Future to Radio Broadcasting: Drop Dead

Is it possible that the days are numbered for the “broadcasting” part of radio broadcasting?

It is certainly no secret that Internet-based and mobile media’s assault on the attention span of consumers grows daily. And since that attention quotient is finite, what one segment gains, another loses.

Broadcast radio grudgingly has ceded ground in the home as iPod-style devices, the Internet and smartphone-based mobile media march forward but in the car broadcast radio has remained dominant. Futzing with iPods and smartphones can be a diverting and harrowing experience in the car, and the Internet is not a player on the road.

Make that “wasn’t” a player on the road.

As you may have seen reported in Radio World, Ford and Pandora, the Internet-based music service, recently demonstrated a new service, to be available in the 2011 Ford Fusion, wherein a smartphone was used as an Internet portal for Pandora. But more than that, an app (they’re everywhere!) allowed the Fusion’s music system to interact with Pandora and respond to voice commands.

This Ford video demo is effective visual evidence of how it works; it is recommended viewing. Ease of use is a high priority; and the demo indicates that at least some of the players are well aware of that.

Can this be dismissed as just another “quadraphonic” demo, or is this Beta — meaning, this particular type might not succeed but the overall idea is about to radically change a whole industry within a few years? Radio World’s Leslie Stimson entertained the question in her coverage of the January CES show.

My takeaway answer: The Internet is coming to the car, like it or not; use it or not.

At the moment the Internet is going to be reliant on smartphones to get in, but how long before a manufacturer or after-market parts maker installs Wi-Fi or WiMax receivers in their cars. After that, the apps will come and then the rest of the modern media world will flood in like the proverbial barbarians overwhelming the Roman Empire.

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