Oh, those stodgy old vanilla radio stations — they’re not XM, or even HD, but they still have tons of listeners who, either through habit, finances, or convenience, find themselves reaching for that radio dial on a regular basis.
About 30 million Americans listen to FM radio at any given time, which is about a tenth of the country, according to a 2010 Radio Research Consortium report finding that “FM listening may not be growing, but it certainly is not shrinking.” In addition, plenty of radio apps like the great ones we reviewed here deliver radio programming to smartphones via the internet.
Now comes word that some of our Canadian brethren to the north are using something called Supernova Interactive to power some of their radio stations (from the Corus network), aligning local bands with the stations in that area so that A) indie bands can get some radio play, and B) stations can figure out what the audience wants to hear.
In a nutshell, it’s Pandora’s interactive approach writ large for mass media. So far, Supernova is using it to power four FM stations: FM96, 99.3 The Fox, Power 97, and Edge 102.1.
They’re not the only ones; Jelli, profiled here earlier, has an iPhone app that U.S. stations can use to turn the programming of certain slots into interactive games, with users making requests and voting on each others’ requests.
The last time we checked in with Jelli, it was doubling the size of the audience in the 18-49 demographic for one station where it was used. Now, it’s spreading like a rash to stations across the whole country.
If someone invented a wireless technology today that could multicast ad-supported audio to billions of cheap devices from an existing infrastructure, the tech press would lose its mind. That technology is already here, however. It just needs an update.
Luckily for us listeners, that’s exactly what’s happening now, however slowly, as FM borrows interactive features from its online competition.