A View Into The Future; 2030


(By Mike McVay) A short eight years from now, we’ll be approaching 2030. What will Radio look like? What will media look like? Given the impending wind down of this year, it’s a good time to think about the near future, and to play the “Imagine Game.” The acceleration of time is picking up speed as entertainment, information and communication continue to morph into what’s become a world of handheld connectivity. The future changes rapidly. Our response to those changes is sometimes ponderous. Change is hard. It’s scary. It’s often uncomfortable.

Digital Audio Broadcasting will continue to grow and dominate all audio delivery. Much like Europe and the Commonwealth countries seeing its’ continued growth … and we’ll eventually see that here in North America. There will be more digital streaming platforms, additional voice driven conveniences that make today’s smart speakers look archaic and the rollout of almost everything being on-demand. Some over-the-air radio stations will eliminate their over-the-air transmission in favor of becoming a streamed radio station. All digital. We’re seeing some experimentation with that now.

A friend of mine is an owner of an advertising agency. He’s a former radio programmer, music producer, marketing specialist and now among the many that prefer digitally targeted marketing over mass media to advertise his clients’ products, services and brands. He and I have a standing conversation every Friday morning where we talk about the news of the week, what’s happening in media and what changes are taking place in the world that could impact media. It forces me to think outside the box. It pushes me to be outside of my comfort zone. I sometimes find myself defending radio

We’re both aligned that all media, including what one may call new media, will continue to become more diverse, available, niche and diminished as more competition is introduced to users of media for entertainment and information. Even the new kid, DSP’s, will see erosion. It makes sense. It’s a statement of increased noise in the marketplace more so than an indication of relevancy slippage. It stands to reason. There are 330 million people in America. The acceleration of competition is faster than the birthrate.

Podcasting, which is today’s version of Audio Books, is growing revenue at a rapid pace. Much of which is driven by a few “whales” and not by the many “minnows” that are available to all listeners. It is a long tail. Podcasting is niche media. Mass media is needed to drive niche media. Making it an advantage for audio companies that own radio stations to be heavily invested in podcasts. Mainly because of the ability to promote them on-air.

Podcast Radio is already a “thing.” It will continue to grow and what’s already established in the United Kingdom will spill into North America. The USA and Canadian radio groups have at least one station, in many markets, that is a continual underperforming station. That’s a prime candidate to experiment and consider something like a North American version of Podcast Radio UK.

TV Networks are already competing with their affiliates. That is that there is Peacock, Paramount, ABC All Access and the Apps that are now streaming as if they were over the air. Radio Ink Forecast 2022 was this past week at The Harvard Club in NYC. One of the television executives noted that they believe OTA television will continue to morph into mostly digital. Who needs a tower?

An associate who supplies content to television networks shared with me that he believes local television could be relegated to all local news, reruns, sports or unique syndication, within the next 8-10 years. That was echoed by a network representative on stage at Forecast. The fact is, I don’t need to watch local TV to see my favorite network shows. We can get them directly from the network now. Listening to radio with an app is the same for many radio broadcasters. Why do it yourself.

All of these coming changes will continue to encourage citizen creators to create their own content and distribute it and the cost of entry will be low as will the quality of what most create. Be conscious that it is competition. The need to provide high quality content will be magnified by those companies whose revenue model is driven by advertisers or subscribers. Podcasting will bifurcate into a stream that’s high quality and of mass appeal … with another stream becoming the social media version of podcasting. This approach can be short term and very targeted.

A recent episode of Sixty Minutes showed voice and video creations that duplicated the voice and appearance of humans. This artificial intelligence enables TikTok users to duplicate movie studio quality. We’ll see this expand and develop over the next two or three years. You can expect that this will necessitate that in addition to talent owning their name, likeness and voice, they’ll own the recreation of their voice and appearance.

How does radio compete in the future? The distribution is there. Expansion onto other digital platforms is there. Awareness is there. What continues to be there inconsistently is the presentation of a good listening environment, a commitment to researching the wants of an audience and the need to satisfying those wants by applying what was learned from the research. The lack of interest by radio executives in enticing a younger audience to radio should be concerning to all of us who are invested in audio. An apparent avoidance of marketing, or lack thereof, is financially damaging to brands. These things are all salvageable and controllable. One would think that the return on investment (ROI) would be large enough to make this a priority.

All of the unique creation we may want to ideate and pontificate about for radio will not show success if there isn’t an effort to improve the product and the listening experience. Radio has many opportunities. We have over-the-air distribution. Expand that to digital, meaning on-line, on smart speakers, on-demand via podcasting, and repurposing your radio show as a podcast. That is always a good idea. Using excerpts from your show for short audio bytes, ala mini-podcasts, is an even better idea. Be sure that your podcast and audio bytes are encoded for Nielsen. Create a unique podcast that is not repurposed audio from your show, but advertise your show and your station in that podcast.

Why not capitalize on the fragmentation that’s plaguing our biggest non-radio competitors. Your content has to be superior. Your connectivity to the community is imperative. High level entertaining personalities create habitual listening when they connect with an audience. Radio has a future in the future, but how bright depends on how willing we are to acknowledge that today’s status quo isn’t good enough for tomorrow.

Why wait for the future?

Mike McVay is President of McVay Media and can be reached at [email protected]


  1. TV affiliates in the majors have been expanding their local news hours. What I used to read for news at 6pm and 11 now starts at 4am. News continues till about 10am. Then there’s a noon or a 1pm, and a 3p or 4pm, then a 5 into the 6. HBO doesn’t need an a broadcast affiliate in each market, neither will ABC, NBC, etc when they are just digital networks. That is IF those brands can sustain viewers. Competition from big tech grows and after experimenting and “playing in the electronic sandbox” for a few years they are finally getting it. Apple budgeting 1.5 million for an episode that turns out to cost 15 million per episode can not go on forever. Even with vast resources a company will regret overspending in the long run, so that has to settle down. It’s a great time for content providers.

  2. Good read Mike. And, it’s the second time today I’ve seen the “bifucurate” used! 🤣 The first was in our real estate sales mtg where it was used to warn licensees about new title scams and to “be cautious of any closing that involves bifucuration of closings, as in buyer and seller closing one transaction at their own title companies vs using one, the standard. Happy turkey day!

  3. Great post overall, but everyone has been saying this over the last decade. When someone is bold enough to call out the people holding back the business, directly, then maybe something will change; or at least the attention will shift. Articles like this talk about the “radio industry”, well the industry are the companies who collect revenue and then compensate employees. That, in itself, is an industry. Conglomerates that buy and sell, simultaneously. Sell marketing, buy talent. So, talking about the “industry” is misleading. You’re talking about I Heart, Audacy, Cumulus, etc…. except there’s this old-school fear of calling them out, directly. Why? Because no one wants to punt on a paycheck for being boldly honest. Mostly, it’s the same people saying the same things with slightly different hyperbole. The buzzwords of the PD offices are now excuses, not strategy. Organic. Local. Authentic. Podcast audiences never use these words, because they were created by consultants who were negotiating their contract extensions. “Innovate for the future”, I mean who in the hell would disagree with that, whether you’re in radio or the grocery store business? “Change is coming” was for 2003, change already came. It has already changed.
    Re-purposing your show as a podcast is insane, and that’s not re-purposing, that’s called posting. It’s a post. You simply paste an audio file. You shouldn’t be “radio” on a podcast, just like content for Facebook doesn’t work for Twitter. The podcast version of your show should be what podcast fans want, not content that plays by radio rules. It should have cussing, long breaks, be unpredictable and finally offer something that no one else offers. Radio Show’s ALL talk about “It’s national pizza day” and then go into their favorite toppings, etc…. bla bla bla, so boring, but that’s radio. And, no one changed it, No one said “Stop being boring.” All that research, all those consultants, and no one solved it.
    Also, I’d suggest that the good ol’ boys club shake it up a bit. I mean, you can bank on a post by a certain person, and predict to a tee who’s gonna show up and write “Amazing”, “Awesome”, “You’re the best”… I mean, once, maybe once, can someone challenge a thought or two, or expand, or offer a criticism? Nope, that breaks the code. Maybe these boring, old and stale conventions can offer a panel where there’s massive disagreement and actual tension. What if someone said ” I listened to XXXX radio show ( and call it out by name) and I heard something horrible. What’s wrong with that? Also, don’t just stack the panel with the regular prehistoric guests, maybe someone under 30, ya know, the future and stuff….

  4. Great way to start out the week, Mike. I’ve been thinking of a lot these issues as we gear up to attend CES in just a few short weeks. I would encourage everyone to read your view into the future. There’s a lot to unpack.


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