Fisher reiterates what we've pointed out many times before:
Radio's troubles have tracked the broader national decline of locally distinctive popular culture, as big media companies sought to save money by spurning the medium's uniquely local nature and instead serving up whatever programming was least offensive to the largest possible coast-to-coast audience.When someone talks about what they liked about radio, notice what they focus on. It's not the music they talk about, it's the personalities. As Fisher writes:
Yet the more I listened to the likes of Pandora.com, Last.fm, Slacker.com and all manner of music blogs and Web radio, the more I heard the sound of automation -- sleek, efficient recommendation engines scientifically selecting the music I am most likely to like, yet missing out almost on what radio once offered: a glimpse into the hearts and passions of personalities who knew what music was new and cool, voices that offered a guided tour of unknown worlds, and sometimes even a frontal assault of the unexpected.I highly recommend the article -- if you haven't run across these concepts before, it's food for thought. Fisher talks about how neither satellite radio nor Internet radio answers the need for human personality. Is it gone completely?
No. It's just moved to podcasting. Now granted, there are plenty of amateur podcasts out there that are a sonic mess. But the best ones have exactly what Fisher's yearning for -- a unique voice with a strong sense of local color.
Now podcasting is a little different than the golden years of AM radio. First, the major labels won't allow their music to be used for podcasts. Not a problem, though. There's plenty of independent artists and labels who do. So if you're looking for great, individualistic music instead of bland commercial fare, then check out a music podcast, or two (or twenty). They come in all genres -- no kidding.
Secondly, the hosts are even more individualistic than any broadcaster could ever be. There are no time checks, no weather forecasts, and (for the most part) no commercials. The podcast host can talk about whatever they want, for however long they want, and play whatever they want. The most successful ones, though, are those that are interesting people in their own right and know how to keep the breaks from running too long -- just like the broadcasters of yore.
Thirdly, local is as local does. A podcast can come from anywhere in the world, yet most of them have some sense of location. The host may talk about their local area, or reference nearby landmarks. And those that don't tend to create their own little world that they inhabit that serves the same purpose. A world of blues, or classical music, or perhaps a place where even the smallest detail of Celtic music is noted and celebrated.
I'm sorry to see Marc Fisher's column go, but as I drove to work Monday listening to "BBC Introducing,"Mostly Trivial," and "AMPed," I realized that I had actually left a long time ago.