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Who needs radio? I'll take the Web

By Jordan Valinsky, Special to CNN
updated 9:40 AM EDT, Fri May 17, 2013
Technology has encroached on the audience for AM/FM radio.
Technology has encroached on the audience for AM/FM radio.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Valinsky: I don't need AM/FM anymore
  • Author was a radio listener in high school
  • In college, he turned to the Internet and iTunes
  • "I would say it's time to turn off the radio for good," says Valinsky

Editor's note: Jordan Valinsky is a staff writer for Betabeat, the tech blog for the New York Observer.

(CNN) -- Listening to the radio was something I did -- when I was a teenager.

Just take my middle and high school years where every morning, at 6:55, I flipped on my Walkman and began the trudge down the hill to the bus stop. It was tuned to B94, which was Pittsburgh's "Today's Hit Music" station. Every day, the crazy -- and at that time seemingly raunchy -- antics of its morning show with John, Dave, Bubba and Shelly made me excited to be awake.

Although the show offered really nothing of value to enrich my life, like a sugary drink, it didn't have to. In those 40 minutes on the bus, there was adequately funny banter (which in hindsight, was terrible), vital information of what happened in Hollywood overnight, and most importantly, today's hottest music.

The Pussycat Dolls, then Natasha Bedingfield, and that one Fort Minor song? If I heard that lineup again, High School Me would probably melt in happiness. But my radio listening habits didn't end at 7:45 a.m. After school, I probably listened to the same set of music. The only difference was the afternoon slot felt like it was filled with endless commercials that didn't air in the morning.

But it all stopped when I went to college.

Jordan Valinsky
Jordan Valinsky

The pop music station in my new home, a small Ohio town, couldn't match the "talents" of John, Dave, Bubba and Shelly (although it was not like I was awake at 7 a.m. to listen). While I was slinking into my late teens, the playlist of that low-budget station felt like it was stuck in my middle-school years. By then, I was also hooked to my family's satellite radio account, which was like terrestrial radio without all of those terrible commercials for car dealerships or rug outlets.

And discovering new music on the Internet around that time became easier. I trawled through iTunes' constantly updated charts. My friends posted recommendations on their Facebook and Twitter accounts, which substituted for radio stations plugging whatever artist their corporate parent suggested. Also, my dorm's high-speed Internet connection allowed me to stream music from noncommercial stations all around the world, like BBC Radio 1, to see what we would be listening to stateside in another six months.

After college, I moved to Austin, Texas, a traffic-prone town where you would spend more time in your car than at your destination. But when I pulled into the city in 2012, I didn't even bother to reset my car's radio to the local stations. It wasn't necessary. Most if not all of the time, I was plugged into my satellite radio or my app-filled iPhone, which played a steady stream of commercial-free music catering to my tastes. For my friends and me, the car's auxiliary outlet killed the radio star.

Now I'm 24 and the radio's relevancy is fading faster than driving out of a signal's reach. The Internet has made me an an "on-demand" listener, meaning I can listen to any song, from any artist, at any time. From music apps, websites (like Soundcloud), and the blogs, there are literally millions of sources to discover new music. I can listen to a new song seconds after it's released and not wait days, or even weeks, before the radio bothers to play it.

And, ugh, those cheesy DJs are no longer polluting my listening experience with their allegedly wacky and zany gags. The definition of DJ has shifted from John, Dave, Bubba and Shelly, to actual, physical DJs, who spin "records" like Diplo or Avicii.

It's not just me. Every morning, my wretched millennial friends awake to freshly brewed tunes from our favorite blogs. New music from my friends fills up my Spotify inbox at a seemingly never-ending pace (and vice versa). I would be scared to hear how loud the laugh would be if anyone asked if we'd discovered a half-decent new song on the radio in the past five years. I don't know even know what channel to find that on!

Since the iPhone has replaced my Walkman, my friends have replaced the DJs, and the ability to listen to whatever I want at any given moment kicked out radio stations' playlists, I would say it's time to turn off the radio for good. But I already did that five years ago.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jordan Valinsky.

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