Local Radio Is Getting Tuned Out. Thanks, Internet
By John R. Quain
Published November 01, 2011 | FoxNews.com
Online services have wiped out innumerable businesses. Are local radio stations next?
A year and a half ago, I wrote that online streaming music services like Pandora and Slacker were threatening to upend traditional broadcast radio -- even in cars. I was right. Now those homespun local outlets seem to be under siege.
Last week Clear Channel moved to eliminate swaths of local radio programming across the country. The company runs about 850 stations reaching about 110 million listeners a week. Seeking to cut costs -- and focus more on digital services, the company said Monday -- it let go numerous local programmers and DJs across the country.
No one is saying precisely how many local DJs were canned, but dozens if not hundreds were summarily dismissed, to be replaced by canned, syndicated shows. Not earth-shattering news, but disappointing nonetheless.
Ostensibly, the idea is to offer more shows across more stations in order to compete with other national media outlets for ad dollars. Individual local stations have trouble bringing in big advertisers and even a national chain, such as Clear Channel's, can't guarantee consistent programming -- unless it makes all the programming the same.
Hence the haranguing about homogenization and the loss of local flavor and culture. As Clear Channel focuses on national programs delivered across multiple radio stations, a uniform blandness is bound to replace quirky local shows, even though the company still says the programming will remain "local."
However, the more pressing problem is whether the company can really, truly compete against the likes of Pandora, Spotify, Rdio, MOG, and countless other online music offerings.
Pandora is the one that popped open the Internet box, creating a free, legal streaming music service tailored to individual tastes. The company thinks it's a killer formula that no one else does as well -- personalized radio. Indeed, Pandora is now in cars from Ford to BMW, smartphones, game consoles and set-top boxes like Roku. It is without a doubt hurting traditional broadcast radio, and Clear Channel's layoffs and increased "digital" focus are a clear acknowledgement of that fact.
Pandora recently lifted its 40-hour limit on free music listening. Meanwhile, Spotify is gaining in popularity, connecting with stereo systems like those from Onkyo, and forming intimate ties to Facebook (for good or bad). Rdio, which focuses on paying subscribers and following other people's playlists, is expanding into Brazil next week and has its sights on several European countries next year.
Local Radio Is Getting Tuned Out. Thanks, Internet | Fox News