The other blog thread on this topic kind of got hijacked, so I thought I’d start up one of my own. In that blog entry, someone claimed that the Internet will take over radio’s functions shortly, and that AM and FM will be dead.
Not so, I say.
As a matter of fact, the Internet, while it certainly can and does stream audio and video, was not designed for this function. It’s unicast (each user needs his/her own data stream), which is certainly not the most efficient way to listen to a common audio stream. It’s also pull technology (you have to request a connection, it has to be set up, etc.). My philosophy has always been to use the right tools for the job – you can attempt to dig a hole with a broom, but there are going to be significant limitations in using that particular tool. Just as in using the Internet to get to a mass audience in a radio-like manner.
Wireless internet, with all the coolness associated with it, is still the Internet, with all it’s inherent limitations.
Radio is classic push technology and it’s the ultimate multicast – people just need to tune in to the same radio frequency to get the same data. It’s the most efficient (and cheapest) way to get an audio stream to just about anyone, and there are no bandwidth limitations (other than the range of the signal, of course).
If you’re going to look for technologies to replace radio as it now exists, then you’re probably going to look at digital radio using the same basic paradigm as today’s analog radio. Just as digital TV has replaced the classic analog TV (and it works very well, thank you very much – with EPG’s, program information etc. contained within the TV stream).
Now, I do believe that people’s listening habits have changed, but the central technology behind that was the ability to carry your own music along with you, starting with cassettes and the walkman to today’s digital memory cards. That’s mostly what is being listened to on the ipods and iphones (and other portable devices) of today. Nothing to do with the Internet at all. I believe that that will continue, but it will not supplant radio. You get your news from radio, sports, new songs, the time, weather, etc.
There is a place for the Internet in radio broadcasting. You can use it to store program archives, elicit comments and yes, even to listen live, particularly for remote listeners. But there are significant bandwidth implications to support even a small number of listeners with a reasonable quality stream – you will never, ever be able to support anything more than a very small fraction of a radio stations total number of listeners (licensed radio station, that is, for Part 15, it may indeed be a large percentage of their listeners).