Well here we are a few years later, and the paradigm certainly has shifted to an on-demand culture. Radio is ailing in many ways because of this, but I don't blame the iPod. Radio has been poisoning itself for years now, and ignorance to the digital revolution is only part of the problem.
Simply scanning the FM dial for a few minutes will reveal the true reason why radio listenership is down: homogenous, repetitive programming. Cookie-cutter stations were a great business model back in the mid-90s when media ownership laws were relaxed: radio megalopoli formed with a slick, straightforward presence, and ad sales boomed as a result. But nearly a decade later, this formula has finally become obsolete to an audience that now has a choice of turning to internet radio, satellite radio, download services, or podcasts for entertainment. Folks have grown tired of hearing the same 10 songs over and over in every city across the land, and they've caught on to the insincerity of delocalized (or automated, see Jack-FM) programming. Certainly the latest string of payola scandals has only added to the public's animosity toward mainstream radio.
Listeners are also questioning shifts in NPR's programming. In recent years, many NPR stations have abandoned their committment to classical music in favor of the financially-rewarding all-news format. Although answering to the bottom line might have a lot to do with cuts in federal funding, listeners are well aware of the financial factor affecting programming.
Could it be that radio listeners have grown fickle and listless with the old formulas and tricks? Is the pendulum now swinging back toward an era of localism, personality, and diverse programming? Quite possibly. Very recently, the two largest radio conglomerates in the U.S., Clear Channel and CBS Radio, each sold a significant number of stations, essentially marking the failure of their business models. Nationwide domination is not working for either company, and they have each decided to scrap efforts in small and mid-sized radio markets. This decentralization, combined with public outcry against the FCC's revisitation of media ownership rules, just might help resurrect radio's soul.