THE AGE OF FM RADIO IS SLOWLY coming to an end. This week, Norway announced that it will be the first country to totally phase out FM radio. The switch, which is expected to be completed in 2017, will move the country from FM radio to Digital Audio Broadcasting, or DAB. DAB has been growing steadily in Europe and in parts of Asia for a couple of decades now, and allows the listener to have a lot more variety in terms of content than they would have with FM radio.
This probably isn’t going to be happening particularly soon in countries like the US (though other European countries will probably follow suit). In the US, AM/FM radio is still pretty popular: 92% of Americans still listen to radio at least once a week, according to Pew. But the population that listens to radio the least is that of young people, who tend to prefer internet-based audio resources like Pandora, Spotify, or podcasts.
Podcasts in particular are exploding: 5 years ago, podcasts had 25 million unique listeners, according to the research firm RawDay. Now, it’s 75 million. The insanely popular true-crime podcast Serial was the medium’s first huge hit, and the spread of smartphones makes it spectacularly easy to listen to podcasts anywhere.
Does this mean the death of radio? Not totally. DAB is still not a thing in most of the Western Hemisphere, and radio, the world’s first mass media tool, is still hugely important to many people in the world. What it does mean is a decline in AM/FM radio as well as an increase in the variety of programming that we have access to. So for those of us who are a little tired of obnoxious DJs, country music, and conservative talk radio, we’ll finally have options that aren’t just NPR affiliates. And that can only be a good thing.