It's becoming an on-demand world. You know this if you own a TiVo. Now, many cable companies are offering DVRs – or digital video recorders – as part of their digital boxes. This trend is going to proliferate quickly, despite the protests of TV broadcasters who are justifiably terrified their commercials will be lost in world of fast-forward. There's only so much "product placement" they'll be able to buy.
On-demand is what makes iPods and personal Mp3 players so attractive to music lovers. In most of the L.A.B.s (Listener Advisory Boards) we've conducted since the holidays, more and more consumers are discovering the joy of being able to listen to what they want, when they want it. iPod is all about on-demand, and if you've recently acquired one, you know how much fun it is to rediscover music – on your own terms.
So where does that leave us in radio? Well, most stations have been providing on-demand programming for years. We just don't call it that. Think about re-naming the all-request show the "On-Demand Lunch" – or "Instant Demands." As the term becomes ubiquitous, radio shouldn't let new technology reposition us as old and anachronistic.
On-Demand can also be translated to station web sites. NPR.org is a great example of an on-demand site because they archive EVERYTHING they air. Go to their site, use their search engine, and listen to whatever you like. Podcasting is moving in the same direction, allowing listeners to download audio programming into their iPods for playback whenever.
So when is commercial radio going to finally move into the On-Demand zone? Why wouldn't a morning show want to post some great bits – from this morning show's or whenever – on the station site. Let listeners hear it, download it, talk about it, and email it to a friend. Will it hurt ratings or curtail the sales of your morning show's holiday CD? Hardly. It will only generate more interest in their show. If you doubt that, check out NPR's ratings. The more they give away their content, the better their ratings get.