The More Things Change
Ten to fifteen years from now listeners will face the exact same choice they've had for the past several decades: listen to a real-time linear audio service or listen to personally selected content. People have always had the option of playing a CD, cassette, or 8-track tape instead of listening to radio. They chose radio because it was timely, topical, fresh, surprising, relevant, and reliable. It was also easy to use.
None of that changes in the 2010s. True, listeners will have more choices in on-demand programming, particularly in spoken word content, but they will also have many more choices in streaming content. The wireless web will allow listeners to choose from a seemingly infinite number of "radio stations."
What's likely to happen is that consumers will spread out along a "continuum of personal media control." Consumers who want total control will reside at one end. Consumers who don't want any control beyond punching buttons on linear services such as radio or TV will be at the other end. These two groups will represent a minority of consumers.
Most people will fall in the middle. Some will exercise greater control over the video content while others will exercise greater control over their audio. Some will exericse greater control over their music while others will exercise greater control over information content. Listening habits will be adjusted more than they will be changed. We're not going to see consumers abandon the FM dial or streaming content in overwhelming numbers. Not in the next decade.
That makes the number one charge of every radio station to remain timely, topical, fresh, surprising, relevant, and reliable. It's the only way to compete on every available platform. So when asked about the future, I ask in return, "what have you done today to strengthen your station in these areas?"