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.

During the last year those artists ranged 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’ll find a link to RSVP to see one of these sessions in person.

Your assignment

Based on what you’ve read, watched and perused answer the following two questions.  Post your answers to the Watching Radio discussion board by July 19 at noon.

  1. Do you think performance theater can save LOCAL radio?  Why or why not?  (Make sure to reference the readings/videos/websites in your answer.)
  2. Use your imagination.  How else could these performance theaters be used to keep local radio stations viable?  (There are no right answers, just better answers.)  You may come up with your own or expand on the ideas mentioned in the articles.

Read and comment on at least two other group members’ posts before July 23 at 11:59 p.m.


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