Tuesday, January 08, 2008

I want personalized radio

This post was originally published on an AOL Internal Blog (2.Open.aol.com). Given the developments at CES I wanted to put this out for wider discussion. Hence I am posting the full article to my personal blog.

Fred Wilson is a New York Venture Capitalist. He is one of very few VC's that writes a blog. It is one well worth putting on your reading list (http://avc.blogs.com). In a recent post he took a look at the different forms of media. We are probably all familar with the plight of the newspaper industry. It seems that radio is on the same slippery slope. 

What I found most interesting with Fred wilson's analysis is the perspective he took. He looked at media from the perspective of his kids' usage. Now a handful of kids is not conclusive proof, but it serves as a great indicator because kids are very socially driven.

When I think about my own kids they don't listen to radio that much. As Fred discovered, on a long trip the iPods and headphones come out or the Playstation portables get fired up. An iPod will probably get connected to the car audio system. Radio doesn't get a look-in, unless there is a need to check on traffic - and the newer GPS systems and Google Maps are eliminating the need to check on traffic via the radio. Things may be different in Europe where the Radio Data System (RDS) is more pervasive and can be setup to switch to a local station when traffic news comes on.

Why do I want to listen to radio when I can carry anything from 100 to 10,000 songs in my pocket? The main thing we have radio for, in the car, is to catch the latest news. But don't you find the news format frustrating. The news channels spend more time telling you what they are going to tell you than they doing on the actual news segment they advertise!

I was also reading Stowe Boyd's /Messenger blog and his word of the week is "Video snacking." This got me thinking. If we mainly want radio for News, Traffic and Weather why don't we create "Audio Snacking." Just think. If we could take actual radio content, or audio segments from anywhere on the web and apply some of the constrints we have with Twitter. In other words we careate mciro-audio blogs. These could be 30 second to two minute audio posts. These could be highly compressed and delivered via the cell phone network and streamed via bluetooth to the audio system. Ideally what we want is to be able to vote on news items Pandora-style. Tagging the audio snippet triggering a more detailed news item on the topic to be added in to your audio stream.

When you think about it all of the components are available to produce personalized radio streams. It is going to be something like this that will save the radio industry. If you look at the music business, sales of music CDs may be plumetting, but music listening is not diminishing. We are moving to an era where personalization will be available on a mass scale. Are we looking at the long tail of the radio industry. An evolution of the podcast era?

What are your thoughts? How would you like to see Personalized radio evolve? We have all the tools at our disposal. Share your thoughts. Leave a comment below.

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