Losing the Radio and Streaming Content

By Eric Larson
March 23, 2010

Today we lost WOXY. It has happened before, so I personally haven't lost hope that WOXY will return. Nonetheless, the news is rather sad. What is also sad is that it represents a larger loss of streaming content. I don't mean technically streaming bits over the wire, but rather media that is not on demand.

Social networks and more generally, communication mediums have managed to continually flow towards being on demand. In some ways this feels entirely efficient. If you want to watch a show, you choose the show and watch it. Instead of waiting through crap, you get the ability to instantly watch the program you want. How gratifying.

Part of the problem with this concept is discoverability. It is easy to say "choose a program" or "select a song" but it is rarely that simple. If it were simple we wouldn't see continuous play in Hulu or the rise of Genius in iTunes. The fact that there is too much content has brought about Google and a wealth of tastemaking music blogs. In the olden days of music radio DJs held the keys. Then it was record labels with their distribution and later magazines. All these components played the critical role of searching and disseminating the wealth of content to something reasonable and palatable.

The other missing aspect of on demand media is the community. Often times listeners of WOXY would tweet how much they enjoy some song being played. Others would chime in. Very quickly you might have just made a new friend or gotten into an argument. If two people were watching a show on Hulu, the interactions are no longer an event. Hulu lets you publish comments, but publishing is not conversation. It can be dialog, but when you're talking about a few minutes for a song, the experience of real time communication is very powerful. Take SXSW for example. Part of the value is not necessarily the specific bands and panels, but the shared experience that everyone can use as a social bookmark for a certain set feelings and relationships. When radio and TV first came around, families would come together to watch or listen. WOXY had the ability to do the same thing over Facebook and Twitter.

WOXY had taken on the role of tastemaker and made the effort to provide the streaming content online instead of over the traditional airwaves. They made an iPhone app. Their DJs were given the keys to the castle and presented their opinions on what was worth listening to. It was beautiful mix of old school radio and new technologies. It is unfortunate that the business side of the station wasn't pulling its end of the bargain. I'd sincerely hope that someone realizes the benefit of WOXY and makes an effort to revive its mission. I'm sure the talented group of people working at WOXY would be happy to entertain discussions on how to continue the station or even create something new and innovative.

Losing WOXY is important. Radio, not as a technology, but as an experienced medium is important. I hope that excellent staff at WOXY don't become too discouraged and continue to forge ahead, improving the way listeners experience music.

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