Tall Towers in Big Fields

55I worked for Clear Channel for five years. As best as I remember, not a meeting went by that John Hogan wouldn’t say “we’re not about tall towers in big fields anymore.” And as I watch radio companies all across America selling off their radio towers, I think that day has come to fruition.

Introducing the iPhone7

This week on September 7, 2016 the iPhone7 came out and the big news was that it eliminated the headphone jack. The radio industry was in shock. How would NextRadio be heard without the wire that connected the ear buds to the phone since that wire acts as the antenna to receive FM radio through a smartphone with the FM chip activated. Except Apple never activated the FM chip inside any iPhone.

PPM & the iPhone7

Then only two days later, Randy Kabrich published a concern that may be even more important to the radio industry, and that was, how would PPM* work with the new iPhone7? Randy posted this picture with his article iphone7-with-ppm and you really should read all that Randy has to say on the subject with his article on Tom Taylor’s NOW here.

Change is the Only Constant

Jim Carnegie, who founded Radio Business Reports, used to continuously preach to the radio industry you can’t hold back change. If you are to survive you must embrace change.

In the case of wireless headphones, the tipping point has been reached. More wireless headphones are now sold than wired ones. So I don’t think Apple was going out on a limb by eliminating a 19th century technology. I also fully suspect that AirPods will soon become the new “IN” thing.

What Should Radio Be Focused On?

MediaLife Magazine published a really interesting article on the seven important trends that radio should be focused on. You can read the article here. I will give you the “Reader’s Digest” version with some of my own thoughts.

The Future of Big Radio

Radio is best when it’s LIVE & LOCAL. The consolidation of radio has not been the successful business model that investors on Wall Street bought into. Of course the concept of “increasing shareholder value” and radio’s operating in the public interest, convenience and necessity were at odds with one another from day one. I would agree with MediaLife that radio’s future will be via locally managed radio operators.

The Future of Local Radio

Johnny Carson used to say: “If you buy the premise you buy the bit.” In this case if you believe in the demise of big radio, then you will also believe in the rise of local radio. I know right here in Kentucky many locally owned and operated radio stations that are fully engaged in every aspect of the lives of their listeners and they are thriving.

Radio Goes Digital

With radio company after radio company selling off their radio towers, the writing appears to be on the wall that all radio will be delivered digitally and via the internet. Gone will be towers and transmitters and FCC regulations, fees and fines.

Convergence of Media

I remember writing a paper on media convergence when I was in college. That was long before the concept of a world wide web. With the internet all media becomes identical. What difference is there between a newspaper, a radio station or a television station when each of them can do the same thing? What will separate them is the quality of their content.

NAB, NAA and IAB et al.

The coming convergence will really play havoc with media associations. When what once were separate and distinction constituencies will now also converge into a media association.

I remember being in Washington, DC when Senator Gordon Smith came on board at the NAB President. I shook his hand and asked him about the NAB inviting the satellite radio and internet radio operators into our big tent. I said better to have them with us than against us. He nodded and said that was certainly something to think about. (I think he may have just been being kind.)

Radio’s Opportunity

The History Channel did a program on the “100 Greatest Inventions” and number two on the list was RADIO. Number one was the smartphone. The smartphone really replaces many of our other devices. My digital camera lays somewhere gathering dust as my iPhone has been my digital camera since I got it. CD player, iPod etc, have been all replaced by my iPhone for playing my own music collection. My iPhone is my radio and TV too. Newspapers, magazines, books, are also easily accessible on my iPhone. I know I’m not alone in finding that their smartphone has become a very important part of their life. My iPhone is the model 4S. It’s ancient in the eyes of my students. That’s why the new iPhone7 with the 256GB storage, stereo sound, wireless AirPods, water resistant and all the rest has me thinking it’s time to upgrade.

For me, the big change is the size of the phone. I like the size of my 4S. It was just a bit smaller than the Blackberry Pearl it replaced, but the technology leap it offered over the Blackberry was incredible. I’m sure that the size thing is only in my perception and once I advance to the larger screen I will wonder how I lived without it.

No One Goes Backward

History shows that once people adopt something new, they never go back to the way it used to be. We may wax romantically about the good old days, but if we had to trade another time in history for life without our smartphones and wireless internet, I seriously doubt we could make the trade.


*PPM is a Nielsen’s Personal People Meter. It’s a device used to measure radio listening in the top 50 radio markets in the USA.

Note: Randy Kabrich blogs here: http://blog.kabrich.com/



Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales, Uncategorized

14 responses to “Tall Towers in Big Fields

  1. Another concise historical perspective. My NYC HS Reunion this weekend proved much: * Good friends keep trust & communication even without a sighting for years * We played as teammates and still have the chemistry * We’ve learned a lot, since and can put it together * Boomers will fix the fubar. * “remember How Dumb We Used to Be? Well, We’re Better Now” – Laurel & Hardy, circa 1940. You Are So Right, Again, Professor: It’s all about quality & content! And you can’t stand still. If we didn’t make an impression (or sale) in the last minute, it’s a missed opportunity; gone forever. Take what was, experienced, learned, is now, predictable trends and Imagine, Create, Curate, Produce, Present & Connect. Radio & All Audio Delivery remains relevant as long as people have ears. See you in Nashville, Katz. Clark http://www.broadcastideas.com

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Another good one Dick! I’ve owned my iPhone 6 for close to 2 years and I’ve don’t think I’ve ever used the headphone jack. I hate ear buds, as they hurt my ears, and used Bluetooth headphones listening to my music every day on my LIRR commute. I’m not one of those people who are constantly talking on their phone. I really don’t know who they find to talk to, but really my smart phone is a way to package lots of tools onto one small package. Phone, music player, note taker, camera, text message sender, etc. I’d rather have a larger battery than a device that is from the last century taking up space that could be better used. Oh, and for the FM Chip…IMHO, that is just another one of the straws that people who have no new ideas grasp at. I’m old enough to remember when AM Stereo was going to save AM radio. Instead, a former DJ named Rush Limbaugh revitalized the AM band, by doing radio that people wanted to listen to. It’s really not rocket science, just put on programs that people want to hear, and they will come. Really not anything new, unless you call creativity new, but then so much of today’s radio is lacking creativity, perhaps it will be the next new thing to “save radio”.


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hal Widsten

    A couple of comments on your always very interesting Blog, Dick.

    One of Radio’s secrets to survival is it’s coverage and ease of use. If wi-fi was as pervasive as Radio signals and as easy to use, we would be toast.

    Broadcasters sell towers because they need the money. Usually these days because they have a failing AM station with lots of towers and they can’t afford to fix it. Or, in the case of Cumulus, the land under the towers is worth more than the stations. Why they are selling FM towers is a mystery to me when the buyers of those towers will make a lot of money leasing space.

    As you know, cause you’ve done it, Radio is a management intensive hands-on business that requires local involvement. Agree heartily that local folks do it best, and there are some great owner/managers in Kentucky

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Just an observation

    Great post and observations. I noticed one trend overlooked in the Medialife article. I have noted that on CBC2 (Canadian radio) across all formats there is one consistent theme. Relationship Storytelling, that goes hand in hand on every CBC format. From classical to alternative music, every presenter has a enthusiastic and interesting music/artist related story. Using the earlier Rush Limbaugh observation, while many things, Rush is a master storyteller. Casey Kasem was another. As always, Radio is an intimate relationship building storyteller platform and is at its best, when it invokes this unique one on one practice. The smaller radio players understand this and when the majors collapse, the industry will get better.


  5. Bob

    I feel the pain. Most stations here in San Francisco and the bay area are owned by IHeart/Cumulus which do nothing but pump out syndicated shows. There really isn’t any originality anymore which is what I miss.
    I thought there was some type of regulation to prevent monopolization of radio stations if they own x% of the market. However, I think they should change that to if they own x% of the bay area that they serve.
    Thanks for the great article!


  6. FWIW, I’m of the opinion that Apple may be shooting themselves in the foot. Sure they’ve eliminated the headphone jack but they’ve done so on a phone that offers very little reason to buy it otherwise. There’s very little in way of substantial improvements over the 6 in the 7.

    Obviously we’ll see, but I could easily imagine a scenario where iPhone 7 sales are down so much that Apple caves and brings the headphone jack back in the iPhone 8.


    • You’re right if you’re talking about a year to year change. In my case, going from the 4 to the 7 represents a huge change. My 4 works FABULOUSLY and so I still am trying to justify the upgrade, but the 7 appears to offer enough features, plus a 256GB capacity that makes me seriously considering the change.

      Thanks for the thoughts Aaron.


      • I used to think I would always stick with my iPhone 4, it seemed the perfect size and weight… and I owned it, since my carrier used to give 20+ year customers a new phone every two.

        Then, all the apps required that you upgrade the iOS. And my poor iPhone 4 was obsolete.

        Now I lease on a “new iPhone for life!” plan. The 6 is larger and I wondered how I survived with the small iPhone 4. I’m looking forward to the new iPhone 7. Although I, too, am annoyed that it no longer has a built-in jack so I can plug it into my car aux jack.

        As for the FM tuner, who cares? I stream any station I want to listen to.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank You Steve for sharing your iPhone experiences. I’ve kept my iPhone4S up to date with all the latest iOS upgrades and it works perfectly. I’ve had no problems whatsoever. However, I think it will be time to upgrade as I begin the new year.

        I don’t use the headphone jack to connect in my car, but a wireless bluetooth connection so that’s not an issue there.

        My new MacBook Air came with a pair of wireless BEATS headphones. I wonder if they will work with the iPhone7? I suspect not. I didn’t buy the Air for the free headphones. They came as a surprise AFTER I had made my purchase decision. They DO sound good. $300 cans for free. What’s not to like?

        I own more radios than almost anyone but another radio geek and so I don’t need another device to pickup over-the-air radio signals. I own plenty.

        My students just stream whatever they want to hear. Many stream their hometown radio station I’ve learned. That’s something that they would not be able to hear over-the-air due to the distance from their hometown.

        Thank you for contributing to the thoughts.



  7. It’s pointless to leave a reply, because I have and if the submission even politely takes a different position, that reply never gets published. Perhaps this is unintentional, but in any case the more robust the comments the more interesting your website and your commentaries.


    • I let all comments that take a counter perspective be heard Mark, so I don’t know why you’re saying that.

      The only time I remember not approving a post was when the commenter was trying to sell something versus relay anything remotely associated with the topic or the blog.



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