Is Radio Dead?

Photo by Ben Koorengevel on Unsplash.

Radio has been one of the top forms of entertainment since the 1900s. At one point in time, there was a radio in every household. They were the height of entertainment before the television became popular. Now it is being replaced by other forms of music media like Spotify.

Could this be the end of radio?

Music is everywhere and at one point radio was the cheapest and easiest way to access it. To a point it still is, but there are countless competitors that are making it harder for the radio business to thrive. With the release of newer smartphones, there are more and more apps coming out that can give you access to music. Spotify offers free music with adds, which sounds a lot like radio, but with a monthly payment you can have unlimited music, add free, something a lot of radio stations just can’t offer.

With innovation, radio has unintentionally become obsolete in our daily lives. It used to be that every car had a radio and you couldn’t play anything but radio. Then came the release of the 8-track tape and cassette tapes that made it possible to listen to your favorite songs when you wanted. The downside to those is they had a limited number of songs you could play. Fast forward to today, cars are being released with Bluetooth compatibility, which allows you to connect directly to your phone and play as many songs as your heart desires.

Trent Flager, The SUU gold radio student of the year said, “Younger generations tend to focus on new innovations rather than old ones.”

Technology is accelerating at an exponential rate, 15 years ago you could probably store 10 songs on your phone at most. Today you can store thousands. Numerous things have been left behind by this flood of innovation. Walkmans became obsolete once the Zune and iPod came out. Now you rarely see anybody listening to music that isn’t coming from their phone.

I am not saying that nobody listens to the radio, there are still people that listen to it a lot. A colleague who works in radio has a lady that calls their radio station constantly. He also has people call in and request songs, so that means there are still people who listen. But that younger generation is breaking away from radio and is listening primarily on their phone, using apps such as Spotify and Pandora.

There are things you get from radio that you can’t get from Spotify or Pandora.

At radio stations, there are usually people there running it and regularly talking which gives it more of a personal feeling than just listening to songs from your phone. Radio stations have talk shows, which give you something else to listen to besides just music. There is also the accessibility, you can pick up radio frequencies most places even if your phone doesn’t have reception.

Talk shows have split off into a world of their own, which doesn’t generally get recognized as originating from radio. Podcasts are something that have been trending for the past couple years. But they have a strange familiarity to them, talk shows were the original podcasts. As technology advanced and it became easier to record audio from home people started making their own talk shows. There are many different kinds of podcasts from conversational to ones where they just play Dungeons and Dragons. But the structure comes straight from talk shows.

With the gaining popularity of podcasts, talk shows have also gained popularity. Most of the popular talk shows are political related. There are even multiple people that have gotten famous because of their talk shows. Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck are the two big names that generally come to mind when thinking about talk shows. With their popularity on the radio, they have both also released books. Talk shows give the feeling of being part of a conversation when you are alone or even with other people while listening to the radio instead of constant music.

Radio is a worldwide industry, Trent Flagger said, “ It is a large market, with almost the entire known world using radio at some point for entertainment and news.” Radio is still widely used for advertisements, some stations have upwards of five minutes of ads at a time.

Radio provides a consistent environment-themed and shaped to the listener’s needs at any time of day, and is generally upbeat in tone. If you listen to the radio on a regular basis you have noticed that it changes throughout the day. If you’re listening in the morning it is generally more talk shows which gives a more engaging listening experience. You can find every kind of radio station you could imagine. There are literally radio stations for everyone, classic rock, country, alternative, anything you could want they have.

When asked why he listens to radio Southern Utah University student Brevin Hatch said, “I listen to radio because I get bored of what I have on Amazon and I want something new. If I like it enough I will add it to my playlist.”

That is a common theme among people, they hear new songs mostly from radio. But the thing that keeps them coming back is that personal feeling and connection with the DJs.

Radio has been proven to improve mood. In many studies including a Media And The Mood Of The Nation, study found that out of other media formats radio had the highest mood-enhancing effect, lifting happiness levels 100 percent and increasing energy levels 300 percent. This was shown to be primarily because of the one-way interaction we get with the DJ or talk show host.

In his experience with radio, Trent said, “as radio personalities we are taught to be engaging, be positive and to talk  directly to the listeners.”

According to the 2018 Infinite Dial study, presented by Edison Research and Triton Digital, 82 percent of the population 12 and older continue to listen to AM/FM radio in the automobile today, despite the onslaught of a tremendous amount of competition(Spotify, Pandora, etc.). The thing that it showed to be keeping radio listening so high is its stronghold on providing local information. Which is something you obviously cannot get from listening to a random podcast or music streaming app.

Radio is still one of the easiest ways to be up to date on the newest hit songs. Radio stations hire people who look at the studies like billboard top 100 and record those songs to then be played on the radio station. While on an app like Pandora you might never hear that new hit song from Post Malone or Drake. Pandora is basically radio without the DJ, there is a downside to that. You will inevitably hear the same song often because unlike a DJ who chooses the songs and generally tries to split them up Pandora uses an algorithm that rotates around a specific song or artist.

Flagger said, “Radio is important, it is still one of the few ways that people can get emergency information in the world.”

Experts still recommend that in an emergency have a radio in handy because they can easily run on batteries and take less electricity than televisions do. T.V. signals are generally one of the first things to go out in a disaster but radio frequencies can span far distances and are generally easier to keep running.

There are always downsides to paid subscriptions such as Spotify and Amazon music. You can only stream on a certain number of devices at once, which can cause you to be kicked off if others are using your subscription. As said before, Spotify gives you a limited category of songs, songs that you have already heard. Radio will give you a taste of something new.

Radio is not dead, it is still very much alive. Radio personality and tv producer Ira Glass once said, “There is a feeling, when you listen to the radio, that it’s one person, and they’re talking to you, and you really feel their presence as one person.”

After talking to multiple people and looking at studies it is easy to see that radio is still a thriving business.

Coming back to the quote by Trent Flagger,  “It is a large market, with almost the entire known world using radio at some point for entertainment and news.”

Radio is still one of the oldest and most used forms of entertainment and will probably maintain its popularity and continue to be one of the top forms of music media for a long time.

Story by:
Jadon Lamphear