Previously, I focused on my travels and various opinions and recommendations on this blog. Now, I will shift to focus on communication technology and its impact on our past, present, and future.
When I think of ‘communication technology,’ not a single item comes to mind immediately. The name itself is a bit redundant. Both ‘communication’ and ‘technology’ are broad terms. Put them together and you get a very broad category. That’s why when I think of communication technology, I just focus on technology. Is technology itself not inherently a mode of communication? In my opinion – yes.
I’m not a person who constantly seeks out “new electronic toys.” I enjoy reading about them and seeing videos of prototypes. However, I don’t feel a need to have the newest phone or smart watch or virtual reality set. Mainly because I’m a poor, college student but also because adapting is a lot of work. Setting up is a lot of work. I don’t want to have to start over with a new device. Although, there are now apps that can easily transfer all your data from one device to another like Samsung Switch. Nowadays, it seems like people upgrade or buy new gadgets just because they’re newer and a different color. But, personally, technology is like the old adage: if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
One commercial communication medium that has endured the test of time (nearly 100 years) is the radio. I use the radio daily whether it be AM/FM/XM in the car or Internet radio on my phone. I even used to use it to listen to music from my phone before I had an aux cable or Bluetooth. My friends use it the same way I do. My family uses AM/FM radio in the car and maybe even on a stereo when they’re feeling nostalgic. As you can see, generations of Americans* have lived with radio in their daily lives.
The point is, radio didn’t peak and then get left behind. Instead, it evolved alongside the internet. It survived modernization whereas the VCR, DVD, and CD did not. The radio has been around since the age of Roosevelt and shows no signs of going away today.
So what does the future hold for radio communication?
First and foremost, it’s hard to predict the rise and fall of technology. People said the iPhone would fail, TV wouldn’t last, and that no one would ever need a PC. So how can we make predictions about the future of radio?
Well, first we look at price vs. benefit. Currently, AM/FM radio is free. There is no cost and you get all the benefits such as entertainment and information. Radio that you pay for (XM, Pandora, Spotify) offer free trials with the added nuisance of ads, something that is not much different than the traditional radio. If you choose to pay for Internet radio or XM radio, you enjoy streaming free of ads that is usually $10 or less a month. You also get the added perks of listening on-demand and downloading music to listen offline.
There is currently a good balance between the price of radio and its benefits. In addition, usually new technology succeeds at the expense of old technology. You would expect AM/FM radio to die down with the introduction of online radio. But that’s not the case because AM/FM is free to all who have a signal and that alone keeps people listening.
Radio has also adopted the characteristics of new media technology. It is now interactive because you can listen on-demand to stations customized by/for you. XM radio has demassified, now adopting niche radio stations such as Alt Nation, CNN, and even Kidzbop.
Taking all of these things into consideration, I think it’s safe to say radio is here to stay.The popularity and use of radio won’t change unless it becomes privatized. Currently, it is optional to pay for radio services. You don’t have to pay for XM or Spotify if you don’t want to. But, once AM/FM is no longer free, then I suspect there will be a sharp decline in use and it will join the VCR in the has-been category of communication technology.
*Americans, meaning, from the Americas