Will Podcasts Kill the Radio Star?

Listening to the latest episode— #177– of Joseph Jaffe’s Across the Sound podcast, I was struck by something he said. He declared– and I paraphrase– that podcasts will take over radio and kill it.

Sound provocative? Yes. Sound absurd? Maybe not. Podcasts have not hit the mainstream yet–only 13% have listened to a podcast according to Edison Research, as apposed to 11% a year ago. How can that compete with the radio listenership of, um, 100%.

So right, maybe Jaffe’s full of shit and trying to shock us.

No, wait. Here’s what this made me think. Humans are repetitive monkeys, fated to repeat ourselves, and with history in mind, we can see what could happen.

Jack BennyThink of the late 1940’s to early 1950’s. How did TV eclipse radio? As soon as the networks saw TV gaining traction, they moved all of their popular shows from the radio networks to TV. All of them. Jack Benny. Burns and Allen. The Lone Ranger. Dragnet. Life of Riley. Abbott and Costello. Amos and Andy.

That is what I think will happen with podcasting. Radio broadcasters need to see the line drawn– where podcasting takes hold in popularity, and radio numbers take a nosedive.

Not surprisingly, NPR is ahead of the curve. Many of their shows are already available as podcasts– and that is how I usually hear the ones I want. Granted, they are still going strong on the radio, but the radio-to-TV migration had years of overlap as well.

It would be very interesting if this is how it turns out– that time-shifting podcasts take root and not merely kill radio, but move it whole sale to a new medium, alongside the great innovators and niche programmers we already have.

*Photo via Flickr from the Rocketeer

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