In the past few years, there have been increasing signs that radio is on the verge of being dead. Now, listen I love radio, I grew up listening to outlets in the Big Apple, and dialing in to win free tickets and to this day I still listen to and follow several radio stations. However, with the 1996 Telecommunications Act, the ensuing conglomeration that took place, and now with the belt tightening brought on by the economic downturn, radio has taken its final steps toward its death. Perhaps, in time we’ll look back and mark this as the end of the corporate era of radio, and the pendulum will swing back toward community owned and operated outlets, but for now radio is changing and it isn’t for the better.
The story isn’t necessarily unique or new, as a matter of fact on this very blog we discussed Satellite radio’s demise back in early 2007. Now, we observe a similar demise for over-the-air radio, which has changed dramatically over the last decade and given audiences fewer and fewer options, and limited creativity for professionals. Today, we find ourselves with markets that are filled with competing music outlets that serve the same audiences, syndicated talk shows, and what seems a Top 40 has been boiled down to the Top 10, which has the Jonas Brothers and Beyonce on repeat on virtually every station. The result is detrimental on a number of levels; it’s hard for new music artists to break through, listeners are challenged to find any differentiating factor between most radio outlets, and talk radio has become monotonous making it harder and harder to find local talk shows.
After radio went through its conglomeration phase in the late ’90s, much of the creativity in radio had evaporated. At that time at least, it seemed like Satellite might be radio’s savior, as personality after personality signed with either XM or Sirius as the two organizations set out to earn subscribers. Fast-forward to the last few years and the climate has again shifted, and terrestrial radio outlets have had to drop even more talent and Satellite is beginning to sound like one big Juke box.
So, while it is a sad state of affairs for radio; the silver lining is the opportunity that is provided by the web. For talent who have been tossed off the air, the web, and specifically Podcasting offers endless opportunities. Case in point, CBS Radio on Friday flipped its man-talk outlet, KLSX-FM in Los Angeles for – you guessed it another Top 40 outlet – and left radio vet Adam Carolla without a job. Carolla, who loves long-form talk has decided to take matters into his own hand and has launched his own Podcast on the web at The Adam Carolla Podcast. While Carolla and his team are figuring out the new arena (and probably will be for some time) what they’ll find is refreshing; a blank canvas that will allow for endless creativity, new opportunities to engage their audiences, and the ability to reach an even larger audience then terrestrial radio. The move is reminiscent of what Bubba the Love Sponge did after his initial dismissal in Tampa years ago; which gave him a platform to showcase his talents and ultimately sign a deal with Sirius.
While a deal with Sirius may not loom in the future for everyone, as audiences become increasingly used to finding niche content that meets their needs we’ll see new business models develop. Subsequently, artists like Carolla will be able to enjoy that newfound freedom, while developing something that is their own and affords them the opportunity to return to their creativity and entertain audiences.