No Time To Lose

Written Mar. 2, 2011 by Sean Ross in Content + Internet Radio + Technology + Terrestrial Radio with 0 Comments

So whose time, if anybody's, is Pandora beating?

One talking point that often seems to emerge in any discussion of radio's future on new platforms and its future viability is that Pandora is merely the most recent delivery system for people to listen to their own music. It's the argument of those who, nearly a decade ago, would have told you, "We survived the 8-Track and the cassette deck and we'll survive the iPod, too."

But even as somebody who loves the "real radio" experience that I grew up with, I've never been able to break it down that neatly. My first iPod in 2002 certainly replaced dubbing mix CDs for a CD Walkman, itself a successor to cassette mixes. But building and maintaining my iTunes library certainly cut into desk time that might have been otherwise accompanied by Internet or FM radio. When I got a car with an iPod plug, it certainly replaced radio listening--or more precisely, it replaced a half hour of punching among stations looking for music in the morning. When I got my iPhone, streaming radio replaced listening to the iPod. But recently, my attempts to stream in the car have been so erratic that I've been returning to the iPod and even CDs.

If that distinction is fluid to somebody who grew up with the shared radio experience and plans to do everything in his power to help carry it forward on any platform necessary, how much more specious must it seem to a 16-year-old. And more important, if radio's TSL among today's 16 year olds is not what it was a decade ago, it doesn't do much good to argue that a new platform is biting into somebody else's time, because something is still cutting into AM/FM's time.

So with yesterday's announced purchase of Thumbplay, you have to respect Clear Channel for taking a logical step in being able to offer both "our music" and "your music," just as CBS Radio did with Last.fm. That makes a lot more sense than trying to teach that distinction to a new generation. Or waiting around arguing about who the competition is.

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