When industry pundits focus on problems facing terrestrial radio broadcasting, they tend to emphasize a single issue without creating a language and framework for a larger view. We see details when we look at a terrain from 20 feet, but we can only see the larger pattern from an altitude of 10,000 feet. Both views are important because they each contribute different kinds of information.
Details only make sense when considered within the context created by the larger pattern. But on the other hand, a pattern is created by the composite of details and their relationship. As readers may have noticed, my columns tend to focus on the patterns. This is not because details are unimportant but because I happen to be more adept at recognizing patterns.
What then are the larger patterns and what are the key elements that allow us to construct these patterns? In engineering, we call such patterns models. They are intended to focus on some aspects of reality while explicitly ignoring others.
In order to explore the past, present and future patterns in terrestrial radio, I will draw on parallels in related industries to illustrate how different companies and industries respond to the technical and social forces that disrupt the status quo. Radio exists in a much larger media system, and we can only understand radio if we also understand that system.