Commentary: Radio's Becoming Obsolete? (Feb 3, 2009)

From my own website, sandiegoradionews.com

It might be a time for me to retire the "San Diego Radio News" name as "radio" might become a thing of the past at the rate this is going.

But then again, radio's definition has expanded to include satellite-delivered programming, as well as Internet-delivered programming, so why change the name?

Now comes word from Tom Taylor of radio-info.com that some 2009-model cars are shipping without AM/FM radios.

Here's what he writes:

"At least eight car models, says consumer electronics site Twice.com. They're mostly vehicles toward the lower end of the price range, like the Nissan Versa 1.6 Base and the Nissan Altima 2.5 and the Honda Civic DX. Twice.com figures that the stripped version of the Nissan Versa doesn’t have power locks or windows, AC, ABS brakes – or a factory-installed radio. The base price is thus down around $10,685. The site says the Toyota Yaris two-door liftback, Chevrolet Aveo LS, Ford F-150 XL regular cab truck (!) and the Pontiac Solstice can be had without a radio or CD player. It’s an opportunity for after-market sales, for sure – but also an invitation for an iPod-using driver to avoid radio altogether."

This is David again. When I first got a Nissan Sentra in 1987, it didn't have a radio. Back then, there was no such alternatives to broadcast radio, but it didn't matter anyway. I went to the now-defunct Mad Jack's stereo store and bought a cheap analog AM/FM/cassette for $29.

Nowadays, a new car without a radio can mean that it can be outfitted with something that lets you play music on your portable music player, be it an iPod, USB drive, secure digital card, an auxiliary jack for your music player, and hopefully going mainstream, built-in free Internet access to tune in your favorite streaming radio stations.

Heck, why not build a deck that will let you dock your iPhone since those things can broadcast some radio streams such as FM 94/9 on it. You can download the iPhone app for FM 94/9 by going here: http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=302038267&mt=8 Note: iTunes is not endorsed by SDN. Use at your own risk.

All those phones that enable users to listen to radio has done one thing to the old fashioned radio as we know it. It's making old fashioned radio obsolete. In a sense, it's sad to think about it, as technology has made listening to your favorite local radio stations from beyond its signal range a reality in your house and more of a reality when you're on the road.

Unlike Internet radio, broadcast radio has signal strength and selectivity limitations depending on where you live. For years, I wanted to listen to some distant stations from up North, and I had to find a radio that can pick up the signals based on signal strength and selectivity specifications that were listed on most stereo units, as well as finding an antenna that can pick up the signals. Sometimes they came in clear, but sometimes they didn't come in at all, and other times you got either a scratchy signal or a signal that was interferred with by an adjacent local station.

AM radio is basically a dying band. In the beginning, in the 30s, AM was all that existed. The cities didn't have distant sprawling communities like we do now so that an AM station could effectively serve its audience both at work and at home. Now we have AM stations that don't reach where people live, though they can listen to them at work. Examples are commuters who work near downtown San Diego, but live in the Southern edges of Riverside and Orange counties, or on the Eastern half of San Diego county. In all of those cases, only the strongest AM stations can serve both of the areas.

As far as San Diego AM is concerned, only KFMB-AM 760 has the power to do it as, well, weirdly enough, boosts its power to 50 kilowatts from sunset to sunrise, but drops it to 5,000 watts during the day to protect a daytimer, KBRT 740, from up north.

KOGO reaches mostly the coastal areas in Orange County well, but in Riverside, it's nulled so as to not interfere with an AM at 590 in San Bernadino. KCBQ, KLSD, KNSN, and most of the other local stations just don't have the nighttime range to be able to reach North County as their powers are turned down at night. KCEO and KFSD in North County reach the main San Diego city ok, but at night, KCEO gets interference from a Seattle radio station and KFSD disappears.

AM radio at night today that's full of talk shows, sports talk, and oldies music is not going to get the younger person interested in it, when they can easily find music that they like on an Internet radio station.

AM also suffers from mono and low fidelity by design, which didn't matter in the 30s, but doesn't seem to be tolerated today.

FM radio is so crowded with HD Radio adjacent channel interference that it's making my reception of hearing distant radio stations almost impossible, and to me, it doesn't matter anymore since radio isn't playing anything that I like to hear such as Euro techno or comedy rock music. The days of tuning in a distant radio station for me are behind me.

Music programming on the local radio stations still doesn't get it. Why so much adult contemporary watered down rock and rhythm on many stations? Radio is so afraid of trying something different that it resorts to repackaging the same old junk or boring rock into their idea of a new station image. RXP in New York, for example, was launched with a playlist full of the same old rock that used to be popular decades ago. Its ratings are literally nonexistant. Tom Leykis made the station a topic for one hour back in March and he said that it's "the same old crap."

If a station wants ratings, lotsa luck. The trend of moving away from broadcast radio and onto iPhones and portable Internet radio is gaining momentum. Tired boring playlists won't cut it anymore. Listeners are sick of "new" stations signing on with nothing but the same old music they don't care for. The trend of selling new cars without factory radios might become more of a mainstream thing rather than just a way of saving some $200 off the price of a car, and as the momentum picks up, broadcast radio will be losing their biggest captive audience: the commuter.

Without the commuter audience, broadcast radio's ratings will further erode, advertising revenue will sink, more employees will get laid off, some may sell off to bigger conglomerates to get out of the business, and programming will become even more syndicated and nationized.

Soon, there will be more sizable chunks of people who never listen to broadcast radio at all. Not in their cars. Not on their portables. Not at home. Not in the shower. Nowhere. Zip. Zero. Radio will be in worse trouble than it is now, simply because the way they're not introducing the kinds of new music that excites the listeners.

Pop music has gotten so bad that it made Spaff's mind dull from penning parodies of today's boring pop music, which is making the genre of dementia as boring as commercial pop music. Dementia as a genre is dying because people are making fun of boring hit radio melodies that they hear on the radio stations instead of learning how to write a good melody and using that for their own comedy and dementia music songs.

This makes this dementia artist mad as hell. What the "f" are they doing by making fun of boring pop songs? They're doing nothing but boring the hell out of me. Make fun of annoying pop songs such as that Beyonce song wondering if she was a boy. If she was a boy, condom sales would be drop by ten percent!

Back in the 70s, top 40 was full of annoying pop songs, and that made for great comedy parodies, as well as using a fun melody to boot. Today's melodies we hear on pop radio are forgettable and bland, making parodies almost unrecognizable. How many of us turned "Afternoon Delight" into "Afternoon Fright" in their heads or "Afternoon Plight" back when radio played that annoying song a lot in 1976? Totally corny song to begin with, which makes it right to parody. Songs like "Hey There, Delilah" from some forgettable pop folk band just come out unfunny and unexciting when made fun of because the original pop songs are just not annoying, but just boring.

How do you make better dementia songs? Simple. Don't listen to friggin' commercial AM and FM radio. Listen to Internet radio and get some better ideas for song compositions. AM and FM radio is full of corporate-owned music stations that have just one suit from a distant city picking the sound-alike pop songs for all of its company stations to play, which makes listening to Clear Channel more like eating at McDonalds: homogenous, predictable and boring.

And, no, homogenous has nothing to do with gay genes.

Buy a car without an indash factory radio from a dealer to help bail themselves out of bankruptcy, and you can put in your own dash unit that will get whatever you want to listen to.

Techno, folk, punk country, filk, electronica, euro, indie, polka, and more are what local radio isn't doing and don't want to do. Does it make sense to get an indash AM/FM radio if all you want to do with it is to listen to music other than what they're broadcasting?

Comments

PocketRadio Feb. 2, 2009 @ 11:05 p.m.

HD Radio/IBOC is jamming both AM and FM radio - this is the HD Radio fraud's main purpose, to jam the smaller broadcasters off the dial by the larger broadcast groups. HD Radio/IBOC may eventaully drive more listeners away from terrestral radio, especially on AM radio, where the interference is the worst:

http://hdradiofarce.blogspot.com

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