This afternoon, Mersoft Media CEO, Ron Sloop and I (Gabe Barnes), sat down and were bouncing ideas back and forth on app ideas and design. The discussion eventually shifted into what we think the future holds for the mobile app business in the radio industry. In doing so, we came to a bit of what could be a scary future for local radio stations.

Before I tell you what we see happening, let me first say this. I have always grown up listening to the radio, but only now, once I have jumped into the industry of tech consulting and app development for radio and media companies did I really begin to appreciate what radio means, and does for our society. But with my research into the trends and changes of radio, I see businesses spring up that are attempting to eliminate traditional, terrestrial radio listening.

Now back to my original point!

Meet Pandora, iHeartRadio, Tunein, as well as the other internet-only streaming providers. Little do people know, the leaders or CEOs of these companies have their experience in technology… not radio! Their interests are enhancing their technology and not the radio stations brand.

These groups have tech geniuses at the helm, who are thinking many years ahead of radio stations in terms of the digital space, and their vision isn’t bright for the local station. Everyone is pitching that you have to get mobile – and you do! But there are ways to go about it, as well as a strategy!

Tunein and Pandora are gaining millions of listeners, and those listeners are obviously in local markets. These Internet-streaming conglomerates are now focusing on pursuing local advertising! Uh oh local radio station, you know what that means? Competition. See this article: Pandora takes aim at local radio advertisers

Stations are getting mobile, giving away their users, and will then have to inevitably compete for advertising sales with the Pandoras and TuneIns of the world for the very eyes and ears that they innocently handed over. Besides, surveys show that people want their own individual stations’ branded app on their phone.

So what will it take for stations to realize that they need to keep their individual branding, and the local presence?

F.U.D – Fear. Uncertainty. Death

I am not trying to scare anyone here, but there will come a time very soon where the big internet-streaming giants will be in your backyard pitching to your very own advertisers for the opportunity to reach your listeners and mobile users! And let me warn you… big companies have big bucks that allow them a ton of flexibility.

So do your homework and research, and think long term. Don’t sell your soul (brand) for short term gain, when the long term consequences spell death! Keep your brand and your P1 followers close. Pandora and the Tuneins aren’t on radio’s side. They consider terrestrial radio to be the enemy. And so goes the adage “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer”…why else would they so politely invite you to jump on board with them?


NPR has amassed nearly $17 Million in grants and most of it is going towards financing the “creation of a new mobile and web platform that is expected to allow it reach more listeners and better compete with outside aggregators of public radio content.”


Apparently NPR “gets it”. They realize that they want to put their app in the hands of every listener; and it “will allow listeners to switch smoothly from, say, a clock radio to a web-enabled car.”


The need to have a uniquely branded application and to own the app were very important in the decision to spend the money.


“It is a play to take control of our own content and to control the platform and delivery system as much as we can,” says Charles Kravetz, general manager of WBUR-FM in Boston, a pilot partner.


We have been saying this all along, it is important that stations do not give their souls away to the likes of a TuneIn or Stitcher.


What was interesting to also note was something that was said by Laura R. Walker, Chief Executive of New York Public Radio. She says, “We see a huge thirst in the digital space and we’re trying to figure out ways to create experiences for people here.” This was in context to one of her stations, WNYC in New York, having experienced double-digit growth in digital listening, even as its radio listening remains “at an all-time high”.


So when you think that one hundred dollars a month or so for your own unique mobile brand is too expensive, imagine spending millions like NPR.


Interactive and shareable, “this app is clearly, we think, going to be very appealing to younger consumers of our content,” says Kravetz.