Is radio, just radio?

There’s no doubt about the changes in media, as for content, platforms, business and relation to the audiences, due to digital convergence. Therefore, all of our writings should focus less on developments of each media in particular and more on the intersection across media formats and platforms, as well as the engagement “old” media still have with audience in general and specific smaller audiences that rely more on analog devices to listen to radio.

Radio across multiple media platforms, the changing relationships between audiences should be adressed within media culture, in relation to all forms of communication and content, which, by the way, is getting closer to non editorial contents, with branded entertainment leading the way.

The problem with digital convergence is the business model, leaving telecom’s in clear advantage to radio broadcasters as well as any other kind of content producers or online media. As for radio, digital convergence is still dependable on the profitability of FM radio, with a advertising-only business model. Therefore, platform diversification means that radio as more costs than before and also means that the most successful ones are also the most expensive ones (streaming is paid for the number of online listeners). But there’s also digital rights management, human resources and software investment.

But the problem with digital convergence is also on the definition side. What is radio today? I don’t think that the listener cares much about it, nevertheless the listener itself as already help us to define what radio must be: music accompanied by speech, improving the individual listening experience, by providing further details or features online. An iPod, for instance, may be one’s best company until one may feel bored with all the gigabytes of music that he choose. There’s almost no surprise in it, and most particularly, no one to engage with. Radio’s hybridisation makes sense to an hybrid listener who is across digital platforms using radio at his convenience, using mostly screens to get his favourite contents, creating his own personal media digest accessible through the TV screen, laptop, iPad or cell phone. And radio is available in each one of these, using both analog and digital distribution platforms. Nevertheless what do these “radio-listening-screens” have in common? The TCP/IP connection, which might be, once again, something to think carefully about. For the listener, whether is FM or IP, the most important is the convenience (of listening) and the relevance (of content). Spectrum management has to be taken in consideration in this sort of driven TCP/IP world, with regulatory frameworks and public policies oriented to the public interest of it…

As for radio, I wonder what is radio, today. I also think that media is a very powerful word, but may no longer be meaning exactly the same to everybody. Even if this might be an academic discussion, are media, just media?

I can manage my own radio, if I want to have the trouble to do so. Therefore, I am media, managing both the user generated content and the media generated content. What’s missing in the process? The mediation of my content production and the other user’s production, combined with content that still is dependable on a specific agenda setting and a gatekeeper. All of this is available in digital convergence, where radio combines audio with text, images, video, an archive system, web only channels, podcast, developing a new paradigm in which radio is live radio, but also on demand, shareable and even more social than it was before. But radio is in need of a new wavelenght to recover and find new listeners, to relate with them as it used to do. Due to an excessive profissionalization, formating and the use of agressive marketing techniques, radio has been appart from the listeners, thinking that this was the way to get into them. One thing was right: the development of an identity that people see as a brand. Listeners, or media consumers no longer search just for contents. They follow a brand to which they feel identification and that fullfil their needs and expectations. In the “google it” Era, with thousands of  search results available, is the brand that matters.

Nevertheless, radio is about people, and made to people.

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