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Borrell: Digital dashboards will wipe out half of FM stations

In a fascinating and daring webinar yesterday hosted by Gordon Borrell, attendees were treated to a historical review of media technology disruption, followed by predictions in today’s media. One of those predictions: Half of AM/FM terrestrial stations will disappear by 2024, their demise driven by adoption of alternative in-car listening choices. “That was one of the toughest predictions to make,” Gordon Borrell told RAIN News.

borrell oct2014 fm decline cropped 638w

History Lessons

gordon borrell 160 x 160Borrell is a student of media history, and believes the maxim that knowing the past can prevent historical mistakes. In that context, he is optimistic. “That portion of the webinar was assembled over a decade,” Gordon Borrell told RAIN. “I’m a big fan of history. History is a good predictor of the future. One element that people forget is that if you do know history, you can change the future.”

“There are other means of sending out audio — you won’t need an FCC license,” –Gordon Borrell

The webinar cited several examples of media denial in the face of new technology — e.g. newspapers scoffing at the early Internet, and the New York Times claiming that TV could never compete with radio.

In a phone conversation with RAIN, Gordon Borrell cited an example of radio’s past success in changing its destiny when television went mainstream. “I think that’s exactly what happened to radio. Radio saw that the primetime audience, listening to serials in the evening, had disappeared in the period between 1948 and 1962. They didn’t curl up and die. Realizing they lost their nighttime audience, hey decided to develop a different audience during the day.”

Now it’s a new disruptive phase. “Now the industry is undergoing another significant change. The dashboard is similar to the television competition that ripped away the primetime audience. Now, what are the core assets? The industry’s mandate is to figure out: What next?”

Tough Prediction

RAIN Summit Europe text promo 01Gordon Borrell explained to RAIN why the prediction was so difficult. “There could be some economics in play that will allow some of these stations to continue to broadcast. there aren’t many variable costs. So a tiny AM station affiliated with a church could stay in business. It doesn’t take much money to run a station like that. So we had to think about that. The key thing is that as the listening audience gets smaller, or faces more competition, it coagulate around the most known and powerful stations. There are 36 stations in my market. Probably, only five of them are generally recognized.”

That doesn’t mean that ‘stations,’ in a broad sense, will necessarily disappear. “There are other means of sending out audio — you won’t need an FCC license,” Borrell said.

Stay Tuned

The Borrell Associates webinar made another prediction pertinent to broadcast and streaming audio, and it’s about programmatic ad buying. We talked about this key topic with Gordon Borrell, and will publish that conversation tomorrow.

5 Comments

  1. Just a thought: As I look around my neighborhood and most of the vehicles are at least 10 years old that’s a long way to a digital dashboard for most Americans.
    And I find it interesting that another marketing guy is waving the death banner for radio as they have been sense the advent of streaming, still ignoring the numbers of radio listeners and advertising dollars on air.

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