What Does The Internet Mean For Radio?

I'm sitting here writing a blog post and listening to my radio station, fredwilson.fm. And I'm thinking about what the Internet means for radio. The reason is next Tuesday afternoon at 3:40pm I'm going to sit down with my friend David Goodman and Joe Crump from Razorfish and try to answer that very question. We'll be at the Radio Ink Forecast 2011 conference at the Harvard Club. If you work in the streaming media or radio industry, maybe I'll see you there.

David and I were talking the other night about this session and what we should talk about. We agreed that we should throw it open to all the readers of AVC to make sure we are talking about the most important issues. So, if you were coming to see this talk, what do you think we should talk about and what do you think the Internet means for Radio?

Answers in the comments please.

#My Music#Web/Tech

Comments (Archived):

  1. Dan Ramsden

    I think the wireless web can allow any radio to become Internet radio over time. The revenue opportunity will initially suffer, but the long term viability of the business will improve. Some will proceed in this fashion and reduce operating costs to a tiny fraction of what these are today, and some will be constrained by factors such as financial leverage from making changes. The ones that change will be able to refocus on the only thing that matters and that sets radio apart (although not nowadays so much): programming. By that I mean more than just song selection, but also the DJ’s personality coming through. There are tons of amateur DJs producing Internet radio programs today (I guess fredwilson.fm is an example), and together with playlist sharing on a variety of services, this will remain the long tail. But the bigger following and concentrated marketing of professional radio can provide an opportunity for the sector to consolidate its audience, as long as, again, the focus is on unique and special programing, with personality.

    1. fredwilson

      fredwilson.fm is absolutely amateur radio. it’s a labor of love thoughit does get about 4000 visits per month

      1. Dan Ramsden

        Labor of love is exactly what I’m talking about. That’s what is missing from radio today, to generalize, and may be why you have 4000 listeners. Unfortunately, in order to optimize profit margins in a high leverage environment, the industry has moved away from that into a more mechanized and cookie cutter approach. If the cost structure is reduced, maybe the labor of love part can be regained.

      2. Ronen Mendezitsky

        You are underestimating yourself. I think social networks taught us how much we all like sharing and meeting on common grounds. Amateur radio such as you created might be something many of your friends would love to stay tuned to for hours a day, instead of visiting the FM dial for the regular programming.

        1. fredwilson

          that is certainly how i behave

  2. Ronen Mendezitsky

    I remember back to when I first seen Internet streaming radio and I said back then that if we had been connected to the Internet everywhere, we might not have use for regular radio programming. A long time has passed and here we are, with 3G connection available everywhere, but not yet fully connected everywhere as we wish to be, like in our cars.So Internet radio still isn’t in the one place I listen to it most, but I really see it going there. So what do I think will become of radio stations? Well, I think it’ll take time until the youtube folk start streaming to making their own radio shows, but I believe we are going there. Private stations and podcasts will make their way over to becoming something more consolidated and the old Radio stations will have to put up a fight in order to stay relevant. It’s a hard thing to do because we don’t yet know if people rather keep listening to regular radio programming or experience new and exciting, upbeat content. Time will tell, but it will be some time before old Radio stations will fall from glory. Some will though, if they aren’t fast enough to react to the changes around them.One more thing I am thinking will happen is content shifting. much like TV is leaving the age when you had to follow your TV guide in order to watch something and moving more and more towards “watching what I want whenever I want to”, I believe radio programming will be shifting by content. Sometimes you like just listening to music, and sometimes you like listening to Nerdist do an interview with Allison Brie.

  3. ErikSchwartz

    I was on a panel at that conference a few years ago and I have never seen an audience of people who were so trapped in the past in my entire life.These are the money guys of radio, they’re looking for ways to protect their investment in the FCC spectrum licenses they overpaid for.The upside is the Harvard club is always lovely.

    1. fredwilson

      we are going to try to unleash them

    2. Dave W Baldwin

      Reminds me of giving thumbs up to a fellow yesterday regarding print media. They seem to think they can do everything using ancient rules/methods.

    3. Michael Dougherty

      I went to NAB Radio for the first time recently. I met with some the “programming” execs from major radio broadcast groups. These execs are the ones that are focused on the user (ratings, PPM, cume, talent, entertainment, competing locally for attention). I was shocked – I’ve never met so many product people who understood “debt covenants” and EBITDA multiples. It’s a different world, culture – and it is driven by the fact it is a private equity backed medium, which built it’s thesis in the 90’s that it would grow slowly in perpetuity.Also – the age of the room is much “older” than you’ll see at a tech/web conference. I know that is a strange thing to say, but I do think that its a $16b industry has an issue with fresh blood at all levels.

      1. ErikSchwartz

        I spent 3 years dealing with these folks. It is mind boggling.I did this blog post http://sisyph.us/technology… while at the NAB radio show in Austin in 2008. It got picked up by all the radio trades and pissed off a lot of folks.At the NAB radio show in 2009 I was talking up this new thing with a great local merchant spin called Foursquare, they did not care. Radio and Foursquare would be a great fit because radio has got all those local sales guys. It would still be a great deal but now foursquare has the leverage not radio. (Foursquare raised money at a higher valuation than every radio network’s market cap out there save Clear Channel).It’s not pretty.

        1. Michael Dougherty

          Radio should have developed “Groupon”… their local sales asset is one of the most valuable things they have (as another poster here mentioned). Thousands of local reps (local is “sold” not “bought” in general – esp. hyperlocal).I was speaking to a radio station PD last week who did not have a Facebook account. He didn’t believe in it – thought it was for kids. He runs the stations brand, engagement and marketing.

          1. ErikSchwartz

            There are a few guys who get it. John Rosso at Citadel gets it (but Farid does not). Brian Parsons at Triton is smart (but Triton does not own stations). At least David Rehr is not running the NAB anymore. He was exactly like the guy from “Thanks for Smoking”.But they are all crippled by the debt service. Overpaying for all those stations is a sunk cost. When you borrow money to invest in things that end up being sunk costs there are not a lot of ways forward.

          2. Michael Dougherty

            agreed – John and Brian are smart. As is David Goodman at CBS Interactive / Radio and a few others. The industry’s leverage has trapped it, as you say. Any big incumbent faces the innovators dilemma. Radio’s issue is that it has this incumbent dilemma, plus too much debt and uncertain growth opportunity. As you said, and Harry implies, even if it had invented Pandora, it still relies on 10-12 minutes of ads an hour which is way too much.

          3. Stephen

            JR gets it! I used to work for John and I learned quite a bit from him.Great NAB analogy. I’m not sure it’s much different today!

    4. David Goodman

      As a guy who went to “state college, I agree with you that the Harvard Club is pretty impressive! That said, based on the questions/comments from Fred’s blog, think the session will be generate some real insight and debate. Would be cool if we could get the guys from RadioInk to make a podcast available of the panel as a follow-up.

      1. fredwilson

        even better would be to stream it live using ustream or something similar

  4. ErikSchwartz

    Ask them this;People’s appetite for audio programming has not and is not going to decline. In the past you increased your margins by firing people and cutting costs thus homogenizing radio across markets; the station you own in philly sounds just like the station you own in dallas. The scarcity provided by your spectrum license made this a terrific business for many years.Internet delivery has shattered that false scarcity. To compete against internet delivery you need to invest in programming and the people who make it. What steps are making to improve the quality of the programs you put on air now that you are no longer protected in the competitive market by scarcity?See if you get a better answer than I did.

  5. Dave M

    Radio, like every medium, is being stretched by digital ubiquity but not broken. The real problem is lack of vision inside the industry but the influence of the internet will fix that over time. No one from “other internet interests” is showing radio any simple fixes that it does not already know about…PPM is the news ratings method/currency that is bringing big markets from the past and into the present day reality with electronic measurement. It is in the big markets only for now but it represents a leap and is making the industry recognize what makes radio great. Radio is great not because it is a endless jukebox. If that were true Apple would have killed the business. Building great radio is not easy and not cheap and it takes talent present in the moment for any local area and not an endless library. Radio is a link to the world right now, and not just a music set thought up last month and played a few dozen times to fill schedule spaces. Live radio may look back but it will always be about right now as it relates this moment to any point in the past. Relevance has to be built, not assembled. Where are you Wolfman Jack?

    1. ErikSchwartz

      The problem with PPM is it only measures people who are willing to wear a PPM device. Those are not the “cool” kids.Build PPM into cell phones and incentivize its use. Then you might get somewhere.Wolfman Jack got laid off. The local stations are all automated now.

      1. DaveM

        “Those are not the cool kids”over generalizing a painfully constructed statistical sample base is easy in a sound bite but PPM represents a big step forward. Give it time to mature and grow roots.The cell phone development will happen too…in time. And Wolfman did get laid off….so will Howard eventually. Everyone in the popularity biz fades at some point and can be made a joke. Right now is what’s hot. It’s the reaction to the moment….being in the moment is what radio is best at gathering up when we allow it.Radio, at its core, is a celebration of how we see ourselves. Pick the format and apply that thought. Automation is a back office constraint and the result of public company reporting being more important than the product. Radio is an artistic business best left to small operators who are local and ‘quality local anything’ is has become more scarce since a lot of folks took the money and ran.

        1. ErikSchwartz

          PPM is head and shoulders better than diaries. But it is pathetic compared to the type of passive data collected by IP streaming.What Clear Channel, Citadel, et al need to realize is that there are some mistakes that you can recover from, and there are some mistakes that are fatal. The debt load they took on buying stations, combined with the loss of relevancy that market exclusivity they had by owning FCC spectrum licenses provided was a fatal mistake.Even if broadcast radio had built Pandora they would be screwed. This is a classic example of technology shrinking a market. Being overly leveraged in a shrinking market leads to doom.

          1. Stephen

            PPM is as big a disaster as the diary, maybe bigger because it cost the station more.First, the sample size is waaaaaaaaayyyyyyy to small which leads to too much ascription.Second, hearing is not listening. In theory, you could attach a PPM meter to a dog and let him wonder around. If the dog comes in contact with an encoded PPM signal it will register as listening.Third, the notion of having young Hispanic and Afro American males wear a device that can potentially track their comings and goings is problematic for the target groups.

  6. Harry DeMott

    If traditional radio broadcasting represented great programming for a mass audience – how do you change your business when in 5 years every car will be equipped with an internet radio – capable of pulling up great personalized services like Pandora, Spotify, Slacker, fredwilson.fm?Does the audience really want to be treated as a homogeneous group – or will they opt for more personalization?Music is clearly a commodity – and while there’s some differences in curation, it will remain a fiendishly difficult place to run a business. So given that local talk personalities are no a commodity, how is the traditional world going to find the next Howard Stern or Don Imus? Is any $ being spent on talk development? Is something like Blog Talk Radio the future?I could go on and on if you want more!

    1. Dave W Baldwin

      That probably would make most sense Harry. It mirrors the different personalities, like there are FB people and Twitter people. So the internet radio delivering personalities and the ability to feel like you are part of the crowd (even while driving) is the way to go.In 3-5 yrs. we should be able to do that. The next generation of host is going to have to be fast thinking.

    2. Michael Dougherty

      Harry, I agree. Personalized services are the future and pose an issue for tradtional broadcast. However traditional broadcast has inertia and a massive listener base, given it may take longer than 5 years for every car to be IP-enabled natively (of course you can always bring your smartphone to stream), and for the 239 million listeners to shift en masse.That said, radio has issues because the old model is being disrupted and it has not invested in innovation. Most of the moves have been incremental, or focused on financial goals like cutting cost vs. new user experience.There is a big opportunity to tap the social aspect of broadcast, whether it is online, mobile or FM delivered.

      1. Harry DeMott

        And you are doing a good job of it for sure.For now – the traditional guys still have massive audiences. I was justmeeting with Farid Suleman who runs Citadel – and he reaches over 100Muniques per month with his stations. If you had a website doing thesenumbers you’d be a rich guy.The question is what are they going to do with their listeners. If theycontinue to try and monetize them the traditional way (audio ads) then theyare doomed to a long slow drift into oblivion.They have to send them somewhere – but where? They don’t have the back endweb infrastructure to make things work well – and likely won’t for years tocome – if ever.That’s the crux of the debate that needs to be had with these guys.

        1. Michael Dougherty


    3. goldwerger

      While everyone loves personalization, we often speak interchangeably without notice about personalization and on-demand.I believe that in the long term there will be successful publishers providing both personalized and editorial/curated content (I still read the NY Times and WSJ, and at the same time I love choosing my own RSS feeds and other personalized news sources).The biggest content revolution that has not yet hit the Internet radio space is seriously usable on-demand. While in TV streaming, DVR products and services such as Netflix and Boxee provide consumers a very easy way to consume TV on demand, Internet radio, which is still predominantly based on simulcasting, has not found a way to effectively re-purpose its content in a similarly exciting way.Most radio content is comprised of many short-duration segments of audio (typically songs, as well as talk). How to deliver this very fragmented content on-demand, without building tedious playlists, of forcing users to listen to dictated songs, remains somewhat illusive.But when the dust settles (and I’m not sure how it will), the WSJ equivalents will have their Don Imus personalities, and the democratized/on-demand media will have their Fred Wilson personalities…Eyal GoldwergerCEO, TargetSpot[digital audio advertising network]

      1. Harry DeMott

        I agree with you.Hopefully we will all still be in the business when the record labels decideto do deals that can actually work for everybody.That’s my dream – people listening to what they want, when they want, wherethey want, and on the device they want – either leaning in and determiningtheir own playlist – or laying back and allowing someone else to program -with the opportunity to tweak along the way.

  7. Jon Smirl

    The only time I listen to broadcast radio is when I forget my iPod in the car. I have ten presets to jump from channel to channel and skip the incessant commercials. Single touch to jump via the steering wheel. Broadcast radio is is not a pleasurable experience. I wish broadcast could figure out that cutting the number of ads in half and doubling the price would make everyone happier. FM/AM radio would probably be better off selling their spectrum to the cell phone companies.I stream last.fm about eight hours a day. I won’t use Pandora because of the annoying “Are you still listening?” popups. Seems like they could learn my listening hours and stop that. Top problem with last.fm is that it repeats things too much. I have 10,000 tracks in my library but it will latch onto about 300 and play them over and over until I delete them.I see two monetization points – subscription and web site advertising. In stream advertising is just going to make me switch services. Internet radio site should provide much better UIs for social interaction, manipulating play lists, controlling repetition, song priorities, seasonal music, etc. I would spend a lot of time in that UI organizing how the music plays but none of the services provide a reasonable amount of control (I am far above the statutory minimums for song diversity). I will tolerate advertising in the UI but they need to make better tools so that I will spend more time in it.Subscription can definitely work, but I won’t subscribe to last.fm. The UI for controlling what plays is too poor. Why pay money to hear the same tracks repeated over and over? I can get that for free. Sooner or later I will try mog. Maybe they will provide a reasonable level of control.Cars needs a universal cell phone jack with a USB display connection. Then we could get rid of the radio, cd player, navigation system and On-star. This would lower the cost of cars by $1000. Make a cradle to drop your cell into. It will charge and get display access via USB (USB display is a standard USB profile).That would be nirvana for me – cell handles calls, navigation, calendar, streaming music, crash reporting. etc…. Everything is always up to date since it is in the cloud. Nice dash mounted screen for safety and easy visibility. Use steering wheel mounted controls to control phone. Everything needed to build this already exists, it just isn’t hooked up right.

    1. Dave W Baldwin

      Patience Jon. In the real world of bureacracy, it takes time to pull these things together. If you look at how the auto companies are now showing what can be done via the control panel, plus Ford’s stated intent of focusing on that, it will come.

  8. Denis

    Internet allows radio journalism to survive. Even in the age of YouTube & Flip cameras it is not easy to setup and run an Internet video channel with quality programming.There is one section of the radio industry that is often overlooked in these debates. That is “information warfare”. Back in the days of the Cold War, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice of America were the 2 most powerful weapons that the USA possessed. With the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, the immediate need of operations for these services decreased but the new regimes that oppressed free speech still required external independent information sources. So with the reduced funding, both radio stations were able to survive as online information portals (air broadcasting is highly limited). The Internet also allowed to expand the information offering for both RFE/RL & VOA. They now have all kinds of multimedia materials to supplement the news stories besides multiple options to listen to the programming and are actively using the social media to disseminate the news. Unfortunately, I am not sure how quickly they adopted the new technology compared to the mainstream commercial media but they have had online presence since at least 1998.

  9. Distanlo

    radio is hanging onto its life by a thread. the thread is the fact that most cars don’t have an internet connection.

    1. patrick reynolds

      That won’t be the case in 2011. Aftermarket solutions tethering phone to dash will be everywhere.

  10. Chris Clark

    I keep coming back to an article from the New Yorker called “You, the DJ” *(cited below)It discusses the sociological effects of internet radio, primarily that if radio stations are tailored for specific listeners (ie. fredwilson.fm), two things happen:1) The listener is not necessarily exposed to a wide range of music. With flesh-and-blood DJs, the listener is at the mercy of that DJ and may hear music that would have never been considered when building a tailored station. You don’t know what you don’t know.2) The death of cultural commonality. It’s far more difficult for music to “define a generation” or “take the world by storm” when the listener base is so fragmented.The first point has a clear parallel with online news and article aggregators. For years there has been discussion about how, if readers can control the news that is delivered to them, they won’t be exposed to points of view they might find disagreeable.Broadly, if the future is mass-customization, then will we still have anything in common?* June 2010 – http://www.newyorker.com/ar

    1. Matt A. Myers

      Absolutely. We will always share the desire to share, and share the curiosity to hear what others have to say and share.

  11. charlessmith

    Radio’s largest struggle for me is how to adapt to an on-demand world. While we all want a great lean-back listening environment at times, we are so used to double clicking the headphones to go to the next track that radio starts to feel unnatural.

    1. Michael Dougherty

      To amplify on this theme, is there a way to leverage the social web to make shared listening experiences more compelling? Personalized listening is great (iPod w/ 50 gigs of music; pandora; cloud services; etc.), but it can isolate. Most of the investment in radio has been here. There is a significant opportunity to develop better shared experiences, across all channels.Also – related topic – in the medium term (5 years) given the massive reach of the existing terrestrial experience, how can the social web improve the experience for 239 million people who listen to the old broadcast model every day. Is there a “second screen” concept for FM radio?

      1. Matt MacNaughton

        Michael, my company PromoJam is working hand in hand with some of the larger radio stations to innovate upon their traditional audience reach mechanisms and extend that across the social web in novel and new ways. We are in the early stages of re-engineering the traditional call-in song countdown and turning it on its head by powering it via social media through Twitter, Facebook and Myspace. See –> http://www.kiisfm.com/pages…Using tools like PromoJam radio broadcasters can establish and build audiences on the social web that interact both with the terrestrial format and the emerging online streaming models and offer advertisers more targeted engagement with their listenership.

        1. Michael Dougherty

          nice man – radio needs more feedback loop. More creative ways to connect radio to social web, the better. advertisers will care – and are already allocating billions to be spent next year on this traditional medium. let’s all help them spend it better.

  12. baba12

    Reading all the comments posted to this topic I realize the audience is also primarily focussed on US Europe centric view of the world.If you are discussing what the internet means for the radio I am guessing it only focuses on the impact of the internet on radio in the U.S. not anywhere else.I am not sure if you have visited rural Africa, Asia or South America. If you have then you would realize that the power of radio is still strong and alive.So the impact of the internet on those parts of the world is negligible. BBC the largest worldwide radio service has adopted the internet and still 90^ of the listeners in those parts of the world consume the content through a radio that costs at most $5. I hope you frame your conversations around the impact of the internet on radio to just the US and maybe a small portion of Western Europe only.In many part of the worlds that I am talking about ( Asia, Africa and South America) people trust more the BBC than their own radio services and it is going to be many decades before any internet based services ever replace the traditional broadcasting methods as costs are relatively very low.Until per capita incomes go up and those masses can afford to have a internet radio along with the widespread adoption of wireless broadband ( WiMax), you will see very small footprints of internet radio adoption in those parts of the world.I am sure that Mr.Wilson is discussing primarily the impact of the Internet on the radio in the U.S.

    1. fredwilson

      i was but i am glad you mentioned the developing worldbecause that is where we all should be focusedit is where the vast majority of wealth and societal development will happen in the next 25 years

  13. Bruce Warila

    Should the question be:”Can anyone think of a great new use for terrestrial or satellite, sort-of-dumb, broadcast infrastructure?”Programming / content is not going to be the long term answer. It’s too easy to replicate and improve (make smarter) using the Internet. Although I would love to see some innovation on content delivery. There’s an utter lack of creativity / experimentation in this area.If you can remove the “sort-of-dumb” part of traditional radio infrastructure, you have what…the internet?Someone is still making money off of dial-up Internet. I suspect someone will be making money off of old (declining) radio for the next 20 to 30 years. For example, It’s going to take years to upgrade the entire fleet of vehicles to Internet-ready (attaching your cell phone to your 2008 Ford Truck sound system is too much work for most people).I think there are untapped opportunities when it comes to (old) radio. Innovation is non-existent.

    1. Michael Dougherty

      This is a great question. It is true that there is a significant lack of innovation in a segment this big – radio currently drives $14-$16 billion of advertising and is not declining as fast as you’d think (in fact, it *grew* this year).Rethinking how to use the significant capacity inherent in terrestrial radio will be a big opportunity.

    2. ErikSchwartz

      The challenge here is that the spectrum is licensed for use “in the public good”. So whatever they use it for has to meet that test.

  14. PhilipSugar

    I think these guys should not look at themselves in the radio business, but rather in the business of marketing local businesses with the benefit of national reach.I think their greatest asset is their salesforce.Everybody is going after local businesses. These guys have succeeded in a SUPER tough thing: getting small business owners to part with their cash for marketing purposes.This is what they should be leveraging. I think Groupon’s biggest reason for success was the gigantic national salesforce they amassed very quickly.The good news is the concept of radio is similar to that of TV in that when people are consuming it they are doing it to be dumbed. I think super bright people forget this because they don’t want to be dumbed..they love fooling with the technolgoy..but for the average populace they like getting into the car and have six buttons they can push that takes their mind off of their commute (yup, I’m in a flyover state and we commute via car) bam your dumbed on your way to and from work.They have a challenge because the two edged sword that made them so profitable: high gross margins. High gross margins are a blessing and a curse. They are great when you can maintain price because every extra dollar of incremental revenue flows to the bottom line. The curse is that if you can’t maintain exclusivity your price can drop to zero (i.e. Craigslist, Napster, etc, etc)So I would agree with Eric that having a big debt load with finance guys running the show makes you short sighted as hell.But I think everybody is missing the point….its not about music…its about the revenue stream and that’s how do you get local businesses to spend their money on marketing. That’s what I would be talking about.

    1. fredwilson

      great comment phil

  15. patrick reynolds

    It means the windows are thrown open and content is free to go where it will.

  16. Doug Kersten

    I have so much to say on this I don’t know where to start. I am going to put together something offline and post it over the weekend. Needless to say the Internet has caused a great opportunity for innovation in radio.

  17. Guest

    I would reiterate this as well. Radio is alive and well. Some of the highest paid media people are in radio. Look at the ny times best seller lists, at any time your bound to see a few radio hosts in the top 10 everyday. The advertising is growing. The age of consolidation is lessening, viva the independents. I work in digital, and listen to terrestrial radio everyday, as a lifelong fan and admirer of the power that terrestrial radio certainly has. Radio ads do one thing extremely well, provide a highly measurable way to drive people in store, one thing that online is actively trying to prove(this metric alone is worth considering). To the international comment below; radio is now the most cost efficient and reliable media vehicle the world has ever seen. I say this though as an outsider looking in, but how much does it cost to produce a simple handheld radio and start a radio station? I would argue cheaper now than its ever been, certainly cheaper than print/online/tv etc etc.

  18. ShanaC

    One of the most important Twitter Accounts I follow, that I wish was developed into local radio:http://twitter.com/NYCTSubw…I think the local/news and local space still has plenty of room to develop on the internet. It’s kind of not safe to be watching a twitter stream of local traffic (besides, what are those people doing texting in their cars, car accidents waiting to happen)I think music and content are going the way of the dodo bird. The questions I have are the following: How do I find new material (I’m still totally lost on this, even with trying numerous services.)andHow do I mix in things that really shouldn’t be curated (the weather, a basic news report, traffic, school closings) with things that are curated (moth podcast, music) when I need my hands to do other things (ie be on the wheel of a car, get card out of bag to go on the subway.

  19. Mark Zohar

    The Internet means to radio what it means to publishing and video — it drives the cost of production and distribution of content towards zero. Everyone on the Web can be their own DJ and create and broadcast their own stations, whether on Soundcloud, Tumblr or elsewhere. Moreover, the ease of subscribing to user-generated music stations via Ex.fm or Last.fm makes it incredibly frictionless to “tune” into personalized radio stations on the Web. Viewed from this perspective, the Internet is clearly a threat to the relevance, immediacy and distribution power of traditional radio.Growing up in the mid 1970’s, radio was the only viable source for discovering new music and for creating a community of music lovers. Today, the process of music discovery & community building has shifted 100% to the Web. So where does all this leave traditional terrestrial and satellite radio? My guess is that the future of radio lies somewhere between micro-local programming (e.g., neighborhood radio stations) and appointment-based original programming (e.g., Bob Boilen interviews and Tiny Desk Concerts).On a personal note, I should mention that your “amateur” radio station has had a significant impact on my life and musical journey. In particular, four years ago or so, you posted the song “Big Boat” by M. Ward. That song hit me like a freight liner and introduced me not only to M. Ward but subsequently to Bright Eyes, My Morning Jacket, Ryan Adams and so on. Fredwilson.fm also inspired me to launch my own “amateur” radio station (http://markzohar.tumblr.com) where I feature new music tracks and videos. So, thanks for sharing.

    1. fredwilson

      oohi am going to check out your tumblr this morning

  20. awaldstein

    This post is an education for those of us on the outside of the internet radio debate. Thnx.

  21. Brent Harrison

    Years ago at Netscape (or was it AOL . . . all a blur), a colleague of mine envisioned a world where distant, centralized services could deliver audio (music, spoken word and the like) without a physical connection over the airwaves to a remote and, in some cases, completely mobile devices. When he asked what to call this brave new medium, I said “radio.”

  22. Daniel Razumov

    “Online Radio advertising” is:1) My daily job2) keyword I buy on Google, Yahoo and Bing3)Media with 1% average CTR and 30% brand affect4)Combination of words I say at list 100 times a day.5)True for all answersTo make Online Radio Advertising work you should:1) Choose main campaign value proposition (Free trail Now, discount etc)2) Concentrate on push for action (click on your radio banner now and get ….)3) Have an easy conversion landing page (Lead, download, free number to call, etc)4) True for all answersAll this and much more is our job in TargetSpotMy name is Daniel,Please send me an email if you are looking for alternative traffic for Google and RM traffic.Thanks,[email protected] I would not be able to attend the conference due my flight … sounds very interesting place to be

    1. fredwilson

      thanks for sharing that Danieli love your energy!

  23. C Hu

    1) How will the “buy” button come to radio (i.e., how will radio facilitate commerce)?2) Will declining production/distribution costs impact radio differently vs other mediums? How so?3) Which are the most innovative companies in radio/audio today?The proliferation of wired and “humanized” devices like the iPad and iPhone allow radio to invent itself and offer deeper engagement. Examples: pressing a button to have Nike email you a special coupon when you hear a new shoe ad; buying a song instantly when you hear it; setting your TiVo to record tonight’s episode of “24” or queuing old episodes in your Netflix account when Fox plays an ad; connecting with other talk show listeners in spontaneous conference calls; share quotes of radio conversation on Facebook/Twitter in real-time, where the “Share” button comes with automatic speech-to-text; or helping listeners vote in real-time on pending questions/topics to determine the most interesting ones.Radio is moving in this direction, but it’s still far from realizing its potential. Eventually, when wired devices are sufficiently simple and abundant, radio will be like a web site that doesn’t shut up.The trick is for radio to concentrate on areas where it excels, that is as a background medium vs a foreground medium like TV.

    1. fredwilson

      “how does the buy button come to radio?”awesome provocative thoughtwell done

    2. Michael Dougherty

      Very cool.Given significant time spent in car for most people, this is a huge opportunity. Requires a “60-mile-per-hour UI” (i.e., sort of like 10-ft UI for web video on TV; or mobile UI). Smartphones, plus some of the efforts of auto mfrs, will enable new opportunities.The days of one way media are numbered, even in the traditional channels.

      1. C Hu

        Cars do offer a massive opportunity, but there is also an even great opportunity for radio everywhere since it excels as a background medium. Radio playing in the kitchen while you’re cooking, in the bathroom when you’re preparing for bed, or in the living room while you’re cleaning up. Radio for people in developing countries or for people outside working or exercising or doing something. At its core, radio informs and entertains with sound as the central component, and it should concentrate on areas where it can provide value as a background task.

  24. Gordon Bowman

    To me the Internet for Radio means two things: Personalization and Mobile. If I were coming to this talk I would most like to hear about the impact of both.

  25. Cole

    Radio likes to position themselves as local. If they lose that, then they must compete globally, which they are not likely to win.So why does radio cutback on the very thing that makes it unique?

  26. mikenolan99

    If I only knew… We sold our family radio stations ten years ago. Just this year my father was inducted into the Minnesota Broadcasters Hall of Fame. It was a bitter sweet journey down memory lane. Minnesota had such a great group of family owned stations, and a rich history of local programming.By 2000 the industry changed due to deregulation and the relaxation of ownership rules. The iPod and XM had only just burst onto the scene, and Pandora and smart phones and individual radio stations were in the distance future.I reminisced with my dad about the $2,000 1.63 gig hard drives that we bought for our move to digital storage back in the early 90s. 10 years later I had 10 gigs of music in my pocket.My children will never remember a time when they listened to commercial radio station like the ones my father and I worked at. Their ideal radio station is in their pocket, on their laptop, and plays the perfect music all the time.One thing we know is that owning a hunk of spectrum isn’t good enough anymore – your primary asset has to be your creativity and ability to interact with your listeners, regardless of the means of how they listen to you.The topics I would love to hear you address are: What to do if you currently own a Radio Station group? What are the strategies to stay relevant? Instead of viewing the internet as a threat, what are the best of the best doing to change their business model? And, what are the game changing entrepreneurs doing to win?BTW – listening to Pandora with Sam and Dave as seed artists…

    1. fredwilson

      listening to Okkervil River on Rhapsody delivered via Sonos

  27. Jim Kerr

    Radio is a victim of its own success. Even after two years of brutal decreases, the CPMs that radio garners from local and national advertisers would make any website drool. Investing in the Internet has thus generated nearly universal skepticism from radio. The concept of needlessly trading analog dollars for digital dimes permeates radio.This, of course, is not sustainable, and if radio suffers from a specific failure when it comes to the Internet, it is not understanding the future of media. Or, perhaps more common, the “we understand things will change, but we don’t need to change yet” disease. This is how a coupon/offer company like Groupon can swoop in and disrupt local revenue right under the noses of radio. This challenge–trading current margins for future returns–is not unique to radio, but they are one of the best contemporary case studies.It’s not too late for radio. Any industry that reaches 200+ million people a week still has enormous power, but the question remains as to what radio can do to monetize and continue to reach those millions into the future, and that’s the real question that needs addressed by radio. Many companies are working on those solutions. Mike’s is one. Ours is another. But the challenge in making radio recognize the immediate need remains.

  28. Blair Giesen

    The Internet means opportunity for Radio to get more of listeners time and more revenue. The Internet allows for an entirely different way for users to interact with Radio and even Radio advertisers. By engaging the listener in a fun interactive way that gives the listener control over many elements of the listening experience. I’ve been in radio for over 10 years with big broadcasters like Clear Channel. I have been working on a solution to help broadcast radio get there swagger back and harness the huge potential of social media. We are in an pivotal time and I guarantee that a new start-up, in the next year, will disrupt the industry more than even Pandora. Will broadcast radio welcome them? We will see.Blair GiesenZambig.com

  29. Guest

    Would love to hear this kind of folks talking about all the great ways users can enjoy radio/music nowadays. It so frigging amazing how the UI can make the game. And then you have so many great aspects as the actual library, a recommendation system, social integrations, and way more mini assets to make it even much more appealing. To work in the web music biz is so incredible cool, and the greatest offerings will make it, and I guess we music listener are just in such a great situation right now. I want to hear how cool it is.

  30. ceonyc

    Check the USV Deal Database for “Fred radio idea”. You were noodling on this back in ’05!

    1. fredwilson

      still noodling

  31. paramendra

    What it has meant to everything else: add intelligence to the process every step of the way.

  32. paramendra

    What is this event? Is this open?

  33. Anne Hill

    Great post, and I’ve enjoyed reading all the comments. We undervalue radio because it is ubiquitous and increasingly banal. Yet it is a powerful lifeline/brand/social force–who doesn’t have a transistor radio lying around for when the power goes out, or an emergency happens? (Remember to check the batteries.)Big Radio needs new talent that is ready to innovate, and one obvious group to tap is the internet radio world. But they should also take a look at low power FM stations. There is some very cool programming and creative marketing going on at community radio stations, one of the only places where a diverse crowd can gain broadcasting skills. Increasingly, these hyper-local stations are also developing a global reach thanks to internet streaming and podcasting their broadcasts. It will be fascinating to see how all this plays out 5-10 years down the road.

    1. fredwilson

      same is true of a lot of HD2 stations

  34. gwarrier

    Although the death of was predicted many a time, it seems to have survived TV, satellite broadcasting and a few other mediums. The focus of radio on local content and connection with local listeners is truly valuable ‘targeting’. It once reinvented itself from a ‘news’ medium (then replaced by TV) to a ‘music’ medium. Radio will possibly reinvent itself in the age of the Internet as well. The tying with social networking such as ‘checking-in’ might be one facet of this. I was curious, does GetGlue actually allow you to check-in while listening to a radio program?On of the commenters has mentioned the prevelance of radio in Asia. Being from India myself, I was amazed at this too during my last visit. The technology scene is now seeing 3G mobile adoption, greater Internet penetration with greater bandwidths and increasingly sophisticated mobile phones loaded with all sorts of features. But of all things, the most desired and popular feature for a mobile phone consumer is FM radio integrated in the cellphone. Almost all mobile phones have FM Radio as a feature integrated in. That was interesting, not Internet Radio, but FM Radio. The death of Radio does not seem to be happening any time soon there. Radio would probably reinvent itself in the age of the Internet as well.

  35. Bradsaul

    Radio as I knew and grew up in it is dying. The ability to hear radio wirelessly via the internet will soon become to radio what cable and satellite TV have become to over the air TV. Today, 90% of all television whether over the air or cable is viewed by cable or satellite. Radio over the next few years will mirror the TV path. As we all know, radio listening takes place equally in 3 locations: home, office and car. With internet radio dominating listening in the office, growing fast at home and now soon to be available ubiquitous in the auto, internet radio is equivalent to the FM band circa 1965. Unless radio broadcasters wake up and realize their brands can claim beach front property and use the power of those brands to creatively migrate their listeners realizing the current business model no longer works, they will likely go the way of the newspaper.

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  38. Jeff Grill

    The future of radio is being decided right now in the contract talks with Howard Stern over at Sirius/XM. It is a classic battle of medium, content, monopoly, audience fit, convenience and delivery pipe.In this case, the content is bigger than the pipe, which can force audience change if his contract isn’t signed. This was a similar circumstance to “Sex and the City” being more important than HBO. Viewers would follow the content, vs. loyalty to the delivery vehicle.Where content plays a lessor role, such as a music station, the end is near as barriers such as convenience, a radio station that picks music, is quickly eroding as an advantage in favor of services like Pandora. Convenience is also eroding as the cell phone becomes a signal delivery vehicle for the car.There will always be audio entertainment, with radio slowing fading in the background.

    1. Jim Kerr

      Jeff, your points are correct, but they don’t necessarily mean that radio will fade into the background. Brands mean a tremendous amount today. Nothing is more convenient than getting water out of the tap, but Fuji is a very profitable brand. It’s freaking water, but it still sells at a premium due to the PERCEIVED value of its brand. Radio needs to match its forays into digital with strong brand management.