What is the future of radio? -- EW examines four radio developments that may change listening forever

By Michael Endelman
October 14, 2005 at 04:00 AM EDT

It used to be so simple: Flip on the radio and twist the dial until it lands on a station that doesn’t suck. Not anymore. A look at some recent developments.

PODCASTING

WHAT IS IT? A way of distributing radio shows over the Web.

WHERE IS IT? Big names like the BBC and NPR offer podcasts, but there are also thousands of amateur shows, with everything from sex advice to indie rock. Start with iTunes, Podcast.net, or Podcastalley.com; all have useful directories.

WILL YOU CARE IN 2010? We hope so, but while big companies like Clear Channel have jumped on board, it’s not clear if podcasting can make big money.

INTERNET RADIO

WHAT IS IT? Exactly what it sounds like?listening to the radio through your PC.

WHERE IS IT? All over the Web, and expanding rapidly. The big portals (AOL, Yahoo) dominate, but streaming has also helped some lesser-known local stations go national.

WILL YOU CARE IN 2010? Definitely, especially as wireless technology brings Web streaming to your cell, stereo, and car.

HD RADIO

WHAT IS IT? Radio’s long-awaited switch to digital, which boasts CD-like sound quality and multicasting technology.

WHERE IS IT? More than 500 stations are already broadcasting HD, but you have to buy a special receiver, which starts at around $400.

WILL YOU CARE IN 2010? If receivers drop to Wal-Mart-worthy prices, HD will dramatically improve free radio. On the other hand, ads aren’t going anywhere.

NEO-RADIO

WHAT IS IT? Not a technology, but rather an approach that returns localization and unique programming to the dial.

WHERE IS IT? A few stations have adopted this term, including San Diego alt-rock outlet FM 94.9 and Denver’s classic-rock-leaning The Mountain.

WILL YOU CARE IN 2010? Hopefully, as the movement highlights everything we love about radio — without new gear or subscription fees.

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