You have to just love it when a more well known industry expert and pundit than yourself says something you’ve been trumpeting for close to a decade. Today, I got that warm fuzzy feeling down in the cockles of my heart when Jeff Jarvis boldly proclaimed “tear down the broadcast towers!”
In case you’re (somehow) not familiar with Mr. Jarvis, he’s a widely published journalist (and active blogger) that has worked for TV Guide, People, The New York Daily News, and the San Francisco Examiner as well as the creator of the Entertainment Weekly. So to say he has a finger on entertainment’s pulse is a moderate understatement.
In his most recent blog post, he details his experiences with his brand new iPhone and a conversation with his wife regarding the audio entertainment choices.
Pandora is a wonder, creating my own radio station, live and on the fly without need for a broadcast tower. CBS is streaming all its stations over the cell network but when I told my wife this she kept asking, “Why would I want to listen to a CBS station?”
“That’s not the point,” I huffed. “We don’t need broadcast towers.”
“OK,” she said, “but I still don’t want to listen to CBS stations.”
So count that as two strikes against radio. Digital radio? Heh. Satellite radio? I’m paying for it and I want Howard on my iPhone.
For years I’ve been saying that the days of radio are numbered (long before, actually, I realized that the days of newspaper were numbered). One of my first experiences as an independent journalist was on streaming radio with Shoutcast-like systems, far before the days of podcasting. What I saw back then wsa the groundwork for something disruptive and game-changing – the displacement of traditional talk and ClearChannel-style music radio by the thousands of amateur DJs developing software, infrastructures, communities and full on New Media alternatives.
The only thing it lacked, in fact, was mobility. Sure, if you crossed your eyes just right and prayed, you might get that jicky version of mobile Windows media player to stream your station right. Problem was that bandwidth was almost always an issue, and when it wasn’t, the software was. The software engineers and the mobile carriers literally conspired together to prevent streaming radio from becoming a serious contender on Internet ready mobile devices.
Now, they have no such compunctions, and while streaming radio is dead in its old form, like Jarvis observed, there are many new competitors like Last.FM, Pandora, and a bevvy of podcasting DJs. The portable, Internet-enabled entertainment portal is a thing of the present. Not only is radio in mortal danger from all sides, but so is TV. A number of entertainment portals like iTunes, Netflix, YouTube, and Hulu are coming dangerously close to providing ample mainstream entertainment at a fraction of current cable costs.
None of that takes into account the professional, semi-pro and quality amateur content being created on the web. Folks like us at Mashable, folks at Rev3, or any other host of independent video producers that create podcast content now are making available their content to the mobile device user’s impulse.
There are a few things that remain until the domination is complete.
Prices must be feasible. To completely replace radio, the cost of owning the device and accompanying bandwidth contract must be in reach of the average consumer. Attention: AT&T and Rogers – $100 a month won’t cut it. Think more along the lines of $30-$50. All you’re providing is the band, not the entertainment. To put your pricepoint so high, you’re forcing all content producers into the free, ad-supported model. This is an acceptable position near-term, but long-term is unsustainable.
Devices must be ubiquitous. Currently, of couse, iPhones (and the comparable devices from other manufacturers) are in the minority. Most folks have phones that serve primarily as mobile voice communication devices. This is rapidly changing, but this metamorphosis will be stalled if the device manufacturers artificially prop up prices outside the reach of the average consumer.
Service must be net neutral. Carriers, don’t get greedy! You can provide your own content to your customers, but there’s plenty of money to be made being the band provider without inhibiting those out there with their own content to push. With the advent of WiMax and muni-WiFi on the horizon, by following the path of the CableCos and going non-net neutral will only hasten their development, and eventually put you out of business.
Devices must be technology agnostic. The iPhone seems to be nicely RSS compliant and is finally opening up to the idea of third party app development. This is good. I haven’t extensively tested all the devices competing with the iPhone, but three generations of devices ago, I had. The biggest deal-breaker out there was that each OS had their preference on what sort of streaming media it would play. As a result, hardly anything worked universally, and any time a producer chose a format, they were automatically shutting out 80% of their potential audience. With the proliferation of device types, no producer can function on only a best case scenario 20% of a potential audience.
There are some caveats, but unlike any other time in the history of mobile and entertainment technology, things seem to be moving towards a happy ending.
Though it pains me to say this, I will: “Thanks, Apple.”
Related Articles at Mashable! – The Social Networking Blog:
World’s Simplest iPhone App
Online Ads Surpass Radio Ads in a Historical First
eMusic Launches 10 Internet Radio Mashups
iPhone to Launch in Germany on T-Mobile
3G iPhone Confirmed for 2008
Mundu Optimizes Multi-Client Chat Tool for the iPhone
CBS Radio Rolling Out More Internet Initiatives
Read more here:
Is the iPhone Killing Terrestrial Radio?