On January 1, 2013, my 25 year relationship with the local news and talk station abruptly ended when ClearChannel pulled Rush, Sean, and Glenn from KMJ 580 AM and moved them to a station they own. This crumbling of a dynasty got me thinking about the future of terrestrial radio and how technology is changing this industry. Conveniences like on-demand video and DVRs have allowed us to take control of TV, now it’s time to take control of radio.
Smart phones have changed the way we listen to music, but in this article I am going to focus on people talking on the radio. There are three basic ways of getting news, information, and entertainment through smart phones; Live Radio, Podcasts, and Audiobooks.
Live Radio is a digital feed of terrestrial, satellite, or Internet based radio stations. Listening to Live Radio on a mobile phone is as simple as downloading an app like TuneIn Radio or iHeartRadio, searching for a station, and tuning in. You will hear the radio broadcast just as if you were in the local area, commercials and all. Sometimes my 5-year-old son and I listen to radio stations from around the world together. He’s a fan of African Jazz.
TuneIn Radio has a TIVO-like feature that allows you to record radio shows and listen to them later. Let’s say your local college football team just won their bowl game, the radio post game show is about to start, but you have a heifer calving with twin bulls, backwards! Rather than miss this historic program, record it and listen when you finish. Be sure to wipe the J-lube off your hands before using your phone.
Podcasts are on-demand episodic radio programs prerecorded and available for download. Podcasts are produced by a wide variety of sources on many subjects including ag news. I listen to a lot of political talk radio but on weekends I prefer educational material or non-political stories. Some of my favorites include The Dinner Party Download, RadioLab, Freakanomics Radio, and Macbreak Weekly.
To find these podcasts download a podcast player like BeyondPod or OneCast for Android or Downcast or iCatcher for iOS. Stitcher has an app for both platforms as well as the web browser. Once installed you can browse or search for shows.
Audiobooks are books read by people. I set a goal every year to read 12 books, I have never achieved that book-a-month goal, but now with Audible, I’m right on track. I listen to books while in the tractor and driving to town in my truck. Audible is available on all devices and you can also buy Audiobooks through iTunes. I always listen to audiobooks on 1.5x speed, this knocks about 2 hours off an 8 hour book and it is still easy to follow.
So no matter what happens in your local radio market, with Live Radio, podcasts, and audiobooks you are in control of when and where you listen. And who knows, along the way you might actually learn something!
Once you get connected to all the world’s radio stations, podcasts, and audiobooks, how do you get that content to play in your vehicles and at home? There are several methods, wires & docks, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi.
I don’t use a Bluetooth headset because I don’t want another thing to charge, and I keep dropping them in manure. I carry a small set of ear buds in my pocket with a wire. My wife’s vehicle has an external input to her stereo, an 1/8” plug, a headphone jack in reverse. I have a small cable that plugs into the headphone out of the phone and into the input of the car.
Many manufacturers produce speaker docks where you plug your phone directly into the speakers.
My truck radio has Bluetooth. When I get into my truck my radio becomes the hands-free talking device and it also allows me to hear the phone’s audio content through the truck’s speakers.
You can send audio and video from your phone or tablet to other devices like stereo receivers and set top boxes using Wi-Fi-based technologies. Apple’s is called Airplay. I have a surround sound receiver with Airplay built it. Because my iPad, my wife’s iPhone, and the receiver are on the same Wi-Fi network, we can listen to our shows in the living room. In the bedroom, an Apple TV box provides the same opportunity. Samsung and hundreds of other manufacturers share a similar technology to Airplay called DLNA. It allows Android and Windows Phone devices to send content in a similar way.