What IS Radio?

Is radio dead or dying? That’s a constant refrain, despite the fact that 92% of Americans listen to radio every week according to Arbitron. As Mark Twain once said, “the rumors of my death are exaggerated!”

A more interesting discussion, though, resolves around the question: what IS radio? Once it was an analog sound delivery system, “broadcasting” from a fixed antenna atop a rusting tower, to a radio receiver at a specific time, on a fixed frequency. But, that’s all changed with the digital revolution.

Today, radio is digitally-encoded information, delivered by any technical means available, to a consumer when and where he/she wants it. A recent quote from veteran radio guru Norm Pattiz, “the man who created and turned Westwood One into one of the biggest and most recognizable radio networks in the country,” says:Pattiz

“You can’t look at radio as a bricks-and-mortar operation, and consumed on a radio over a certain frequency. That’s a recipe for disaster. So much of radio is being consumed online, and on the Internet.”

If you accept Pattiz’s redefinition of radio, the medium is alive and well, with a great future. With this more accurate definition, National Public Radio had no need to lose the word “radio” from its title; all it had to do is redefine radio as the all-inclusive medium it has become.


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