The technological and business development
that we'd highlight as not being that visible a year ago is
the growth in podcasting - a concept for distributing audio
using RSS in 2000, still esoteric two years later and only
so-named as a method of automatic downloading of audio in
2004 when trials began by major broadcasters followed by a
major leap forward in 2005.
As an example of the scale of its growth technology columnist
Doc Searls began keeping track of how many "hits"
Google found for the word "podcasts" on September
28, 2004 - there were 24 that day and it had increased to
past 100,000 by October 18 and when we checked early on Christmas
day the number was 105 million.
The New Oxford American Dictionary named "Podcast"
as the word of the year in 2005 and from the early trials
in the final quarter of 2004 there has been explosive growth
So far it's no great shakes in listening terms in comparison
with broadcast radio but the combination of the idea with
new forms of distribution - it may not be that long before
the Internet is readily available not just on home PCs but
also on many kinds of mobile devices from portable PCs with
wireless to call phones and PDAs - and the situation could
Certainly as time goes on we see music formats as under threat
for a significant portion of their audience, the crucial questions
being how much of the audience can be lost before it impacts
on the economics of a station and maybe even more importantly
before advertisers find sponsorship of podcasts more appealing
for some products than advertising on a broadcast medium.
Either way there don't seem to be many pluses for terrestrial
radio - apart from the fact maybe that it's easy to find and
cheap to listen to, even if it doesn't give as much of what
listeners think they want as self-selection or the choice
of formats on the satellite stations.
In our view there has already been far too much narrowing
in broadcast - particularly in commercial radio where the
demographic make-up of the audience is often more important
to advertisers than its size - the young with money to spare
and little discipline in spending being much more attractive
for many advertisers. That narrowing worked to the benefit
of radio companies in the past but could now be an influence
that weakens them - a truly ironic turn.
In the ups, not in order of importance
we'd include the same factors as last year:
*The growth of podcasts - to which we didn't refer last year
- and online on-demand services to which we did and which
are, regrettably in our view, still fairly uncommon from commercial
broadcasters but are being widely provided by public broadcasters.
* The further growth of satellite radio in the US where it
now has 3 million plus subscribers.
* 40 years for WINS-AM, New York's first all-news radio station
(From April 1965- Chicago's WNUS had tried all-news for the
first time in the US in September 1964).
* The further growth of digital audio broadcasting in the
UK where receiver sales are finally taking off and moving
into the millions.
*The advancing possibility of improvements to international
broadcasting through digital transmissions, primarily through
the DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale) system but possible also
through iBiquity's HD although here we make no secret of the
fact that we would like to see the universal system we have
now with AM, FM and short-wave continue and the only way we
can really see this happening is the failure of HD since we
can't see the rest of the world going along with a proprietary
US system. The logical conclusion for us is that we'd rather
see HD - which seems to have been chosen as much as anything
because it's a good system for incumbent broadcasters as it
made it harder for new competition to gain ground - fail in
the US however much damage this does to terrestrial radio
in the US than see incompatible systems throughout the world.
*Co-operation amongst broadcasters as in Radio Aid in the
UK for Tsunami victims and the emergency news and information
service set up after Hurricane Katrina through The United
Radio Broadcasters of New Orleans or URBNO if only to illustrate
that there are times not only compassion but also for cooperation
as well as competition.
* A final realisation as evinced by policies at stations in
various countries including Australia, the UK, and the US,
that you can overdo adverts to the point that you turn off
*The continuing swing from the permissive
to the over censorious attitudes in the US about "broadcast
*More decline in international radio services - the year saw
cutbacks in BBC international language services to help fund
a BBC Arabic TV service albeit to a certain extent- but mainly
for the wealthy - this has been countered by the development
of Internet services.
*The "Tsunami song" parody on Hot 97 in New York,
more for the fact that it revealed a facet of black racism
against in the US than for a tasteless parody: We weren't
particularly impressed either by the crude abuse by Troi Torain
(Star of Star and Buc Wild), now with At Clear Channel rival
WWPR-FM (Power FM), of a woman at an Indian call centre.
*Linked with the above, the popularity of hosts who can come
out with comments like the following:
1 - "Feminism was established so as to allow unattractive
women easier access to the mainstream of society."
2 - Suggesting that a victim of Hurricane Katrina housed in
an Atlanta hotel consider prostitution: "I dare say she
could walk out of that hotel and walk 100 yards in either
direction on Fulton Industrial Boulevard here in Atlanta and
have a job. What's that? Well, no, no, no. ... Well, you know
what? [laughing] Now that you mention it ... [i]f that's the
only way she can take care of herself, it sure beats the hell
out of sucking off the taxpayers.
3 - On the kidnapping of peace activists in Iraq: "I'm
telling you, folks, there's a part of me that likes this."
4 - "Why do women wear makeup and perfume? Because they're
ugly and they stink."
5 - Hang on, let me just tell you what I'm thinking. I'm thinking
about killing Michael Moore, and I'm wondering if I could
kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do
it. No, I think I could. I think he could be looking me in
the eye, you know, and I could just be choking the life out
-- is this wrong?
We would also have included
6 - "What's yellow and got a spare hat? Ken Bigley's
widow" but the UK host involved has been fired.
of the hosts above: