Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Satellite Radio vs. Podcasts

During my days of driving the back roads of South Dakota, satellite radio was almost a necessity. In 2003, my cassette player and radio broke down in my 1992 Honda Accord with well over 200K miles. I remember some drives I could pick up 1-2 stations if I was lucky--a Jesus station and a bad country station. I could get NPR news and talk in the morning, but I could only listen to so much classical or jazz music. If I was meeting colleagues in the more desolate areas of the state, I wouldn't get any stations at all. I saved up a little money and took the plunge into satellite radio, which was the wave of the future at the time.

I loved satellite radio so much my brothers and I bought my father one for Christmas one year. I bought and set up satellite radio outlets in my house. Depending on contracts and mergers, it was the best way I could listen to Seahawks, Mariners, Oilers and Kansas Jayhawk games on the radio in the hinterlands of South Dakota, where the Big 10, Vikings, Twins and Wild ruled. I listened to the CBC often in the morning in between sporting events and I had better reception for good college radio music, without the faint signal of an actual college station. The service was well worth the 11 dollars a month I was paying. I had every media outlet I could ever want, and I wasn't tied to a television--so I could multi-task on some of my lower mentally engaging activities. With my long commute, I was engaged and had some good thinking time before arriving at home or at work.

Satellite radio was one of the first services to go when my dear wife and I started to be more sensible and cautious with our money. I missed it a lot, but my iPod and the expanding world of podcasts began to fill the gaps. I didn't have to pay for the podcasts. In canceling my service with XM, I was to receive a refund. I never received it after several inquiries into my account, and I gave up, learning a lesson about satellite radio that cost me about $142.

It turns out that XM/Sirius is quite desperate to get some customers back. I received a letter that my service was reactivated for 3 month--Free. Ha.

Sorting through my piles, I found the documents that pointed to my sizable refund. I called XM and asked them, what gives? You're offering me 3 free months when you didn't offer any customer service with integrity? I was on the precipice of giving up on satellite radio for good, and after 2 agents, I found someone who promised me a check, rather than a credit to my account (I was open to a credit, but I'll take a check).

I agree with Bill Simmons that satellite radio lost its niche with a younger generation when the podcast world expanded. The only folks I see using their satellite radio are elderly folks who purchase higher end new vehicles. This observation is completely subjective and anecdotal, but I hear little if any buzz about satellite radio. I am at least somewhat media savvy.

I think satellite radio is going in the tank. Why would I want to pay approximately $14 per month for a good product when I can get a better product for free on my iPod? Or pay less than than a satellite subscription for equal or better content via iTunes? I control the content on my iPod, whereas XM/Sirius controls the content on their end. What I have appreciated about satellite radio over the years on the music level is that I am introduced to music I may not have considered otherwise. However, as I have become reengaged with media after a little hiatus as a stay at home dad (with my iPhone and Twitter and a little with iLike) I still don't need satellite radio to expand my musical palette. I turned on my satellite radio for three free months, but spending 14 dollars a month for good content isn't a necessary expenditure and borderline foolish.

If anyone else has a satellite radio story, I would love to read about it.


smitj777 said...

I received a satellite radio from my boss three years ago. I paid for three years of service up front. I only listened to it in the car, no home installation for me. The three years is up and I don't miss it. I have received several "Urgent" emails from the satellite company to hurry up and pay over $400 for another three years. $400...that can go to hockey equipment for my son. There are plenty of podcasts out there to fulfil the needs for just about everyone. And if you must spend the $14 a month on something, spend it on your favorite songs on iTunes rather than waiting for them to come on the dial on satellite radio.

Rev. Elihu Smails III said...

When I get to the point in my life when I can light cigars with burning wads of twenties, then maybe satellite radio will appear to be a good investment.