The radio biz hasn't put out good news in a long time. Most of the news the past few decades has been about bad mergers, billions of debt and thousands of layoffs. It raises the question: who will be the last live DJ before the whole industry flips to automation? Perhaps it will be my latest cartoon character, Last Live DJ, introduced on September 12, 2017.
Earlier in the year Entercom announced they would acquire the number two radio chain, CBS Radio. It didn't make sense since Entercom is already deep in debt. The reaction was the stock tumbled throughout the year. Meanwhile, the top radio company, iHeart Radio is still around $20 billion in debt. Many people wonder how much longer this unprofitable industry will be around.
The answer is there will probably always be some kind of radio in the car - even if it's thousands of internet stations. As to how much longer live talent will exist is harder to say, but perhaps at least another decade. That will be around the time that automation kicks in for several industries. In case you haven't noticed, automation is gradually replacing many jobs we thought would last forever just a few decades ago.
Automation has been a core focus of the tech biz all along. Machines have been envisioned as the answer to replacing human labor for at least a century, except for much of that time the notion seemed like science fiction. It's finally becoming reality. It is now clear that what can be automated, will be automated in the future, for reasons that mostly make sense to owners, at the expense of workers.
Owners view computer technology as more reliable and accurate than humans, who are prone to error. It's also more economical to hire a workforce of machines rather than humans. Corporations hate paying people, which is obvious when they announce layoffs, which often boost the stock price. Radio was one of the first industries in the internet age to suffer a blow to the workforce, but that was also because of senseless mergers that didn't add up to better profits.
Radio used to be a thriving industry when it was based on local live personalities. Now in many large markets live radio barely exists. Most of what is heard on the radio is pre-recorded voice tracks mixed with automated playlists. The future of radio hinges on economics. If the biz could only figure out a way to make money without relying on BigBiz advertisers. You would think the combination of radio and internet would've created a new super-industry, but the radio biz thought its "bigger than life" approach with sappy slogans and redundant playlists would keep them relevant forever.
But instead of growing, radio is a fast-shrinking industry. Part of the problem that biz leaders won't admit is that radio has lost its soul and local appeal. No robot can fill the shoes of local personalities, so consider radio's future a blur.