Yes, we need a new radio. I’m full of energy this morning. RF, probably, because I’m in Seattle. A lot more hum in the air here — lotsa signals, lots of brains just waking up. Ahem. The new radio in America must wake up and smell the cyberspace. Radio’s still acting as if it’s the only audio in town. Do I have to list all the new non-radio, listener-controlled sources? Look what they’ve done to the former music business. So, the answer is innovation in content — that’s the new word for what we used to call programming. Programming now pertains to lines of logical commands in cryptic English. Popping and crackling amid this digital Babel, radio has to find a way to be fresh. Last week, Bonneville and the Washington Post decided to switch off their 18-month-old radio station in DC. Turns out it wasn’t even AC. 18 months–547 days; one and a half Arbitron cycles–are hardly a blink in a 2007 brain in the Capital of the Free World (such as it is). How many digital attention spans do you suppose it takes for a new radio station to register its presence in sufficient minds to register in four Arbitron ratings tabulations? Perversely, in the instant world of digital media, the time it takes to get something started in traditional radio doubles or triples. Exactly the people who might be interested in listening to a WaPo-produced radio station are awash in information choices. How many of them expect anything new and different from on-air radio? Getting them to simply know it’s there would take much more promotion of an innovative kind than either the Post or Bonneville were willing to give it. Too bad. It’s an accomplishment left to do. Fortunately for the Post, only they can do it. But no traditional radio company is going to try it again anytime soon — they still think inside their transistor-sized boxes — and, jeez, if the freaking Washington Post can’t make it happen in a year, well, hell, what newspaper anywhere would want to touch radio now? Too bad for radio.

Wait, was this a fresh idea? No. Just a damn good one, that could have been made to sound fresh. And here’s the worst part. It’s the only newspaper-radio-synergy idea that got tried in the past 547 days. Meanwhile, the newspapers have the most popular news Websites. And, without trying, old-radio-station listening is popular on the Web. Which most radio stations don’t even notice yet, much less know what to do with — except maybe trying to sell ads on it.

Radio’s doing fine, the industry trades keep telling us. The audience is still there, says the captive-monopoly radio ratings company. Oh, business is kinda flat, and Web advertising just passed radio advertising in dollar volume. But we’ve got (wow) HD Radio, coming soon. And what are we putting on all those new sub-channel “stations?” Oh, uh, new shuffles of the record library. Uh-oh.

Tell me, what’s your favorite radio station?

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