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Radio – Intro


By the Project for Excellence in Journalism

Technology is turning what we once thought of as radio into something broader — listening.

And listening will increasingly occur across a range of devices, from computers to PDAs and cell phones, from satellite receivers to new high- definition radios.

The strategies of programmers for winning audiences and revenue in this new landscape for the moment range the gamut — everything from ultra-niche programming to the broad eclecticism of letting computers randomly select music from all formats at once.

We even see competing trends in ownership. While some companies continue to consolidate, at least one major player in radio is moving to break in two.

As all this occurs, several questions that might have been inconceivable just a few years ago are now worth asking.

Will traditional or “terrestrial” radio fade as new technologies replace it? Or will all the old media merely be supplemented by the new, with each commanding less of people’s time? If that occurs, what will it mean about the resources of radio newsgathering if there are fewer people listening, or listening for less time each day? The answers may be profoundly influenced by new ways of measuring audiences that could topple the traditional foundation upon which radio advertising rates and economics are built.

Already radio news has changed from something that was once heavily local and widely available to something that exists largely on select stations specifically formatted for news or news/talks content.

Another question is more sociological. If people spend more time with personalized playlists and downloaded media, what will happen to the serendipity of learning something unexpected about the world from turning on the radio? The answer depends, in part, on the degree to which they were hearing from radio news about the larger world at all, something that probably varies from station to station.