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10 May 2007 / erikduval

EuroSonic

I had the pleasure of addressing the EuroSonic workshop in Brussels today on the snowflake effect for radio…

The basic point of my presentation is that I am unique. And so are you. (And so is every snowflake.) Therefor, I want radio to be My Very Own… As an example on the more mundane level, I only want to hear traffic information when it relates to where I am driving. Otherwise, it is completely irrelevant and terribly annoying. Obviously, the same is true for music and news on the radio: I want to hear about or listen to what is relevant for me when it is relevant for me. It strikes me as very odd that millions of people wake up at a few minutes before the hour, because they want to catch the morning news. Why can’t they wake up when they want to and listen to the morning news then?

In a traditional world, this may well be true, but it cannot be achieved, because you would need more radio makers than there are listeners. Of course, by removing barriers, technology does make this possible: last.fm, pandora and many other, less known applications demonstrate this. (Well, pandora no longer does, because of copyright issues😦 )

Once this starts happening, listeners will want to live in the long tail, and radio makers need to work out how they will deal with that. In the most interesting lunch discussion afterwards (thanks folks!), one approach we discussed was to just cater for the fat head, not use any of the new opportunities but just produce awesome conventional radio. That will work, IMHO, in much the same way as there is room for very conventional Oxbridge style elite universities. The other approach is to embrace the new options, cater for the long tail to address the individual needs of every long tail listener and redefine radio in the process…

On user generated content, there is a long tradition of listeners calling in to programs that can and is being built upon… The tricky bit here for public broadcasters is relinquishing control: you may like the way that digg was forced to allow posting the HD-DVD key, but would you also like it if your public broadcast radio would air racial hate messages? If zero control is not workable, then you’re always on a slippery slope, forced to make difficult calls…

In any case, the youth oriented radio stations in Europe seem to be VERY aware of how they are loosing much of their audience and they are trying to figure out how to use some of the technologies to transform themselves into something that will remain relevant. I really appreciate how they genuinely want to figure out what all of this means for them. And it sounds a bit daft, but I really believe that, as long as there are so many people so passionately discussing the future of radio, I have few doubts about whether there is a future at all…

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