Gray Lady Shows Her Age: NYT Pre-Emptively Mourns The 'Good Old Days' Of Radio

May 11, 2010
MyFord Touch

MyFord Touch

There's a lot to like about the New York Times. It's got widespread appeal, some very good writers (including David Pogue and Cintra Wilson), and it's one of the few newspapers in America to devote extensive time and thought to this whole internet thing. That said, the company isn't perfect, and a recent, somewhat alarmist article about the death of traditional car radio is a great example of the normally forward-thinking Times coming off like grandpa grumbling about women drivers.

In a nutshell, author John R. Quain spends 1,000+ words discussing the advent of internet radio. We've covered that topic fairly extensively across the High Gear Media family, but in case you need a refresher, check out our articles on in-dash systems like the MyFord Touch, the growing prevalence of in-car internet, and, more recently, new apps for drivers.

Quain's take on all that is that the expansion of wireless broadband networks will kill something he calls "traditional car radio". In other words, once internet signals become as persistent as, say, radio signals, people will kick conventional radio to the curb and use apps on their in-dash stereos or portable devices like the iPod to listen to music, talk and news.

What Quain neatly glosses over is the fact that the traditional radio he's lamenting died long ago. We're not just talking about the rise of Sirius XM and other satellite radio companies -- though admittedly, that hasn't helped. We're also talking about hulking media behemoths like Clear Channel Communications, which have bought out thousands of radio stations that were once locally owned and programmed, but now get their marching orders from San Antonio. The stations that Quain eulogizes are already few and far between, and at the rate they're getting gobbled up, we don't expect them to stay around much longer.

We respectfully disagree with Quain -- in fact, we take the opposite approach. We believe that internet radio will generate a multiplicity of offerings and allow users a much broader range of listening options than they currently enjoy. As in-car internet becomes commonplace, anyone with an iPod or comparable web-enabled device will be able to pick and choose from stations around the globe. And as the process of making apps themselves becomes simpler, mom-and-pop setups, public radio stations, and other niche content providers will be able to generate new users. (We even hear that the next version of Adobe CS will include app-making software, though given the icy wall standing between Adobe and Apple these days, we don't know if those apps will work on iPhones, iPods, and/or iPads.)

In short: internet radio stands to benefit nearly everyone. Musicians and talk radio folks will be able to grow their fan base; advertisers can reach audiences that are simultaneously much larger and more targeted; and listeners will have a broad range of news and entertainment at their fingertips. In fact, the only folks who stand to lose might be Clear Channel and their redundant corporate colleagues. We're not exactly sobbing.

In fairness, Quain does hint at a few of the promises inherent to internet radio, but he doesn't appear to give them much credence, and he waits until the end of the article to mention them, anyway. (Literally: the last three sentences.) Why he bothers to spend the first 19 paragraphs sounding more-or-less like a wistful old man is entirely beyond us.


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