Specifically, digital radio can offer listeners very high-quality sound and allow stations to split their signals to increase channels. The problem is the conversion is expensive, perhaps $100,000 per radio station, and only listeners who have digital receivers will notice the difference.
The chief executve officer of the second largest radio giant, Viacom's Infinity, was quoted in Monday's Wall Street Journal as saying, "The industry did not invest in its future. If we had invested three to five years ago, people would be thinking differently about our competitors." The key point here is the recognition that the competition isn't other advertiser-supported radio stations, but rather other delivery vehicles.
The radio industry's revenues did not climb back to the level of 2000 until last year. Earlier this year, 21 radio groups agreed to "accelerate the transition to digital radio" in about 2,000 stations so that they can begin broadcasting both digital and analog signals. That's $2 billion or about 10 percent of their 2004 revenue.
The leaders of the Yellow Pages industry should take note of the similarity of their position to radio. Yellow Pages publishers must forge industry cooperation to develop a meaningful Internet Yellow Pages local search product. In research results released today by The Kelsey Group and ConStat, 70 percent of U.S. households now use the Internet when shopping locally for products and services. This is up from 60 percent less than 18 months ago. The trend is clear.
The time for Yellow Pages publishers to cooperate and invest in its future is now while the technology is still relatively young.