Before I answer that because it is a little convoluted I wanted to go back to August 1, 1981 when you heard, “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll.” Then, the first music video aired on MTV. That was? Yup, The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star.”
That was MTV sending a message. The message was clear. There’s no need for you to listen to the radio for your music and entertainment. Cable is the new sliced bread and music videos are the new radio and VJ’s are the new DJ’s.
Now, the question would be, “Is podcasting the new radio?” Well, kinda yes and kinda no. Let me explain.
Unlike the sudden buzz of music videos there wasn’t any of that with podcasting. Even though oddly enough former MTV VJ Adam Curry as well as American software developer, entrepreneur, and writer David Winer get credit with the very first podcast in 2004. But no one cared nor did they pay attention. People weren’t saying, “Oh my God did you hear of this podcast thing?” Radio snubbed it’s nose at it just like it did when internet radio was a thing. The audience felt pretty much the same way. Remember, in 2004 we hadn’t yet been hit with that overload of entertainment options hammer yet.
But as podcasting started to gain momentum with audiences it really played ninja hiding in the shadows of the upstart streaming services, satellite radio and the new wave of social media. Replace podcasting with music streaming services or even satellite radio then, at least at the time, people would’ve said they would kill the radio star.
XM Satellite Radio’s first broadcast was on September 25, 2001 nearly four months before Sirius. I remember a year or so later talking to my Operations Manager after getting some good ratings and asking how satellite radio is affecting us. Like a good OM, he sat me down and showed me the data. It was roughly 2-3% of the audience. At the time I didn’t think much of it because that’s such a small number. What I didn’t realize was how big of a number that was in a short period of time. The biggest factor is what they could become. Just being an option is detrimental to terrestrial radio. Also, I didn’t think that radio would do very little over the years to combat the new options. But did it kill the radio star, no. You can say it actually made new ones. Maybe not how I envisioned it but still it gave a home to radio personalities that were at the time homeless. Getting paid? Well, that’s another story.
Now let’s take streaming services like Apple, Amazon, Pandora, Spotify and even throw in YouTube.. In my opinion they would be held in the county drunk tank for being an accomplice to the killing of the radio star and that’s if they’re even dead or not, yet. Why? If you look at radio as strictly a playing songs business then yeah, streaming services are just beating the living piss out of radio.
“As recently as 2017, radio was the most popular method for listening to music, but now just 31% of Americans usually listen to music through the radio – either over the airwaves or via satellite. Instead, the most common way to listen to music today is through a format that didn’t exist just a few years ago: online streaming services. 41% of Americans now primarily listen to music this way, more than any other format.” (CBS News)
So, if music is your thing then radio has a major problem. I remember back in the mid 2000’s I was working for a hot “New Rock Alternative” station in Orlando and after getting some great ratings (#1 to be accurate) I left my OM’s office making one promise to myself after he said, (referring to my success) “Yeah Jason the music is really hot right now.” I was doing an afternoon hybrid type of show. So, I had a lot of content but there was still music playing. Like 60/40 music to content. Then I decided to work toward being a talk show host so those words would never be spoken to me again. Don’t get me wrong I love music and I love, love talking about music but when you play it and it works then it’s the music that gets credit for your success and when you play it and it doesn’t work it’s not the music for your failure. I decided that I’d rather live and die by my content then the music that I have no control programming. Pretty messed up situation to be in as a radio personality who lives and dies by ratings….don’t you think?
That now brings me full circle to the question of the blog, “Will Podcasting Kill The Radio Star?” The short answer is no. Radio will alway be around doing what they do. Radio is like a genre of music. Sometimes it’s hot, sometimes it’s not. But that’s not all because the music is hot. It’s the personalities that drive the audience to listen. Now more than ever that statement is true. What does podcasting have that radio doesn’t? No rules and unlimited talk time and an easy, not controlled forum for content creators to do their ‘thang’.
In the radio business you’ll hear the term “content is king.” That like anything else is bullshit unless you not only believe it but plan to do something about it. Many think they can but fail to realize they can’t. Because radio is now so money driven the content aspect falls on deaf ears and who suffers? Yup, the audience and the personality. Very rarely it’s the decision makers. They have a good way of covering up their tracks.
Let’s break this whole thing down. If radio is the whale you have many sharks circling and taking big pieces of flesh with streaming services and podcasting being the sharks. Just in case you didn’t figure that out. Will it kill the whale forever? Not sure it will as whales have been around for a minute. They might not look as pretty and swim with a limp but they’ll be out there in the middle of the water eating whatever it is they eat and blowing water in the air. But those sharks will have full bellies and just look for another whale as a snack.
The great thing about podcasting is it gives us radio people and content creators a platform to do what we’ve always wanted to do in radio. What will the future hold for podcasting when it comes to battling radio?
I think we’ll see more and more radio veterans like myself turn to podcasting as a new venture. That doesn’t mean we can’t go back or even do both, it just means radio people will realize they have a constant in podcasting where they never can’t get fired and will always have a creative outlet for their content.
We’re already seeing radio play catch up to streaming services as well as podcasting. How? Radio is using terms like ‘episodes’ for their segments. They’re hiring non radio podcasters because of their digital background and possible followers.
In closing, not sure radio will ever get it right. I am sure that the content creators that are out there doing their ‘thang’ are happy and putting out some really good stuff.
Here’s to those swimming in the sea looking for some whales to munch on.
Host /Creator / The Bailey Show Podcast