Public radio stations will remain a focal point for news, issues, cultural information, and conversations that transcend each station’s geography. Localism, as it is defined today, will remain a relatively small and insignificant component of public radio’s success.
The number of listeners to all of public radio will grow as individual stations customize their network offerings to differentiate them from the network feed. These similar, yet distinctive offerings, will serve a broader range of listeners who are more likely to be defined by what interests them than by their age/sex/ethnic demographics.
The content used to customize the network news programs is just as likely to be acquired as it is to be produced locally. Using services such as PRX and Content Depot, stations in Boston and San Francisco will swap stories on the regional economic impact of the technology sector. Stations in Arizona and Florida will swap stories on the political impact of retired boomers on state politics.
Listeners will continue value the “currency of live content,” even though they are able to assemble their own news programs via podcasts. The continuity, companionship, and immediacy crafted into each Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Marketplace, and Weekend Edition will compel listeners to continue to choose radio.
The “currency of live” will bring even more listeners to public radio’s high quality discussion programs, which will remain one of the few places on the air and on-line where reasoned conversation will thrive.
All the new technologies and the applications that go with them will not kill public radio. They will enhance it.
Some listeners will engage more deeply in topics of personal interest with podcasts or by participating in on-line chats or by contributing to blogs. But most listeners won’t do all three.
A small percentage will use the station’s web site to plan ad hoc meetings at local coffee joints where they might discuss an author they heard about on Fresh Air or plan a response to a local environmental problem they just learned about in their community.
Another small group of listeners will hear stories and features on the air and e-mail audio file links to their friends. Or, by relating a story about how funny Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me was this week, they remind a spouse to listen to the Wait Wait podcast.
I can hear you saying, “This doesn’t seem like very far in the future.”
No, it is not. Everything here is happening, or should be happening, today. This is what the next 10 years will be like. We are living the future; we just haven’t mastered it yet.