Radio in the Digital Age

In the world of mass media, radio has long been a survivor. As we all know, it was once the primary form of in-home electronic media entertainment with programs such as “Little Orphan Annie,” “The Abbott and Costello Show” and “Burns and Allen.” The medium, however quickly lost that prominent position in the living room when television aggressively gained market share in the 1950s. This could have been the end of radio. But it wasn’t.

What the radio industry did (and did well) was adapt. When stars like Ed Sullivan, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz made the move to television and away from the antiquated medium of radio, the industry responded and survived. Talk radio and musical programing were born.

Today’s commercial radio is a direct evolution of the adaptation in programing the industry made in response to television. The industry saw the need to offer something its audience still wanted and it survived. The key was adapting in the face of emerging technology.

Today’s media landscape is not that different from what radio and television faced more than a half-century ago. SiriusXM radio, MP3 players like iPods, iPhones and iPads and internet radio (popularized by sites like are threats to the survival of commercial radio as we know it. Consumers now have the ability to program their own radio stations and carry them at all times.

So, what does this mean for commercial radio today? The same thing it meant over 50 years ago: Adaptation. Adapting to a changing media landscape is the key to success for any medium. It was true in the 1950s and it’s true in the 21st century.


Smart radio stations and groups are turning to mobile technology to extend their brand and programming into the palms of consumers’ hands. They are adapting to the consumer need to have information and entertainment on demand and in the palm of their hands. Mobile applications are making this possible for stations all over the world.

Now, here’s a sign of how important it is for a radio station to have a live-streaming mobile app: Between 25% and 50% of new American cars already give buyers the option of having a digitally connected dashboard, and that number is expected to top 80% by 2014. That’s according to an article published by

Think about it. If our cars allow digital connection of our mobile devices, we as consumers will take advantage of it. We’ll plug in our iPods and iPhones and listen to our playlists. Or will we? If we have a loyalty to a radio station brand and they have a live-streaming mobile app, might we just plug in and listen to our favorite station?

One can listen to a live-streaming app anywhere and not lose the signal when driving out of the station’s DMA. A traveler can listen to their hometown station anywhere in the world. This is the next adaptation for radio stations. The smart ones will adapt quickly.