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Internet Vs Am And Fm Radio

By: John F Peterson

I noticed two stories in an internet radio trade publication this week that caught my eye. One was that Boston's heritage Rock station, WBCN, will move to become an internet-only radio station in August. WBCN has been Boston's Rock station since 1968, and will give way to an all Sports format.

The other more alarming story from an AM or FM broadcaster's point of view is that industry analyst Mark Ramsey is advising AM and FM stations to look to NON-MUSICAL FORMATS as a gradual disappearance of music takes place on AM and FM radio stations.

He says that internet radio puts terrestrial broadcasters at a "competitive disadvantage" and urges them to look elsewhere for formats in the future.

While I can see where he's coming from, and agree to a point, I can't see AM and FM broadcasters giving up on music any time soon. While they cannot compete with the tightly targeted niche music formats that proliferate online, there will always be a place for local content, and that LOCALISM will perhaps be their saving grace.

What these stories do is correctly point out that the audio entertainment industry is changing, and no one really knows where it's going. One thing is certain, however, and that is that internet radio IS having an impact on traditional radio broadcasters, and will have an even greater impact as time goes on.

I think that it also highlights a contention of mine that broadcasters in general have no idea of how to integrate broadcast and online efforts into any kind of a cohesive or productive partnership. In essence radio stations adopted and projected the attitude that if there was anything of importance going on, it would be on THEIR station. The inference of course was that there was nothing of importance on a competing radio station, or anywhere else for that matter.

The trouble is that this has become a self-fulfilling prophecy that precludes even the station website from having any relevance. Integrating on-air and on-line efforts into a strategy is all the more difficult in a climate of declining advertising revenues. After all, an effective online presence takes resources. Still that is the challenge and I haven't yet seen a radio station do it well.

Online broadcasters will have to be careful though as they are also vulnerable to the same pitfalls and attitudes. They will have to make sure that THEIR websites are something more than a gateway to the radio stream.

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