It just occurred to me that I already see the future of radio every single day: my Google Reader. I add new feeds to my reader every day (or remove dead ones), I share my feeds and OPML files with others, I freely export and import, I browse online, I browse offline…. I am now in complete control of my news and I pay with my attention, not with cash – yet. (And guess what: I think I would even do that, too, if there were a few more added values thrown in!) Now, replace the text feeds and news chunks with music and you have an interesting future scenario for radio. Imagine being able to add a radio program to your selection of feeds, with a click of the mouse, and it would instantly be available online or offline (yes, in the car, too!). Imagine every radio station having an output feed, every listener having a music-feed reader, 200 clever FeedBurner-like apps serving 1.1 billion people online and over 3 billion people on cell phones.
On this imagined radio-feed-reader you could bookmark what you like, tag it, star it, rate it, forward it, as you see fit. Select from any content provider, or have them select for you, or have others share your selections. Select from any grades of “narrowcasting” (i.e., one-to-one playlist sharing) to any shade of broadcasting. Aggregate it all in a “reader” formerly known as a receiver that would work on any platform: mobile, phone, TV, digital radio, the computer, your music wristwatch or your MP3 sunglasses. (Maybe this is what those guys at Slacker.com are shooting for?). As far as I recall Google has been reproached many times over its “use” of third-party news feeds in the Google Reader. Google has been sued over Google Print, of course, and Google has been sued over YouTube. Google always gets sued because it continues to push into those gray zones between technology and copyright, and whenever it does this there is a good chance that it is once again on its way to transforming the future. Google won’t touch this idea (it has much larger plans ;-), but someone out there will launch The Universal Music Feed
Reader (TUMFR) and free music from the slavery of the copy-and-unit-sales paradigm. (Read: not copyright – just copy!) So what about the content owners? Brutally put (and many of large record labels seem to like it presented that way), just like with the Google Reader and text-based content, a refusal to participate is futile. All audio and music content is already being made available by millions of networked and super- noding users, and any refusal to “not-permit” just leads to a re-routing-around-the-damage, i.e., the network always heals itself of you wound it by putting up the walls. It’s time to realize that the surest way to have your brand diminished, and for your relevance to dissolve, is to not participate. You will not only lose some or most of your audience (since you are forcing them to comply with your paradigms), but you will also be forced to police how much of your content ends up on those TUMFRs anyway. The bottom line: Participate or be participated.