The Next 100 Years


(By Deborah Parenti)

There’s a saying that “what’s old is new again.”

I was reminded of that when I received an e-mail from Hammacher Schlemmer recently. The subject line read: “The Best Pocket Radio.”

When was the last time you saw a retailer promoting a radio? Has the world gone mad?

Of course, I immediately opened the e-mail to “learn more”:

”The Best Portable Pocket Radio delivered clear reception and received more AM/FM stations — even with its antenna down. It has five presets that store 20 AM band 20 FM stations, volume dial, and simple tuning buttons. Its backlit LCD panel displays station numbers, time, and radio data received from FM stations. “

If that wasn’t enough, HS made four additional recommendations, three for

At $99.95, it’s a bit pricey, and they missed an important “selling point”: having weathered 15 tornadoes on Memorial Day and a mass shooting, anyone where I live (Dayton) will tell you a reliable radio can be a life-saver when cell towers and electric power go down.

That said, I know a traditional radio is “old school” to many, in spite of its value in emergencies. And my head is firmly planted in the future. There’s not a new platform or device I don’t love. But seeing a radio being promoted by a retailer, coupled with the sounds we’re hearing today about a resurgence in audio “sex appeal” is music to my ears.

And it’s something radio needs to not just embrace verbally, but capitalize on with action. As we look to 2020, the 100th anniversary of commercial radio, it’s time to strike up the band. While a recent reference by Bob Pittman was specifically about podcasting, there is a birthright involved here. In terms of content — whether podcasting or other — audio is radio’s birthright.

And radio is resilient and reliable. For all the naysayers, the biggest crisis facing radio today comes from within. It stems from those among us who don’t believe enough in radio’s core assets — the incredible, unmatched ability to create content that attracts, connects, involves, and engages listeners on a truly one-on-one basis. To work harder and smarter — and invest — to bring great content alive on each and any platform. It’s about content — something radio has been creating since its inception.

And it’s why radio has come this far and hung on since the days of serial dramas in the ’30s and ’40s and the debut of Top 40 rock ‘n’ roll radio in the ’50s and ’60s. Radio found an Alternative way in the ’80s and Hip Hopped through the ’90s. Its impact on politics has dramatically changed since KDKA first broadcast the Harding-Cox presidential election returns in 1920, imploring listeners, “Will anyone hearing this broadcast please communicate with us, as we are anxious to know how far the broadcast is reaching and how it is being received?”

Today, radio continues to be a vibrant and ever-evolving opportunity for media enterprises. According to a 2018 Deloitte Global Survey, an average* of 62 percent of the 18-75-year-olds surveyed like radio because it’s free. That’s a huge advantage of and in itself.

But there are other interesting stats from that survey. Overall:

54.5 percent believe radio is easier to listen to in the car

46.4 percent like the DJs and hosts

33 percent are fans of not needing a mobile data connection

And let’s not miss this one: over one-third think radio offers a good mix of content!

Radio is worth celebrating — not just 100 years of innovation or a glorious past — but as an example to the rest of commerce for how an industry responds to change, reinvents itself as necessary, and continues to be a force driving consumers, serving communities, and bringing home
the bottom line.

It’s time to plan the party and plot the next 100 years. Are you in?

*Based on individual 18-34, 35-54, and 55-75 percentages combined and averaged.

Deborah Parenti is Publisher of Radio Ink. She can be reached at [email protected]


  1. While Deborah is shakin’ those pom-poms – and rightfully so – the team on the field is having its butt kicked all over the gridiron.
    Further, radio is not free.
    There is an extraordinary price being paid by audiences in that they are forced to tolerate short jolts of shabby content and blocks of unintelligible and demeaning spots and promos.
    Radio won’t be going anywhere with bandaid strategies and a new whizz-bang receiver.
    Major surgery is required. Stat!

  2. Radio does have a birthright to audio, but it’s more-so playing the underdog today. The DJ’s who just announce songs or predictably go “Wasn’t that concert awesome” are really letting down the audience and advertisers. Also, just because something might be local doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck…. a lot of times, local means lazy. The weather forecast is on everyone’s phone, and you didn’t really add value by reading it out loud. Getting rid of the same old segments from the same old people should be an immediate mandate. Audio may be a birthright, but it still takes talent and hard work to make it a worthwhile experience for the user.


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