Not Fade Away
January 25, 2013
There's a list -- well, it's an "infographic," which is another way of saying "a list put into graphic form because we can" -- put together by Mozy, one of those online backup companies, showing what they call "50 Things We Don't Do Anymore Because Of Technological Advancements." (Apparently, "editing our titles" and "using words like 'advancement'" missed the cut) The list, which you can see via Mashable by clicking here and which is based on a survey of surveys (yup, they collected 3,000 surveys and, y'know, SURVEYED them), includes things you'd expect, like using travel agents and public telephones, calling on the phone to get movie schedules or the exact time, using phone books, that kind of thing. Some on the list are stretches, like "try on shoes at the mall" or "keep printed bills or bank statements" or "visit yard sales and flea markets," but you get the idea.
What's not on the list is, and I'm sure you'll be happy to hear this, listening to the radio. And we know, because the industry pays for those meter thingies, that people still do listen. But you know it's a matter of time before radio lands on that list, even if it's based more on perception than reality. It's inevitable. They'll say that nobody listens, that everyone's listening to apps and streaming and podcasts instead. That's already the perception, isn't it?
But say it becomes true. that people at some point just aren't listening to traditional radio anymore. What does that mean for you? It depends on what you do. If you own stations, you have to stop thinking of what you own as licenses and transmitters and start thinking of yourself as a content company, creating entertainment and information for every medium (but you know that... and you're still going way more slowly than you should be). If you're talent, AND if you are doing this because it's what you love and what you know what you do because there's nothing else you want to do AND if you're more than just someone who introduces songs and reads PSAs, you'll be fine -- those new delivery systems need content, too. If you're in sales, geez, the people making podcasts and doing streaming and making websites and video really need your expertise in selling advertising.
And if you're a programmer, well, huh. How about that. Those abilities -- finding and developing talent, producing professional quality work -- aren't necessarily in high demand in new media, even though lip service is paid to that idea. Because anyone can throw a podcast into iTunes or start a Shoutcast stream or post to Soundcloud, a show can get away with not doing the things radio considers essential. You don't need a "radio voice," you don't need to hit posts, you don't need to repeat the topic and the phone number. Some of the best podcasts don't sound like professional radio shows. And some do, and, honestly, more should, but it's not necessary. Yet. I imagine that as more online shows become more monetized, the demands of the marketplace will dictate that shows serve as more professional, slick frames for their advertising. It happened with FM when it morphed from free-form to defined formats with clocks and rotations and consultants. But it's still early for online shows.
So, by the standards of that list, radio isn't quite a buggy whip, or a newspaper (that's on the list), or a post card or phone book or a pager. But, like the VCRs and CDs and disposable cameras on the list, if the technology is obsolete, it doesn't mean the function is dead. You don't use a VCR but you record TV shows. You don't play CDs but you listen to music. You don't buy disposable cameras but you take pictures. And if you don't turn on a radio anymore, you'll still be listening to radio, by whatever name. Technology can replace the machine, but replacing the personality is a lot harder.
I guess that you COULD find some bot that could feed you news items for your show prep needs, but only All Access News-Talk-Sports' show prep column Talk Topics has a real live radio person (me) with experience knowing the kind of stuff talk hosts like to talk about on the air picking and choosing from stories all over the Web. Remember the days of taking stacks of newspapers and cutting out all the stories you needed with a razor blade? I do, and the technology now lets me do that for you without the paper, or the blade, and with comments and jokes and opinions meant to spur you to find your own angles on the topics. Find hundreds of items by clicking here for the full column or going to Twitter at @talktopics, where you'll find every story linked to the appropriate item. And it's all free.
You can also follow my personal Twitter account at @pmsimon, and find me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pmsimon. And as for my other job, I edit and write for the Nerdist.com website, so if you're into pop culture -- movies, comics, TV, "genre" stuff -- come on by.
I'm in a rush to get to a meeting all the way up in Burbank at the moment, so I gotta go. They haven't invented the technology yet that'll get me anywhere in Southern California in less than an hour and a half. I'm still waiting for my jetpack.