Welcome Radio. Seriously.

Radio will soon join podcasts on smartphones. That's a good thing.(If you haven’t read Part I of this post you might want to start here.)

When IBM entered the PC market, Apple ran an ad with the headline, “Welcome IBM. Seriously.” I thought the ad was terribly self-serving. However, I was working for Apple’s ad agency at the I time so I kept my mouth shut.

I was young, foolish and naive then. I’m older, foolish and naive now, and I recognize my error in judgment. Competition, strong competition, doesn’t make life harder for you. It makes you better at what you do.

NextRadio, or a similar technology initiative, will soon persuade smartphone manufacturers and wireless carriers to activate the FM tuner chips already in most smartphones. This final bit of audio entertainment integration will force podcasters to compete with radio stations.

Here’s what I believe will happen next:

  • content will matter more than ever. We’ll need to push our unique voices forward to offer an alternative to radio programming that’s just a touch away;
  • great content will no longer make up for poor production. Bad habits born of laziness—widely-varying audio levels, distracting background noise, speaking off mic, umming and ahhing every few words, recording in spaces with more echo than a bad Skype call—will seem unlistenable when juxtaposed with radio production;
  • creativity and imagination will become our greatest strengths. That’s how we’ll lure away listeners who have been captured by contests and promotions;
  • podcasters who thrive will do so because they’ve become better informers, entertainers and communicators.

The Good News Is That It Won’t Happen Overnight

According to Jeff Smulyan, 10 billion hours of radio are streamed every year. That’s 10 billion hours of data the wireless carriers will no longer be able to sell. While NextRadio has made a deal with Sprint, and is working with other carriers, those carriers will take their time getting on board as they keep their share of the revenue from those 10 billion hours. That means we have the opportunity to sharpen our creative skills and production techniques before our new neighbor moves in.

Better dust off the welcome mat, though. We don’t have forever.

What do you think? Would you like radio on your smartphone? Would radio be a competitor or a partner? What can you do to make your podcast a worthy competitor? Share your comments here.

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