Conversation Agent - Valeria Maltoni - Is Radio Obsolete?


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Hi, Valeria,

As I was getting ready to write I read Chris' comments and smiled to myself. From 1971 - 1977 I did a Big Band radio program in the Philly area which I programmed myself. I'm not from the Big Band generation but, as a working musician, I loved and played the music. What started off as a short specialty show turned into a fully sold-out program that ran into the wee hours of Friday and Saturday nights. But here's what Chris is talking about.

a. I did my own programming.
b. I took phone calls on the air before we had a label for taking phone calls on the air.
c. It was social networking before we had that label. When we would do a live show with a band or a remote broadcast, the people who called in would attend, connect with each other as a result of having heard their names on the broadcast, and literally develop friendships.
d.My last broadcast was in 1977. I still get phone calls at home from listeners who have looked me up in the phone book and wanted to say "hi" and "thanks for the memories."

Having said that, I have considered using radio for advertising my communications consulting business-- but have not. Chris noted that radio reaches 93% of the population. But the canned programming doesn't allow for enough of a "personality" to emerge through which I want to attach my message.

My radio listening is now confined to a couple of local stations who allow the personalities to program their own music, talk with listeners, and build a sense of relationship. If I want to "listen to music," I plug in my iPod.

Chris is right. When you "broadcast" you are "talking at." Even the most basic marketing research shows that it's all about relationship. But the radio stations are, for some strange reason, held hostage by the outdated and impersonal notion of "all music all the time."

My bet: the first major media outlet that decides to do personality, self-programmed, relational radio will reap huge rewards. Check out WHAT 105.3 out of Philly. They are successful with a version of that approach right now with their morning and afternoon drive-time programs.

Wow. I didn't know that I had that rant stored up!

Keep up the good work.


Being a former radio Programmer, I could blather about this topic all day.

No, radio isn't obsolete. According to an Arbitron RADAR study released in September, radio reaches more than 230 million people each week in the United States. That's about 93% of the total population, ages 12 and up.

While broadcast (terrestrial) radio listenership is slowly eroding in terms of time spent listening and overall reach, the radio industry reaches pretty much everyone.

I do think radio's enthusiasm for pre-recorded programming is self-destructive. Much of what you think is "live" on a local station is neither live nor local, and radio is fooling itself that nobody can *feel* the difference.

As you correctly point out, radio is a one-on-one medium. It's the ultimate media conversation. Radio fails when it becomes a "broadcast' in the sense of other mass-media.

I also think that radio shortchanged itself by abrogating news coverage to TV and the internet. The radio corporate executive mantra "people just don't get their news from radio anymore" was largely a self-fulfilling prophecy.


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