LOS ANGELES � A few weeks ago I speculated on the immediate future of radio, and of course anyone can do that. Fortunately, we can get away from speculation to a large extent by looking to our broadcasting brethren in the Scandinavian countries. As I have often written, these broadcasters are at least five years ahead of us technology-wise. Seeing the results of what they are doing can perhaps give us some insight in to which way we should go.
It�s not news that the national FM networks have been shut down all across Norway. Radio usage measurements there show some interesting and frankly, not unexpected results.
For example, between December 2016 and December 2017, the “traditional” channels (NRK channels P1, P2 and P3, P4 and Radio Norway) have fallen in daily listening from 60.2% to 2.1%, while the NRK, P4 and Bauer Media specialty channels have increased their daily listening share from 26.4 to 36.0%, according to medietylsynet.no.
I think it�s safe to call the use of the specialty channels a good thing, but overall, radio broadcasting usage has fallen overall in the last year. In the same December 2016 to December 2017 time period, listening to national radio fell by ten minutes from 84 to 74 listening minutes, according to the same article, and all channel groups experienced a decline in daily listening volume from November to December.
Even without this information it�s clear that there are no plans to shut-down FM stations anywhere in North America.
You may not know that right next door to Norway, in Sweden, VHF FM is about to see an expansion. Radio advertising increased 25.7% in 2017 (equivalent to more than 98 million Swedish kroner) according to radionytt.no. Radio ended the year with December seeing the most growth. It�s important to note that this growth has been experienced even before new FMs go on-air there.
So what does that mean for us? Should we let AM and FM simply �play out� till such time as there aren�t enough listeners to support it? Should we transition to all digital broadcasting, as they have in Norway? Will the coming ubiquity of broadband internet access facilitate greatly expanded streaming, thus wiping out over-the-air radio? What I hope to see is an emphasis on hybrid radio, with the internet providing listener-specific services, while over-the-air radio provides the �mass-media� element for listeners. That�s the most effective use of technology as it stands today, anyway.�