For those who haven't been reading this blog for that long I've made a point of keeping track of a Radio Station named My 92.5 (a.k.a. KGBY in Sacramento) which recently switched formats (in several ways).
Here's a quote from my original post on December 26th of last year...
When I was a kid I spent a lot of summers in Sacramento, CA and one of my favorite radio stations was Y92 a.k.a. KGBY Sacramento (Yes, I liked Soft Rock as a kid, sue me). This morning, as I headed home at 6am, I got to hear Y92 go off the air for the last time as it switched formats and was replaced by My925 FM moving from "Adult Contemporary" to "Adult Hits" (Goodbye Elton John, Hello Foo Fighters).
Though the music change was relevant what was even more interesting to me was the station, which had kept essentially the same radio personalities on the air for the last 15+ years, was switching to a completely automated "DJ-less" format. Here's one more quote from that original post...
The actual station itself is equally unimpressive with songs being played one after the other with a voice that sounds a lot like the lady you get when you dial a disconnected number announcing the title and artist after each song.
I'd wanted to check in once every few months but...to be honest...I forgot so its been about 7 months since my initial post. It might have been longer if not for this post by Jeff Jarvis that reminded me of the situation. Mr Jarvis says...
My most striking realization since getting my iPhone (love it, thanks for asking) is that radio is doomed. Pandora is a wonder, creating my own radio station, live and on the fly without need for a broadcast tower.
Now turning back to My 92.5 for a second you should know things aren't going well for them. They've shed about 1/3rd of their existing audience since going "DJ-less" which is nothing short of a disaster. On that point they've actually been forced to backtrack by employing a live morning team just to stay alive in the time slot (albeit a less experienced and almost certainly cheaper morning team than they had before)
This got me to thinking about what exactly radio meant in its hey day. A friend of mine who is older suggested I watch the first season of a show called WKRP and to his credit it opened my eyes to a lot of things.
I think the radio industry ran into a situation that many publicly held companies have to suffer through in that they were still making profits but those profits weren't growing so the stock market started exerting pressure. This led to a bunch of cost cutting measures which did more harm than good. As far as I can tell, DJ-less radio is a disaster in every market its been tried and the reason for that is because radio was as much about personalities and culture as it was about music.
So the radio industry actually killed off their biggest asset in a mad dash to cut costs.
Los Angeles radio proves this point in many ways. Ryan Seacrest for example has a huge audience almost entirely built from young people (who supposedly don't listen to the radio). So Radio, as it was in the past, actually appeals to kids.
This is where I think services like Pandora.com (which creates an automated radio station based on user preferences) miss out. They're imitating the business model that's failed for radio. It seems that, if people are going to listen to automated music, they'll just turn to their iPod where they can control the music themselves.
Now for the record, I think Pandora will succeed to the point that they'll stay in business. Doing that sort of thing over the Internet is so cheap that they're almost guaranteed some level of success. But they won't make the same impact as Radio did in its successful years and they certainly won't replace radio in markets where quality DJs are still pulling in big audiences.
Addendum (To a Post That's Already Too Long): I sort of used Mr. Jarvis' post as a jumping off point for the post I wanted to make but the more I thought about it the more I felt guilty for not at least addressing the point he was making (which is that radio should be pushed over IP Networks and not broadcast using traditional towers). So here it is, in the near term, that's just idiotic. Why would we replace a system that's working and push all that bandwidth eating traffic onto already over taxed networks? The Telecom companies already complain about the amount of traffic being pushed over their network and Cell. Phone companies (though they try to hide it) seem terrified of wide spread adoption of 3g technologies. I don't know what on earth he's thinking.
Which is why I took a small quote from his post and ran in a completely different direction with it.