Recently, I talked about how the Internet was worse for bookstores than for reading: Part I and Part II. When the dust settled, many books and readers crawled out alive because a) much smaller press runs became economically viable, but b) we still have to buy the whole book in order to enjoy it.

So why was radio so much less impacted by the Internet than by TV? Video, after all, did kill the radio star.

Well, have a look at this 50s doo-wop. Does it look like good TV to you? And what about the one embedded below? It all sounded fine, but try televising it and the visuals just have to improve.

Similarly, TV killed radio drama. Classic radio drama endures as a minority taste among the culturally discerning, to be sure. But drama, as an art form, was never intended to be heard but not seen. That was a limitation imposed by radio, so the culture as a whole moved swiftly to TV drama when it became available.

The Internet doesn’t kill other media. Unintentionally illustrating that fact is a much more forgettable song, Internet killed the video star. The knockoff isn’t strictly true.

The Internet is a super-medium that hosts other media; it doesn’t point up flaws, and award prizes. One can spend all one’s time on the Internet listening to radio, watching TV, or monitoring a Twitter feed. Or join over a thousand Facebook groups, or amass a huge collection of graphics on Pin It. Each Internet-conveyed medium has its pluses and minuses but we can have all of them any time.

One can also survey aggregators of news headlines, such as Digg or Drudge. Or go to media release sites, both general ones like Reuters or specialist ones like Science Daily, and read the releases once available only to journalists.

In fact, that’s just the problem! There are only 24 hours in a day. The way the Internet damages media is principally through offering such a range of choices worldwide that there is no bottleneck through which online media consumers must pass. Not the way there used to be only two TV channels in most of Canada when I was young. It was CBC, CTV, or play cards.

And that’s probably the reason that many media are doing poorly now. Reality TV is in a slump and so are box office receipts. Theories abound as to why, but surely the main one is that these media are all competing with each other 24/7/365.

But radio has turned out to be a different story. In Canada, for example, the Globe and Mail reports,

It may not be the sexiest of mediums, but radio continues to churn consistent profits despite competition from competitors beaming signals from outer space and online listening services designed to pull listeners away from traditional radio.

This is also true in the United Kingdom and the United States. Why? As the Globe and Mail goes on to explain,

The bulk of radio revenue comes from local advertising – car dealerships, restaurants and other local businesses that have no interest in reaching listeners in other markets (as opposed to large brands that buy chunks of advertising to run across the country without a particular local pitch).

Radio benefits from this “local effect” whether we have an vintage radio on the mantel, or listen in the car or on line because, while we can benefit from global information, we can only use local services.

In sum, the Internet can convey almost all media but the way it changes their fortunes depends in part on each medium’s unique features. That said, here is more classic radio that certainly needed airbrushing for the age of TV: 😉

Denyse O’Leary is a Canadian journalist, author, and blogger.

Denyse O’Leary is an author, journalist, and blogger who has mainly written popular science and social science. Fellow Canadian Marshall McLuhan’s description of electronic media as a global village...