is percentages. But that only suggests that the cable industry might want to double check if all of that infrastructure it is developing for ad insertion in video might be able to support addressable advertising in streaming audio.


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