It's not surprising to see an article saying that people aged 12 to 24 don't listen to the radio as much as they used to, with the amount of time they spend listening to radio each week off about 20 percent over the last ten years. The article attributes the slide to a lack of stations actively targeting young people, but also that radio is having a hard time competing with all the other media options young people have today. This phenomenon isn't limited to just young people, but it's an idea that many media companies don't yet seem to realize. Radio stations, for instance, don't just compete with the iPod -- they compete for listeners' attention with MySpace, TV, YouTube, blogs, and whatever else. And given the control most of those other media offer users over their experience -- for instance, on an iPod, you listen to what you want to hear, not what some faceless program director wants you to hear (or is paid to play for you) -- it's easy to see why commercial radio could be struggling. When radio stations should be figuring out ways to differentiate themselves and stand out from other media outlets, conglomerates like Clear Channel are taking steps like removing local DJs, and buying up as many stations as possible then turning them into format-driven bastions of homogeneity. While broadcast radio obviously can't offer the same type of interactive experience as new media sites and services, stations can differentiate on their content, while also using new distribution mechanisms like podcasts to change the way people listen. But the important point for radio stations to understand is that they're not just in competition with the iPod, or other musical services and products; they're competing for users' time against every other type of media. Short of cramming more hours into the day, it's hard to see a bright future for mass-market, cookie-cutter music radio when so many other outlets offer users so much more control and compelling content.
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