Why Traditional Radio May Not Exist in 15 Years

In the following video, former National Public Radio CEO Ken Stern gives his take on the decline of traditional radio. Despite currently having a huge audience, Stern sees traditional radio existing for only another 15 years. Ultimately, Stern believes that new and better technology will win out and that it's just a matter of time until the demise of traditional radio. 

The full version of our interview with Ken Stern can be found here, in which Stern discusses his new book, With Charity for All. In the book, Stern discusses in detail what’s broken in the charitable sector, how to fix it, and how Americans can best make a difference.

A transcript follows the video.

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Brendan: I want to transition really quick. I think you have a unique perspective on radio, being the former CEO of NPR. A lot of alternatives nowadays -- you have SiriusXM, Pandora, Spotify, iTunes. Where do you see traditional radio going over the next decade or so?

Ken: It’s a hard question. I've been making predictions about the demise of traditional radio for some years. About 10 years ago I said, "It has another 15 years." Now I'll sit here and say it has another 15 years. Someday I will be right in saying that it has 15 years.

Brendan: It's inevitable, right?

Ken: [laughs] Right.

Let’s face it: No one would build a radio tower now. It doesn't make much sense in terms of all the options, but in fact there’s a built-in audience for it, a huge embedded audience for it now, and the force of habit.

Someday, technology will overtake it. More efficient systems for delivering audio and information, they already exist. Someday they'll own the habits of American listeners, but I'll give it 15 years.

Brendan: How about those I mentioned in particular -- there are obviously a lot more -- I mentioned SiriusXM, Pandora, Spotify, iTunes. Is there a winner in that group, or do you think they can all coexist because they do different things, in a way? Do you think one necessarily takes the cake, going forward?

Ken: I think if I knew I'd be a lot richer. I wouldn't have to write a book. I think, truthfully, there's a marketplace now for all of them. I think a lot of them make a lot more sense. I would say to SiriusXM -- which I'll be going over to do interviews later this afternoon -- it's a pretty good business now.

It has a great marketplace, but again no one would launch a bunch of satellites today, if they had the choice. Even though it's a relatively new technology, it's already an old technology, and for the long run I think probably newer and better technologies will win out, but that takes time.


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