It’s easy to find people predicting the death of radio. In a global recession, doom and gloom talk like this finds a ready audience. However, I hear radio all over the place when I venture through the city, and often stream it in through my iPhone, so I have a hard time understanding such pessimism.
Chris Campling, an entertainment writer for the Times of London, managed to squeeze in a critique of radio’s obituary in Tuesday’s newspaper. It might otherwise have been lost in a sea of coverage on the G20 Summit roiling the streets of London this week.
Campling is having trouble crediting the what he terms “the rumors of radio’s death.” This little clip from his recent piece in the Times-Online sums it up beautifully:
Who would have thought, in this brave new technological world, that one of the media of the future would also be one of the oldest? As print fights for its existence against the internet, as more television channels chase fewer advertisers, as the way we buy and listen to music shrinks from a lovely big vinyl record in a sumptuous gatefold sleeve to a digital signal on an MP3 player, dear, sweet little old radio is doing a Benjamin Button, growing bigger and stronger as it gets older.
Tracing the history of radio’s miraculous transformation, Campling crams a century into a single sentence:
We’ve gone from the cat’s whisker set that our great-grandads built from instructions in the Boy’s Own Paper, past the family wireless in the corner of the living room, past the trannie (it meant something different in those days) glued to the ear of every mod, to radio off the internet in a downloadable podcast, even – and there’s such a sweet irony in this – radio via digital television.
Granted we do not pay a fee to the government to get our media as they do over there, but most Americans are familiar with the Cable bill, the Internet bill, and others which tax our finances during thin times. As reports churn out showing an increased tightening of the belt among our nation’s consumers, radio’s baseline cost of basically zero dollars becomes more and more attractive.
Add the penetration of broadband Internet access and streaming, and the increasing ability to tune in radio on your cell phone or smartphone, and you can see this is still a vibrant medium with a lot of reach. Like every industry, radio is taking it’s knocks during the economic storm. Unlike most modern media, however, we have done this before. After all radio made it through the Great Depression.