Friday, March 27, 2009

Early FM All Over Again

In the early days of FM many license holders saw so little value in those licenses they turned them in or sold them for next to nothing. It took a long time but eventually FM surpassed AM in terms of overall listenership and revenue. Conventional wisdom suggested that AM, as the dominant radio band, was so strong nothing would take it out. We know how that story ended. [yes, of course there are still strong AM stations with big audiences]

Fast forward to the recent news of stations suspending their streaming efforts for reasons of royalty rate protest, and, today we read of saving part-timers from layoffs. I too think the royalty issue is a big one and I am happy to see fellow radio folks stay employed, but, in the end these actions are not much different than those early FM license holders turning in their licenses.

I think everyone realizes streaming audio is not going to go away. How to make money with these streams is still elusive for most and will most likely remain elusive for some time to come. Innovation comes at a price and most times requires a long time horizon.

Check out this story in the New York Times about Twitter--lots of buzz, massive consumer acceptance, but no revenue.

How this chicken and egg scenario plays out is still unknown, but as an old radio commercial once said, "you gotta be in it to win in it."

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