Once upon a time, cars were steered by a stick. The throttle was located on the steering wheel. The high beams switch was located on the floor. And it was different in every car. Computers started off all being different just like the software programs they operated. Today, the only real learning curve is switching between Microsoft and Apple for computers or Apple and Android for smartphones and even they aren’t all that different anymore.
It’s time for radio to standardize.
AM, FM, DAB, DAB+, HD Radio, HD2, HD3, HD4, Streaming….it’s insane. It’s confusing.
Norway, a country about the size of New Mexico has decided to standardize radio around the digital broadcast format. No more AM or FM, just digital. This caused uproar around the globe, but aren’t the Viking folks really doing radio in their country a favor? Standardizing around a single format?
Just imagine if the world operated on a standardized radio platform? All car manufacturers could build a universal radio platform into their vehicle dashboards worldwide and smartphones could all be designed to be used as radios anywhere in the world. Computers, tablets and even radios could all be on the same platform. Less variation in the method of transmission would be more impact.
Likewise, radio programming from any single source should be the same on all devices, not one way over-the-air and another way if you pick up the same broadcast on a stream. If you want to listen to a radio station in Los Angeles and you’re in Boston, you should hear everything being broadcast by that LA radio station. For the incremental dollars, broadcast radio stations degrade their streams with bumpy transitions, high repetition of nonsense filler material and just plain too long breaks; especially compared to commercial breaks on the pureplays.
The pureplays are paying 100% attention to their streams because it’s all they have. Broadcast radio stations handle their streams as an afterthought; if they even give them that much attention.
Hindsight is 20/20. Without changing, historians of broadcasting might one day say “What were they thinking?”
Radio owners and operators need to employ a technique called “premortem.” What you do is imagine yourself in the future after your project has crashed and burned. In radio’s case, that would be to imagine that AM/FM broadcast radio has ended. The drill is to assume the patient died. You’re screwed. Everything that could go wrong did. You start there and ask “Why?”
Attacking the problem in this manner allows people to freely speak to the reasons things failed without retribution. You can’t kill a patient that’s already dead. See the magic in this exercise?
How could radio be improved on all platforms with this kind of thinking today?
I talk with lots of radio folks every week and in a hushed whisper they will freely share what they know to be wrong with radio today. But they in essence are “winking in the dark” and no one is stepping forward to say “the emperor has no clothes.”
Well here’s a way to do get everyone playing “devil’s advocate” and brainstorming ideas to improve radio programming, delivery and standardization.
If not now, when?