Internet radio: pipe dream or reality check?


Has the Net changed radio habits in SA as much as in other parts of the world? Well, according to some research, apparently not.
One radio futurologist has suggested that people are quite happy with FM radio, and that as a result they rarely change stations. While it may be true that the dial does not move all that readily, it certainly does not mean that people are happy with radio. But it’s quite difficult to satisfy such a diffuse audience, and to try is to fail, because invariably there are some people who don’t like what the station has to say. Also, in some cases radio is geographical and, barring access to DStv, people are limited in choice depending on their location.
SA’s annual Internet growth rate continues to be impressive, but not necessarily for radio. Pandora and Sirius are not household names in SA, like they are in other parts of the world. The idea of keeping your TV on all day for radio may be put to bed by an Eskom outage, while a little “wireless” operated by batteries can run for hours without being connected to the grid.
Should local terrestrial radio stations be worried? Well maybe they should be, but they are probably not. There is a certain comfortableness that sets in when you’re the market leader, and of course it’s the beginning of the end, but it might take a while for you to realise that.
Listener driven radio is one step, perhaps, in the right direction, if you want to follow the masses – and of course it’s based on what’s popular in terms of digital sales, so there’s no escaping the digital onslaught.
But whatever the future may bring, the Net has been a major disruptive force to media consumption, and fragmentation of media is most certainly a reality. It will be twice as hard to keep a sophisticated radio listener tuned in, given the plethora of choice out there.


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