What? I’m watching radio?

by Terri Reddout

There was a day and time where people would actually gather around a radio set and “watch” radio.  When radios first moved into our homes they were a bit clunkier.  As you can see in this picture, the radio was slightly smaller than today’s big screen TVs.

Whenever your program came on, you ran into the living room, sat down in front of the radio and watched it as you listened to the drama of Little Orphan Annie,  the comedy of the Jack Benny Show or the soap opera The Guiding Light.

A new trend in radio may have us watching radio again, but in an entirely different way.  First, you need some background.

Radio… still hanging in there

Some interesting stats from the Pew Research Center Audio and Podcasting Fact Sheet

  • In the last week, 91 percent of people over the age of 12 have listed to terrestrial (AM/FM not satellite).  That percentage has remained pretty steady over the last decade.
  • Over half of us (53%) listened to on-line radio in the last week.  That’s up from under 25 percent back in 2008.
  • News/talk/information is the most listened to format. Pop contemporary hit radio is second.
  • Nearly a quarter of us have listened to a podcast in the last month.  That’s up from 9 percent back in 2008.
But don’t be throwing a celebration party for local radio just yet

Bottom line, your local AM/FM radio station is struggling.  Competition from satellite radio, Pandora, Spotify, podcasts, etc. is starting to turn off the “On Air” light at many stations.

But radio might be saved by a re-invention of itself.

Say hello to Performance Theaters

Imagine a theater built for 50 to 200 people. Imagine being able to sit within a few feet of of your favorite music artist. Imagine the artist singing in a theater designed for sound, with a few TV cameras thrown in for fun.  Imagine FBLive feeds of that concert.  Imagine the radio station’s web site filled with links to other concerts you want to see and hear.

No need to imagine.  Several major market radio stations are doing just that.  They are called Performance Theaters.  These intimate venues help generate interest in the radio station, generates unique material for the radio stations to air, and generates dollars for the radio stations themselves.


In Portland, Oregon Alpha Media’s Skype Live Studio holds just over 150 people.  Over 250 artists hold sessions in the theater each year.

Artists range from Alt-J and David Gray to Flo Rida to Jason Aldean.  KINK 101.9, the radio group’s adult album alternative station is the biggest user.  From their web site you can see who is on the calendar and how you can RSVP to see them.

Your assignment

Based on what you’ve read, watched and perused answer the following two questions.

  1. What do you think of the Performance Theater idea?  Do you think this is the direction local radio should be going in?
  2. Should we save local radio?  Why or why not?

Post your answers to the Blog#10:Watching Radio discussion board by July 20 at noon. Comments on at least two other group members’ posts before July 22 at 11:59 p.m.

Review discussion rubric to make sure you meet all requirements.


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