The radio industry is in for a period of upheaval for the next decade or so as people figure out that they’ve got options to the the major media syndicators. I spent some time last night looking over the beta release of a website called BlogTalkRadio. Basically, BTR gives anyone with an Internet connection the opportunity to become a globally syndicated talk radio host for free.
The business model of BlogTalkRadio eludes me. Somebody’s gotta pay for all that bandwidth and storage space (they record and podcast the episodes on the fly!), but it’s an example of the type of next generation “radio” network that TerRad (terrestrial radio) needs to contend with.
Satellite radio is already doomed although it pretends not to know it. Evidence: Sirius produced a SatRad receiver recently that also receives WiFi. The new iPhone and AppleTV look like more devices that will ultimately give users the power to listen to Internet audio anywhere there’s a connection. I already pay for a broadband connection; why should I pay for an additional radio service when I can hear stations from all over the world on my WiFi/WiMax-enabled mp3 player, cell phone, laptop, and desktop?
Talk hosts like Bill O’Reilly and Laura Ingraham are taking a short view in their approach to the business. We have a two-hour black hole in The Eagle 93.9’s audio stream every day from 11 to 1 during O’Reilly’s show and another during Ingraham’s on Sunday evenings from 6 to 9. O’Reilly and Ingraham want people to pay for the privilege.
Our research shows that about 15% of our listeners use our Internet stream to listen. My gut tells me the right price point for their audio stream is free. Our engineers tell me that feeding a separate audio stream to the web during their shows would basically require a second audio chain, an investment of thousands that management isn’t likely to make.
Conclusion: It will be much easier to dump them in favor of shows whose hosts don’t require that I blow off 15% of our audience when they’re on.