For radio to prosper in the age of the iPod, it needs to reach people like Megan Delehanty.
The 21-year-old USC student listens to music at least three hours a day, regularly shops for used CDs, browses music-oriented Web sites and has thousands of songs stored in her iPod.
What about radio? Delehanty said she would barely listen each day, if it weren't for her part-time job at KDLD-FM (103.1).
Struggling with stagnant revenue and audiences, radio stations in L.A. and across the country are grasping for ways to appeal to listeners like Delehanty. They offer non-music programming for instant download, limited advertising and experimental formats that jump from genre to genre. But Delehanty, who is completing a degree in music, remains skeptical.
"All of my friends have filled up their 40 gig iPods (holding roughly 10,000 songs) and that's still not enough for them," said Delehanty, whose own employer, known as Indie 103.1, appeals to a loyal audience with a playlist that ranges from familiar artists such as U2 to obscure ones such as Macrosick.
"Radio is trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator and since I have other content available to me, I don't think I have to tolerate playing the same song twice in an hour and listening to someone yelling."
Delehanty said. "It's almost like they think the listeners aren't as smart as we are."
With more than one in five Americans between 18 and 28 owning an iPod or other portable MP3 music players, radio faces unprecedented competition from devices that allow people to function as their own program directors.
Radio boosters say they aren't worried, noting that iPods are no more a threat than vinyl records were in the 1950s or CDs were in the 1980s.
Indeed, a study by Arbitron Inc. and Edison Media Research found that owners of iPods and other digital music devices listen to radio, on average, 2 hours and 33 minutes each day, compared with 2 hours and 48 minutes for those who don't own the devices.
Radio and digital music complement each other more than they compete, said Mary Beth Garber, president of the Southern California Broadcasters Association. "They play very different roles in people's lives," she said.
Don't Touch that Dial
Still, there's little denying that the industry is mired in a slump. Total revenue increased less than 3 percent in 2004 from a year earlier, according to the BIA Financial Network. The media consulting firm projects growth of 3.3 percent this year.
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