I recently ran across an article on Philly.com by Craig Crossman that had some worthwhile insights into the evolution towards paid content as we transition into the full glory of the Internet age. Surprisingly enough, I found these thoughts in his current review of the Wi-Fi Internet Radio from Myine.
Television and radio broadcasts used to be free. Stick an antenna in the air and that’s still true even though much of it has now gone digital. As technology advanced, we got better delivery methods of those free signals such as cable and satellite TV. These methods brought better pictures and sound, more channels, more choices, more variety and more cost. Of course a lot of that programming such as HBO and other premium channels were never really free in the first place so I’m not counting those. But there’s still a lot of that originally free content that you now must pay for but I guess that’s the price we pay for that better delivery service. Fortunately there are still some exceptions out there.
Radio is the big exception, and as he notes in his column there is more free access to radio than ever before thanks to the joys of Internet streaming. You can receive broadcast over a huge variety of receivers, many of them incredibly inexpensive, or you can pull in radio from all over the world through the Internet. As I have noted repeatedly over the past year and a half of writing this blog, when you can’t get a signal use the net and when you cannot get on the Internet pull out your handy AM/FM reciever. These days you are never far away from free content.
Mr. Crossman’s review is of one of the new breed of standalone Internet radios that market themselves on the simplicity of interface, but it those thoughts quoted above that make me think.
Radio has no significant economic cost of adoption, a huge plus in these turbulent times. Receivers can be found effectively for free and are abundantly accessible over most of the globe. While subscription models have developed, as mentioned above, the main line of radio is still $0.00 and every day more of these streams of free content become available online for those who have access to the Internet.
It is the freely accessible content that makes radio an inherently democratizing cultural force. Even the poorest of the poor frequently have access to broadcast. In a world where you see a surcharge on almost everything, radio remains a gift, free of charge.