Long Live the Radio

I spent three of the best years of my life working at a radio station. This cemented my love of the medium and made me a fan for life. Although video is the undeclared king of the internet era, radio can entertain, educate and inform in situations and locations where video is inappropriate or illegal. A prime example is a car; I’m yet to see a technology that allows you to watch video while driving. Listening to the radio, however, is a natural part of it.

I’m addicted to NPR and turn on the radio right after starting my car. In the Bay Area I listen (and donate) to KQED and KLAW, and when I travel I always look for the local NPR affiliate and set the dial to their strongest station. In the rare occasion where there’s nothing good on NPR, I listen to other talk radio or music stations.

And then I saw this article. In short: industry experts say that within five years, all new cars will have no AM/FM radio. Broadcast radio is going the way of the Dodo, and much faster than predicted. It’s being replaced by Internet radio: Pandora, iHeart, TuneIn, and the like. Signal reception will rely on cell towers.

What’s in it for car makers and broadcasters?

1) They can charge a monthly connectivity fee (like XM radio does today) and car buyers will have no choice but to pay.

2) They can accurately track listening habits and ad exposure, allowing advertisers to optimize ad spend.

Sounds like a great plan for them, but I’m yet to see them execute on it. I, for one, am certainly going to install an aftermarket radio in my 2019 Toyota. A few years later this won’t help me much either as broadcast stations will be evicted from the airwaves with the sought-after electromagnetic spectrum auctioned off to the highest bidder. By then, one would hope, market forces will bring connectivity cost down. Wherever technology takes us, I’m not planning to wean myself from my listening habits – in and out of the car.