Baby boomer Lee Abrams is credited with inventing the “Album Oriented Rock” format in the 1970s that revitalized hundreds of radio stations for decades. Well now, he’s back at it, giving BoomerCafé permission to publish his “Media Predictions for 2026.” From his home in Chicago, Lee says that information is the new rock ’n roll.
Eleven predictions for media five years from now (some obvious and some arguable, of course ), as the new Wild West gets wilder, fueled by the ongoing technology explosion:
NEWSPAPERS…. Four or five will prevail as national brands while local papers will be supported by contributions, grants, and possibly government funding. Smaller markets may survive as scaled back, free, and highly condensed editions. But not medium and larger markets, not without public funds or decimated output.
FM RADIO…. Demographics will continue to skew older. A handful of under-50-demographic powerhouses will prevail as will extremely localized stations in smaller markets. Generic radio will be omnipresent with some marginal successes but generally in clear decline.
STREAMING MUSIC…. Will clearly become the dominant norm among younger demographics favoring personal choice and with no historical allegiance to FM, and will explode 50+ once the high-circulation services provide new takes on FM Radio’s “natural” 50+ audience that provide more character and curation than the jukebox effect provides, while utilizing the new listening technologies.
PODCASTING…. Will continue to develop as the modern-day talk radio. There will be an extreme shakeout as the existing and emerging big names dominate and create long term pod brands. Medium players may make money, most won’t. Small players will fade out. Expect increased production values that colorize the presentations creating a theater of the mind environment to elevate creativity.
SATELLITE RADIO…. Will continue steady growth fueled by the next generations in car audio, unification with other big media, and carriage of compelling brands and talent.
STREAMING TV…. More new niche programming shows and channels to complement movies, existing niches, and series as the medium becomes dominant. Rich turf for new programming concepts as simply migrating existing programming from cable to streaming will not be a guarantee and exclusive programming beyond scripted shows will be a powerful differentiator in a cluttered environment. Expect more ad-supported ventures to keep user costs down.
NEWS…. Migration to devices continues with some radical non-TV news-rooted concepts emerge. The existing style of news will continue to age itself out of dominance, credibility, and relevance, regardless of the platform it’s delivered on.
LIVE MUSIC EVENTS…. Expect a revolution in large-scale live events, driven by extreme advances in audio and visual technology applied to live environment. A new golden age for medium- and large-scale live music.
SOCIAL MEDIA…. The current big players stay big with more than a little pollution from misinformation, socio-political division, and conspiracy theories, while one or two new concepts enter the mix with great success among many failures.
MEGA MEDIA…. The new era of big media consolidation will be slow to react but will begin to aggressively seek new programming ideas for differentiation and growth. Some will gain traction, though they will remain bulky and less than agile in fast response to the pulse of the street, opting to acquire fast moving upstarts to their portfolios in significant numbers. An exciting age for rebel content creators to find big homes. Radical new thinkers will be engaged by the smartest (but clearly non-radical) of the mega media, to their competitive advantage.
MASS APPEAL INTELLIGENCE…. The information revolution will grow as information will continue to drive culture, much as music or television has in the past. Responding to the dumbing of America and the plethora of electronically fed nonsense, new infotainment programming will emerge that combines credible information with entertainment to target the factual info-starved new mainstream. The appetite for “high IQ/Low BS programming increases
If there’s one takeaway, it’s that programming will begin to match the same level of innovation as the technology, creating a tour de force where breakthrough new content matches the genuine innovation of breakthrough new technologies.
We can only hope.