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Radio is alive and well

I never heard stereo sound from a radio until I was 12. It’s not that I was deprived, but stereophonic…

By Rod MacNeill , in Talk Radio , on March 15, 2010

I never heard stereo sound from a radio until I was 12. It’s not that I was deprived, but stereophonic sound didn’t show-up at our house until the early ’60s. Even then it was only on records.

If you were lucky enough to have a radio in your car, it was AM and monaural– that is, not stereo. “Premium” sound was a speaker behind the rear seat in addition to the one in the dashboard. If you were a car geek you had a reverb unit for your car radio that desynchronized the front and rear speakers just enough to give radio a tinny echo.

It was close to the end of the sixties when the two car speakers migrated to the front door panels with the advent of stereo eight-track tape players and, finally, stereo FM came to our local radio station. For the next 30 years, while programming changed, radio technology stayed pretty much the same. It took the Internet to make serious changes to radio.

Today radio is still available through the airwaves, AM or FM; streamed over the Internet, as downloadable podcasts, via satellite, through cellphone AM/FM receivers, and now through wireless devices and even HD radio. HD sound is a bit of a misnomer, as it is not “high definition” but simply broadcast digitally and requiring a special receiver.

Still a popular format for the traditional airwaves, news/talk radio comes second only to country music. In the US it has 48 million listeners. Two reasons for radio’s popularity: it is everywhere and it allows you to be doing something else while listening—unlike television or online news.

The typical audience for news/talk radio is men ages 45 and older with more than half (US statistics) older than 55. The FM audience is a bit younger than those listening to AM. As a group, these listeners are better educated and have higher household incomes.

The average news/talk listener spends more than nine hours listening to news/talk programming weekly. In terms of where they listen to radio, half listen at home, a third listen in their cars, and one in ten listen at work. Radio listening peaks around seven in the morning and slowly drops off until about three in the afternoon.

Ninety percent of all radio revenue comes from traditional airwave broadcasting, but advertising revenues are slowly dropping. Many broadcasters are compensating for this loss through advertisements on their online streaming sites—a low cost option for most broadcasters.

So much for the general, next time I’ll get specific and look at Vancouver talk/radio.


  • Great news Rod. Radio is alive and well (long live radio!) One of my second year students is working on a thesis about the staying power of radio. A medium which is thriving in this digital world. If you want to learn more I’ll connect you. Congrats. KG

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