The Evolution of Radio

Radio is on a fast track to do some serious evolving over the next couple of years.
What most average listeners don’t know is that for years, ratings were based on a few people in each market that would keep a “diary”. A written day by day, hour by hour account of who they listened to, for how long. It was a very fragile process, but when you’re the only game in town, it doesn’t matter: what Arbitron said HAD to be true!
Then, these past few months, the switch was made to the “People Meter”. A pager-like device that picked up something from the station broadcasting within it’s range. If it could detect a radio station, you MUST be listening.
The result has been nothing less than dramatic. Stations that wallowed at the bottom of the diary ratings were suddenly at the top of the people meter results. Seriously. Suddenly, a #13 station was #1 in the market. The survey was expanded to include 6-year-olds and up.
I heard further proof of the People Meter’s effects this morning on Star 101.5. A commercial ended…and they just rolled into a song. No ID, no talking, no jingle….and this week, they’re featuring one-hour music blocks, sponsored by McDonalds. Of course, if you have a meter, you’ll just keep racking up the points until they play a song you don’t like. What station are you listening to? Doesn’t matter…the machine takes care of that.
And THAT is the problem. Just like the cashier who can’t do the math when the computer crashes, now radio listeners will blindly bounce from station to station and not care which one it is. At least before, when we beat them over the head with call letters and a frequency, you’d remember “Classy” or 92.5…..or the name of the morning show. Now, they don’t HAVE TO remember anything….and that makes radio just that much more forgettable.
Stations used to program to work the Arbitron book…it’s how the game was played. Now, that’s no longer necessary. If the personalities are so weak that playing lots of music spikes the ratings, radio as a whole is in trouble. Then, you’ve just become a music source and those arrogant enough to think THAT will keep people listening must never have heard of I-pods, burning your own CD’s or Internet radio.
I still believe there is a need for radio. Generating revenue has always been the goal, but now it is the purpose. And that’s sad.
Before check out time, I’m more resolved than ever to end up back on the airwaves…if not for an all-out show, for an hour program…just something to show how it should be done.
You’ll know when it happens.


Tim Hunter

2 thoughts on “The Evolution of Radio

  1. What’s the difference between an all music fm station and an iPod? Oh yea…those 10-12 minute blocks of spots at the end of the 40 minutes of music. It’ll never work long term. I still hold out some hope that someone will “discover” full service or personality radio again. If and when they do it will be revolutionary! In the meantime, can you find time for a weekly half hour or hour show? 15 minutes? Skype in some folks from your wacky life, throw in some sound fx (no current music of course. don’t want the RIAA after you. plenty of pub domain stuff though), plenty of your awesome writing, and you have a great podcast. Maybe a weekly interview with some of the remaining radio legends (I ran into Dick Curtis today) or some other topic. With the social networking tools available it might get some legs. Seems a waste not to have you doing something. Just a thought. As always, good post Tim.


  2. Stan’s on to something I’ve been dreaming about since podcasting debuted. My initial focus was around music (creating a 2 hour block) but how fun, informative & perhaps entertaining might a weekly cast (length to be determined – KISS…) with contributions from a myriad of sources turn out to be!? The coordinator/host might ask the field to respond to any/all of a pile of topics, both local and national/international, even very short responses… and just “pluck” the best to create a montage. Of course if said “host” had time to interact with one or more guests/contributors for a rap session, that might blossom into a regular bit. Or small pods could all toss bits into the ring. Something like this would hone various chops and keep our feet wet AND WHO KNOWS might be the genesis of some badly needed service for Puget Sound and beyond! Tim! We’re counting on you! 😉 …sleep is over-rated anyhow…

    …gotta go, the nurse is bringing my medications and I won’t be able to say anything except “…that was…this is…” for the next four hours! ~Paablo


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