Category Archives: Sales

Voice Cloning Technology

While I was traveling through Atlantic Canada in July, this news story broke in Radio World:

iHeartMedia’s plan to use Veritone’s voice-cloning technology for its podcast platform has some radio industry observers asking the obvious questions: How good does it sound and is broadcast radio far behind? 

The largest radio company in the United States says that for now, the synthetic voice solution will only be used to translate podcasts from English to other languages for use on the iHeartPodcast Network, first for Spanish-speaking audiences. But Veritone officials confirm its technology could someday be used for advertising to reduce time-to-market and production costs for radio.”

You can read the complete article here: https://www.radioworld.com/news-and-business/headlines/veritone-synthetic-voice-gets-an-audition

It reminded me of an article I wrote on this very subject in December 2021. I thought readers might find my article of more interest now that the deployment of this technology is happening at warp speed.

Is it Live, or is it Memorex?

I remember when the audio quality of tape recorders became so improved with audio reproduction, that the question of the day was, “Is it live or is it Memorex?” Memorex was a company established in 1961 for selling magnetic computer tapes. In the 70s Memorex moved into producing quality audio tape for recording music and voice.

TV commercials at that time featured Ella Fitzgerald singing a note that shattered a glass, while simultaneously being recorded on an audio cassette. The recorded audio would then be played back and the recording would also shatter a glass, to which the announcer would ask, “Is it live, or is it Memorex?”

Is AI Going to Replace Voicetracking?

Then Radio Ink published a story that got many of the people in my radio, podcasting and other social media groups talking about, titled “Is AI going to replace voicetracking?”

Voicetracking technology has been used to replace live radio personalities for decades, but what AI presents the industry with is the possible ability to bring back the big name radio personalities.

Dan Ingram, Larry Lujack, Robert W. Morgan, The Real Don Steele…

Imagine your radio market’s favorite radio personality returning to the airwaves. It’s not out of the realm of possibility.

A company called WellSaid Labs has created dozens of human voice avatars where all one needs to do to get them to talk, is type text into a computer and the voice will say it.

Imagine how having a creative person, who has studied the style of an iconic personality, and then creating new, contemporary material to be delivered in that personality’s voice might sound.

Netflix Research

Now you might be wondering why anyone would want this type of technology. Well, Netflix now streams content worldwide and buys new content from producers all over the world. Much of that content is produced in the country’s native language and so Netflix has to show that content with either subtitles or voice-dubbing the dialog with voice actors speaking in the language of the country the material will air in.

It might not surprise you to learn that when Netflix has offered viewers two ways of viewing  a program, Americans in particular, prefer voice-dubbing to subtitles. (I know I do.)

To speed up the process of voice-dubbing and to have voices that sound the same as the original actors, companies like WellSaid are developing artificial intelligence technology that by voice sampling can then re-create the voice automatically.

ALEXA

I already have conversations with Alexa and have wondered what she might sound like as a DJ on a radio station, haven’t you?

The afternoon DJ on KCSN, Andy Chanley, has been on-the-air there for over 32 years. Now using a robot DJ named ANDY (Artificial Neural Disk-Jockey), Chanley’s voice will continue to be heard in many places throughout Southern California. During a demonstration for Reuters, reporters say that Chanley’s AI voice was hard to distinguish from his human voice.

You can listen to these computer generated voices WellSaid has created for yourself by clicking on this link: https://wellsaidlabs.com/?#actors-preview-list

Is Your Favorite DJ Already a Robot?

WellSaid says its voice avatars are doing more than just DJ work, they are being used extensively in corporate training material and the creation of audio books.

Do I think I will live to see radio’s great personalities coming back to life? No, because I think there will be too many legal issues that might complicate that from happening anytime soon.

But I do think that original voice avatars, teamed up with creative content developers, might just come into existence sooner than we imagine and provide us with an entirely new form of radio entertainment.

(This article was originally published on December 19, 2021)

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Where Have All the People Gone?

It’s almost hard to believe, in an economy where employers are finding it difficult to hire and retain employees, that the radio industry continues to eliminate people.

iHeart Initiates Round of Cuts

Lance Venta of RadioInsight broke the news on Wednesday, June 8th about iHeart doing a new countrywide Reduction In Force (RIFs). On Friday evening, as I scrolled down my screen, Lance updated his initial report with locations of where some of the known cuts had taken place. Boston, Chicago, Des Moines, Jacksonville, New Hampshire and Tampa.

Reading the names of the people cut, I couldn’t help but notice they have been in their positions for decades, with titles like Senior Vice President of Programming and member of the National Programming Team. We’re talking some very senior level people with tenured radio careers.

Main Studio Rule Eliminated

It was back in October of 2017 that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to eliminate the Main Studio Rule, a provision that had been in place since 1934, and allowed radio owners to no longer maintain a main studio within its principal community contour. In other words, there’s no one home at your local radio station.

Lance speculated that in the future, we would see much leaner broadcast facilities. Welcome to that future.

Public Interest, Convenience and Necessity

The case broadcasters make for Over-The-Air AM/FM radio is that in times of emergencies, staying on the air is what makes radio an essential resource. They like to point out that other forms of communication, like satellite dishes, cell towers and microwave relays do not.

Ironically, without having a main studio in the affected area, broadcasters use satellite dishes, cellular communications and microwaves to feed local transmitters, often from hundreds of miles away from where a natural disaster is occurring.

Broadcasters have abandoned local staff being on the ground in their FCC licensed service area and with it, the vital connections with local emergency management officials.

Efficiently Eliminating Radio’s Advantage

Radio is a people business.

When I started in radio back in 1968, every radio station was a beehive of professionals dedicated to being the best they could be.

As an example, CKLW, a stand-alone AM radio station in the Detroit metro, had twenty-three people just in their news department.

Was radio efficient back then? No.

Was radio effective? YES!

Did radio make money? Tons of it!

Radio’s advantage has always been the people who make the magic happen.

Sadly, radio today operates in an “efficiency bubble,” where efficiency is valued over effectiveness.

Efficient radio chases away listeners.

Effective radio creates them.

The pursuit of efficiency is a rational answer to an emotional problem.

The radio business was never built on Excel spreadsheets and doing what was most efficient, it was built by creative people who touched others emotionally. Be it station imaging, air personalities, promotions, contests, community events, advertising or marketing, radio always went for people’s hearts.

Radio is successful when it delivers a sense of community and companionship to the listener.

Show me a successful radio station in 2022 and I will show you one that continues to foster emotions in their listeners and advertisers.

Radio done correctly still wins.

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What Comes First? Radio Job or College Degree?

The reason I write my blog is to stimulate discussion about what radio needs to be doing to not just survive, but thrive in the 21st Century. If things weren’t hot enough after I published last week’s blog article, “No College Degree Required,” they got even hotter after Fred Jacobs expanded on my thoughts in his Monday blog article titled: “Want To Succeed In Radio? Get That Degree.” Let’s hope all the discussion that occurred on both of our blogs and on social media leads our industry’s leaders to make some meaningful changes.

How I Got Into Professional Radio

Just about everyone my age (69) who got into the radio business, did so while still in high school. For me, the entrance door was via Junior Achievement. JA was just beginning to experiment with the idea of having service companies. The Junior Achievement program was created to help high school students understand the principles of running a business by selling stock ($1), forming a company, deciding on what product to make, making that product, selling that product and then liquidating the company and returning (hopefully) a monetary value greater than the $1 invested by the stockholders; all during a single school year.

One of the local radio stations in my town, came to my 10th grade high school assembly and made a presentation about forming a JA Radio Company. I set my sights on being in it, and made the cut. One of my best friends also made the cut and has retired from a very successful radio and voice-over career of 50 years.

My College Years

I was the GM of my college’s carrier current AM radio station and worked to secure an educational FM license before graduating. WJJW remains on the air to this day at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

I was a commuter student with no student loans, but back in 1970, such a thing was more the norm than the exception. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, during the 1970-71 academic year, the average in-state tuition and fees for one year at a public non-profit university was $394. By the 2020-21 academic year, that amount jumped to $10,560, an increase of 2,580%.

How Other Industries Treat College & Their Best Employees

In other industries, it’s not uncommon for companies to actually pay for their best employees to earn their college degrees in order to further their advancement. I know a person that learned his computer skills in the military and works for a military contractor in DC. He’s been working with the highest level of military leaders at the Pentagon as well as with members of Congress. After 17 years of constant achievement, his company is paying for him to complete his college degree. He currently maintains a 4.0 GPA.

His degree, ironically, won’t even be in the area that he works in, but in an area that gives him passion outside of his job.

Just-In-Time-Learning

The point of my article wasn’t to dis getting a college education, but for our radio industry to begin recruitment and training at the high school level. Radio needs to be a way for talented individuals to be exposed to what a wonderful business radio is, and have a way to enter without being screened out by a computer algorithm looking for a college degree. (You can’t see talent on a spreadsheet.)

Clear Channel used to run a wonderful training program called Clear Channel University. It succumbed to one of the many rounds of budget cuts.

The RAB’s Radio Talent Institute is an excellent program and my point was it should be run in the high schools across America.

Companies interested in retaining and growing their best employees should be making higher education opportunities a company benefit, what I like to call “just-in-time-learning.”

When the NAB offered a Sales Management Program through the Wharton School, I paid my own way and went. I already had an undergraduate degree from a four year college and a master’s degree from a university, but I never had the specific training that this program offered for the job I had been promoted into.

The owner of the radio stations I worked for at the time, provided a lot of training for its people. We attended the annual Managing Sales Conference hosted by the RAB. I earned my CRMC, Diamond CRMC and CDMC from the Radio Advertising Bureau.

I always told my college students that their degree wasn’t the end of their learning, but the launchpad to a life of learning. Every year of your life, learn something new, experience something new, grow your knowledge in life.

Think about what you can add to your resume that will make you a more valuable person to your company, your family and yourself.

Not Every Job Is For Every Person, Regardless of Their College Degrees

A comment made by Tom Langmyer said it best; that at the core, it all comes down to the person. Having a PhD doesn’t equal a great air personality or salesperson.

The hardest part is expecting the same result when sending 10 people to university for Broadcasting/Media. So much is about the person.

Success on the content and sales side relies so much more upon the candidate’s personality, makeup, drive, ambition, chemistry, life experiences, ability to engage and activate people, etc.

Those are attributes which additional education can enhance, but if one does’t have those natural abilities, anything including a PhD in broadcast media, is worthless.

-Tom Langmyer

My success as a GM in hiring was to first hire for attitude and then train the person for the job that needs to be done.

When the raw talent at affordable prices is sitting in high school classrooms today, why is the radio industry waiting till college to begin recruiting?

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No College Degree Required

The other day when I went to my mailbox, I noticed a rather large piece of “junk mail” from a local HVAC company.

It said:

We’re Hiring!

Start a Rewarding Career with [business name]

Attention: High School Grads

HVAC is a Great Career Option! No Student Debt!

Great pay, hours and benefits!

Which got me to thinking about all the radio help wanted ads saying you need to have a college degree to apply. Why does the radio industry list having a college degree as a requirement, when the truth is, great radio broadcasters haven’t had one, nor did they need one.

Cost of a College Degree in 2022

According to Educational Data, when you consider student loan interest and loss of income, the cost of a four-year college degree can exceed $400,000.

It’s not unusual for a college grad to learn the starting pay in radio is often as low as $19,500/year ($9.36/hour) for on-air positions and sales positions are 100% commission based.

Start a job with Walmart with no college degree and you’ll make $12/hour. Get that same job at Target and you’ll start at $15/hour. At McDonalds the starting pay range at company owned stores is between $11 and $17/hour.

Virtually every job in today’s world will pay you more than most radio positions, and yet radio ads always require you to have a college degree while those other companies don’t.

Radio Talent Institute

I worked with Dan Vallie and his Radio Talent Institute at Western Kentucky University. It’s an excellent program, now operated by the Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB). Sadly, it’s offered as a summer program to students in colleges across America. I contend that the RAB should be offering this program in the high schools.

For all of the same reasons, one of my local HVAC companies is appealing to high school grads, this also makes sense for the radio industry.

Famous Broadcasters

Oprah Winfrey didn’t need to have a college degree to become one of the most successful women in broadcasting. She dropped out of college after only one semester to pursue a career in broadcasting.

In 2015, Forbes published the salaries of the top five radio broadcasters in America.

Glenn Beck earned $16.5 Million in 2015. Not bad for a Sehome High School graduate with no college experience.

Sean Hannity earned $29 Million and never obtained a college degree, even though he attended four different colleges.

Ryan Seacrest earned $65 Million. Like me, Ryan started his radio career at 16 while still in high school. Unlike me, who went to college and graduate school earning two degrees, Ryan dropped out of college to devote all of his energies to broadcasting. Needless to say, he’s really famous and I write this blog.

Rush Limbaugh earned $77 Million and dropped out of college after only two semesters. His mother said at the time that Rush “flunked everything…he just didn’t seem interested in anything except radio.”

The top earning radio personality was Howard Stern. Howard IS a college graduate, with a 3.8 Grade Point Average (GPA) from Boston University, earning $95 Million in 2015.

Now, if I was trying to sell you on the value of a college degree in broadcasting and compared Howard Stern to the other four on Forbes 2015 list, I would say that having a college degree can earn you 23% to 76% more money than not having that piece of paper.

College Degrees

Please don’t think I’m dissing the college experience, I’m not. What I am taking issue with is the hiring practices of the radio industry that make having a college degree a requirement. Radio is better positioned as a trade, one best learned by doing.

The radio industry should be presenting a broadcast career as an opportunity for students graduating from high school.

I treasure my four decade radio broadcasting career, but having my Bachelor of Arts and Master of Science college degrees never played a role.

It wasn’t until I pursued my second career in life, that of a college broadcast professor, that I would need those two pieces of paper to be hired at The School of Broadcasting and Journalism at Western Kentucky University.

Colleges sell pieces of paper representing knowledge learned. You can’t be part of the faculty unless you have also earned these benchmarks in higher education.

Finally, just as adamant as I am about the radio industry starting its outreach at the high school level, I am just as determined to see colleges hiring broadcast professionals based on their broadcast careers, knowledge that has been earned through years of on-the-job experience that no college curriculum can duplicate. Sadly, most colleges screen out any applicant that doesn’t have the required terminal degrees.

“Difficulties come into our lives to develop us.

Every storm is a school.

Every trial is a teacher.

Every experience is an education.”

— Nicky Gumbel.

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Memorial Day Weekend 2022 Road Trips

This past Memorial Day Weekend, AAA (American Automobile Association) predicted that more than 39.2 million Americans took to the road, traveling more than fifty miles to be with family and friends. It was the heaviest holiday traffic in two years and was due to pent-up demand by people trying to get back to the way things used to be before the global pandemic. Even record-high gas prices at the pump weren’t a deterrent.

What Did All Those People Listen To?

A publication I read every day, called Morning Brew, thought it might be fun to survey their four million readers as to what they planned to listen to on their drive. Here’s how they put the question to their readers:

You get handed the Aux (Auxiliary Input) during a long road trip.

What kind of audio are you putting on?

Morning Brew found they could distill the answers given down to five different options. Here are the results:

  1. Curated playlist: 54%
  2. Podcasts: 20%
  3. Audio Books: 12%
  4. No Aux needed – road trips are for the local radio stations: 10%
  5. Nothing, I prefer to ride in silence: 4%

AM/FM Radio

Two things about these results I found interesting: the first was obviously the fact that broadcast radio was not the first, second or third choice for what to listen to when taking a long road trip.

Second, streaming audio wasn’t even a choice, in spite of the fact that these days many radio stations are beginning to focus on their streams due of the growth of smart speakers in the home.

If misery loves company, satellite radio wasn’t mentioned by Morning Brew’s four million readers either, it appears.

“The first step in exceeding your customer’s expectations

is to know those expectations.”

-Roy H. Williams

Radio & the Car

For years, I sold advertising telling people that cars were nothing more than radios on four wheels. Since the 1930s, cars and radio have been like peanut butter and jelly for pairing well together.

While a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is still #1 with sandwich eaters, car radio listening is not with audio listeners.

Radio reaches 73% of people in the car

and remains the #1 source for car audio listening.

– Statista Research 2022

Over the last five years, car radio listening, as measured by Statista has decreased 9%, while people playing their own digital music in the car has gone up 8%, and listening to podcasts has gone up 9%. Satellite radio listening over that same period is basically stagnant. (As a point of reference, back in the 70s & 80s car radio listening was around 93%.)

Statista’s latest research and Morning Brew’s reader survey are sadly telling the same story to any radio broadcaster willing to listen.

The reality is that people today have more control over what they can listen to when riding in their car.

Radio is Show Business

The challenge for broadcast radio is to figure out how to increase the value of the show that attracts and engages listeners while decreasing the obnoxiousness of the business part that pays all the bills.

Like a tightrope walker, it’s a very delicate balancing act.

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Why Are We So Fickle About Change?

When change doesn’t happen – or happen fast enough, we get agitated. However, when change finally comes, we often aren’t happy with the changes it brings.

One of the hardest aspects about change is that no matter how passionate we are about it, we need to accept that others will not embrace it. Not every change is for everyone, some people will embrace it, some people will tolerate it, some people will rebel against it and some people will leave to pursue a different journey.

Radio & Change

I’ve been writing this weekly blog for eight years and my readers often fall into two camps: those that agree with what I write and those who disagree. Often those who disagree with the changes that are happening to the radio industry, label me as “Chicken Little,” the character in the John Greene Chandler children’s short story written in 1840, who proclaimed the sky was falling.

To be a Chicken Little, however, you must warn of a calamity without justification. Clearly, the data presented by multiple researchers of media tell us the warnings are indeed justified.

The moral of the Chicken Little story is to have courage, and keep your eyes open even when it feels like the sky is falling.

Convincing the Unconvinced

It’s human nature to try to convince those who disagree with us, to our way of thinking. Sadly, trying to do that is almost always a mistake. What you will succeed in doing is often offending their dignity.

I don’t mind people who disagree with me. It lets me know that I’m not just “preaching to the choir,” but that I am also mixing it up with the “heathens.” It’s those people who challenge what I write that make me think harder, do more research and more fully develop my thoughts. To those people, I owe a debt of gratitude.

Instead of Arguing Against an Idea, Argue For It

In 1896, the Supreme Court codified the doctrine of separate but equal into constitutional law. It meant that individual states could decide if they wanted to discriminate against black Americans.

As you might imagine, people were up in arms over this SCOTUS decision, calling it fundamentally unjust. The Plessy v. Ferguson decision cemented racial segregation in America for another fifty years.

But a lawyer named Charles Hamilton Houston saw it differently. Houston set out to use his opponent’s evil idea for good.

Houston didn’t argue against “separate but equal,” but for it.

He used it to argue that when the University of Missouri law school refused admission to a black student that under the “separate but equal” doctrine, Missouri must establish another law school for black students. Something that would be unaffordably expensive.

A law that was designed to prevent black Americans from common resources, like drinking fountains, elementary schools and restrooms, now when applied to a rare resource like a graduate law school, was the beginning of the unraveling of the “separate but equal” doctrine.

In 1954, the Supreme Court unanimously overruled “separate but equal” with their Brown v. the Board of Education decision.

Applying This Concept to Radio

We need to listen to the people who no longer love radio, and not argue with them about why they should be listening.

If we listen to them, really listen to them, they will show us how to win them back. Charles Hamilton Houston didn’t argue with the “separate but equal” doctrine, he leveraged it to not only end that doctrine but also to take down America’s Jim Crow laws right along with it.

The radio industry needs to stop arguing with people and research data that it doesn’t like, but rather start using that information to build the foundation for action that delivers the very things radio needs to do to win its audiences and advertisers back.

We change the world by learning to see it differently.

My weekly blogs aren’t written to make a point, but to make a difference.

Believe that you can and you’re halfway there.

-Theodore Roosevelt

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Great Radio Starts in the Station’s Hallways

Once upon a time, a radio station had a team of people fully focused and dedicated to a single radio signal. Think of the incredible radio stations you listened to in your youth: WABC, WKBW, WRKO, WLS, WPRO, WDRC, KHJ, KFRC, CKLW, etc. These were standalone radio stations with dedicated staffs that numbered ten or more times larger than today’s radio clusters, which are made up of 4 or more stations.

WBEC

When I was on-the-air and in programming/operations for AM1420-WBEC, it was the only radio station I was concerned about. When the owner added an FM signal to our operation, he hired a dedicated air staff and programmer to oversee this new signal.

In my car, in my home, in my office, you could here WBEC playing. I remember the programmer of our new FM station grousing that his station was not being heard anywhere in the building but his own radio studio.

WUPE/WUHN

When I moved into sales at Whoopee Radio, our programming was simulcast on both our AM and FM signals. When ownership decided to split the AM and FM into separate formats, I was promoted to general manager of the AM station and went about hiring air personalities and a sales staff for our new Radio One – WUHN. Only our broadcast engineer and office staff would be shared by both operations.

On my side of the building all you heard playing was WUHN and on the other side it was WUPE.

KOEL AM/FM, KCRR & KKCV

When I got to Iowa as Market Manager of a four station cluster, the sound of any one of the radio stations playing was hit and miss in the common areas, but each station had its own dedicated staff, completely focused on their operation. Again, only office and engineering staff were shared.

Radio Clusters in 2022

People wonder why Christian Radio and Public Radio stations are often the most successful radio operations in markets across America. I don’t wonder. What I see are radio operations that hearken back to the way I started in radio, an entire staff, 100% focused on a single radio station.

In these radio stations, the programming can be heard in the hallways, bathrooms and coming out of every office.

In my Capstone Class at the university, I would take my students to see how different radio and TV stations operated in the area. The differences in equipment, staffing, and facilities were always enlightening. Everyone in these stations could be seen jumping from one station to another, many had programs they hosted on more than one signal.

What never ceased to amaze me however, was when you went into our local public radio station or our local Christian radio station, the energy was palpable. Everyone in these radio stations were dedicated to the mission of the station. They didn’t just broadcast their formats, they lived and breathed them.

Culture always changes in the hallways,

before it changes out the speakers.

-John Frost

When John Frost asked in his weekly blog, “if your radio station went off the air, would anyone care,” it got me to thinking about what makes for a successful operation. Be it a business, sports team, or even a radio station, if you don’t have that spirit of a shared mission with a defined goal that everyone’s working towards, you won’t ever be a success.

Radio broadcasting is an emotional art form. If you don’t feel that emotion in the hallways of your operation, you’ve entered a radio station that is dying.

Radio is not dead, but many radio stations are on life support.

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Radio’s Leaking Listeners

The results of Techsurvey 2022* was presented in a webinar this week and two things about the latest data and the trend lines of the last five years struck me.

“We have met the enemy and it is us.”

-Pogo

Walt Kelly coined that phrase in a poster he made for an anti-pollution poster for the first Earth Day in 1970. He would later repeat it in a comic strip he created for the second Earth Day in 1971.

Sadly, the similarities between what needs to be done to preserve our planet and the radio industry are striking. We all know what the answer is, but aren’t applying the solution.

Personalities

Jacobs pointed out that “over the past four surveys, broadcast radio personalities have stayed ahead of the music as a key attribute of the medium.”

Yet, the big radio owners have done more to eliminate the very advantage broadcast radio has over its many audio competitors. Worse, our industry has no plan to create a farm team of new broadcasters that will replace personalities that are retiring or have retired.

Instead radio has tried to compete in areas where, at best, it’s a distant second; like music discovery.

Besides Personalities Radio’s Positives are Under Attack

Radio, we are told is easiest to listen to in the car. Unfortunately, when a person buys a new car, they learn SiriusXM is just as easy to access. Plus now everything on their smartphone easily connects to their dashboard. In fact, Fred Jacobs points out that in Techsurvey 2022 the feature most wanted in a new car is Bluetooth (76%) followed by an FM radio (70%) and having a smartphone connector or auxiliary input (57%).

My first blog article of 2022 told how even with older cars, like our 2009 Honda and 2006 Subaru how easy it was to make them connected cars. You can read that article here. https://dicktaylorblog.com/2022/01/09/why-i-stream-all-my-radio-listening/

It doesn’t take a Mensa to realize that this is another hole in the radio listening bucket.

Radio is “free,” with the tradeoff being forced to listened to very long commercial breaks, which radio listeners say is the thing they most dislike about listening to broadcast radio.

Radio’s covenant with its listeners was, you give us your attention to our advertisers, and we will entertain and inform you. Sadly, radio owners kept adding more commercials to each hour while eliminating the very programming elements that attracted listeners.

There’s nothing wrong with advertising, that is when it is in balance with programming content sought by the user. Podcasts understand this and enjoy increasing listening with advertisers seeing a positive benefit from sponsoring them.

Trends

No one called Paul Revere’s warning that the British were coming as being negative, and neither should anyone who cares about the radio broadcasting industry call those who are trying to promote positive change, “negative.”

Techsurvey 2022 should be a wake-up call to radio people with trends that show eight in ten people that can now connect a smartphone in their cars. Those who own a car with a “connected system” now spend the majority of the in-car time with digital audio or SiriusXM.

The car is the last beachhead that broadcast radio has left, and it is under Sirius attack.

SiriusXM

Techsurvey 2022, like all the surveys that have been done before, use as their database, fans of radio broadcasting. They are the core of our industry and so when we see these folks leaving us for other forms of media, it’s like seeing the canary in the coal mine lying on the floor of its cage.

One of the reasons given by people who still listen to broadcast radio, as to why they continue to listen is, it’s become a habit. When a person buys a new connected car and gets SiriusXM to listen to for free, what is happening is that a new habit is being formed. Not only do they now have access to a myriad of content options, but often their favorite radio personality might be rediscovered hosting one of the music channels.

During the pandemic, SiriusXM removed the paywall for their App as well as listening on a smart speaker, both of which had been available for an extra charge. What Fred Jacobs showed on his webinar was how this positively impacted listening at home, at work and other places for the satellite provider. The habit of listening to SiriusXM was now something that could be done everywhere, and that should keep any radio broadcaster awake at night.

The tipping point is that magic moment

when an idea, trend, or social behavior

crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.

-Malcolm Gladwell

I fear we are at the tipping point.

*Watch the full presentation of Fred Jacobs webinar on Techsurvey 2022 here: https://jacobsmedia.com/techsurvey-2022-results/  

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What Business is RADIO In?

This question was last asked at the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) Show in 2019, before a two year shutdown of the world due to a global pandemic. I don’t remember what answer they came up with back then, but no one foresaw the changes that COVID-19 would bring into our lives.

The question was visited again in one of the opening sessions at this year’s NAB Show in Las Vegas and the answer can be boiled down to two words, “very different.”

New Media Behaviors

COVID changed the nature of how people do their jobs, and this got me thinking how my own life changed with my retirement.

From my high school days in the 60s until 2010, I worked six to seven days a week in the radio industry. If I wasn’t listening to my own radio stations, I was listening to the competition.

In 2010, I transitioned into my second career as a college broadcast professor, teaching the process and effects of mediated communications, the history of broadcasting, broadcast sales, on-air radio production and the program’s Capstone management course.

My radio listening was mainly in my car, as my college building wasn’t conducive to receiving over-the-air radio signals, so when I was working in my office I streamed smooth jazz from my iPad to the aux input on my radio.

When I retired from my second career, got married and moved to Virginia, my radio habits would change again, as well as my television habits. Now all of my media would be accessed via streaming on the internet.

The Future of Work Impacts the Future of Radio

Without evening thinking about it, as the nature of my work changed, my media habits were greatly impacted by those changes.

Looking at the future of radio, new studies done by CivicScience really opened my eyes. Their studies have found that 44% of people who listen to radio have changed their habits over the past 12 months.

People are now listening to more audio content via internet streaming, they’re listening at different times of the day, their consumption of podcasts have increased, and while 20% say they are listening more often, a whopping 34% say they are listening less often.

Listening More or Listening Less

When CivicScience looked deeper into the reason people are listening less to radio, they found that the location of where people worked played a big role. Of the 51% that said they listened to radio less, they also were part of the group that was working remotely (i.e. from home) or were unemployed.

Since so much of today’s radio consumption occurs in the vehicle, people who work from home are spending less time in their cars and therefore less time listening to radio.

Post-Pandemic Work Choices

When CivicScience asked people what their future work preferences were after COVID, only 24% said they wanted to return to their office full-time. 37% wanted to work from home full-time and 40% said a mix of in office and at home would be their preference going forward.

These findings present radio operators with a real dilemma. The radio industry depends on a working age population all moving to and from work at the same time, hence the reason that both morning and after drive radio time sales have always commanded more dollars than middays, nights, overnights and weekends.

Moreover, people who stream their audio content are the people who prefer to either work entirely from home or have some kind of hybrid office/work-from-home situation. They represent 75% of the workforce in this study.

Global Supply Chain Disruptions

The global pandemic and the war in Ukraine have caused major disruptions to the global supply chain. For example, GM announced they would be having a two week shutdown at its plant in Fort Wayne, Indiana (it produces the popular Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks) due to a shortage of computer chips. While Russia and Ukraine don’t produce any of the computer chips that are in such short supply, Ukraine is the world’s leading supplier of neon, a gas used in the production of computer chips.

Company business models work on the premise that resources of materials and goods move freely across geography. Both COVID and a war have totally disrupted the way the world was operating. Long term, we will adapt, but the immediate future won’t be pretty.

Now, take this one example and apply it to virtually every area of our lives and you can see how complex things have become.

An Ecosystem-Driven World

Radio used to be such an easy business, just beat the other radio station in town and steal as many advertising dollars from the local newspaper as possible.

Every radio station was like its own little fiefdom, but now in 2022 every radio station is part of a very large media ecosystem and the competitive advantage is no longer how efficient you can run your operation but how connected you are to your listeners on all devices and via all platforms; connections that go far beyond your FCC license to operate an AM or FM radio service to your local community.

For me, Apple is not my iPhone, iPad, MacBook Air, Mac or Apple TV, it’s the ecosystem that all of my devices operate on. For me, that’s what is most important.

What makes our ecosystem-drive world so hard to navigate is that everything is in a continuous state of flux. This makes our deciding what we should pursue unclear, and whether other media properties are opponents or an ally.

“Competitive Advantage” is no longer the sum of all efficiencies, but the sum of all connections.

  Strategy, therefore, must be focused on deepening and widening

networks of information, talent, partners and consumers.

-Greg Satell

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Subscription Media

The inspiration for this week’s article came from a blog written by Fred Jacobs titled “When will ‘Netflixification’ Come To Radio?” Fred’s article revolved around Netflix’s innovation of a subscription model for its entertainment offerings, which got me to thinking about when the subscription business model for media began.

The Subscription Model

We would have to journey back to the 17th century to find the earliest records of book and periodical publishers pioneering a subscription business model for print media.

The subscription business model is one where the customer

pays a recurring price

at regular intervals to access a product of service.

Most recently, Apple is said to be working on a subscription model for its hardware; iPhones, iPads, computers etc. Why? Well customers are good, but it turns out that subscribers are even better. Emarsys’s Chris Gooderidge writes that over the last nine years, “the subscription economy has grown nearly 6x (more than 435%),” with subscription businesses growing five to eight times faster than those with a traditional business model. The two years the world closed down due to COVID only served to accelerate companies’ and consumers’ digital transformation.

On Demand & Subscriptions

What most of us want, as consumers, is convenience. We want what we want, when we want it. The subscription business model fulfills this desire. It enables us to listen to music or play games, as well as watch TV shows and movies.  

The more customers gain a taste

of truly personalized repeat services,

tailored specifically to them…

they won’t want to go back to what they had before.

-Chris Gooderidge

Subscription Radio

In 1923, in Dundee, Michigan, an early radio entrepreneur offered subscribers a wired radio system, that would provide radio programs from several radio stations for $1.50 a month; which would be $24.75/month in 2022. While it didn’t succeed, it was the precursor to what later would become the cable television industry.

Subscription Television (STV)

Back in the 60s, over-the-air television experimented with a subscription model. Companies in Connecticut and California each found themselves in court with theater owners when they developed a subscription business model that offered recent movies to be viewed in the home. The battle in Hartford, Connecticut made it all the way to the Supreme Court.

In the end, the pay television model was taken over by cable television, which learned in addition to providing a community antenna to receive distant broadcast television signals, could also create original programming. These new program channels could be offered on a subscription basis, like CNN, ESPN, The Weather Channel etc.

Is a Subscription-Based Business Model Right for You?

Like most questions along these lines, the answer is: it depends.

The subscription model is dependent on products and services that have a high perceived value to the consumer. (Note: things offered for “FREE” often don’t have a high perceived value)

On the blog, Billing Platform, they list four common successful subscription based business models:

  1. Consumables and Retail Models in Subscription Billing: companies like Dollar Shave Club and Blue Apron
  2. As-a-Service Subscription Billing Models: companies like Microsoft with their Office 365 and Dropbox
  3. Digital Entertainment Subscription Billing Models: companies like Netflix, Disney+, Apple TV+, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Peacock etc for video and Spotify, Pandora, Radio Tunes etc for audio
  4.  Maintenance and Repair Subscription Billing Models: companies like landscaping, pest control, heating & cooling, as well as other common maintenance needs

Peak Subscription

Which brings us to the million dollar question, when do we max out on all of these monthly/annual subscriptions? When do we reach, “peak subscription;” that light-bulb moment when we realize we need to start eliminating some of these expenses.

It was that very question that finally got me to sit down and review our monthly household subscriptions and total things up. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do anyway, but Fred’s blog was the spark that put me in action.

Here’s our entertainment subscription list:

  • Amazon Prime
  • Frndly TV
  • Netflix
  • Disney+
  • Apple TV+
  • Washington Post
  • Time Magazine
  • The Atlantic
  • Consumer Reports
  • Radio Tunes
  • Pandora Premium
  • Sling TV

Now, to make most of these digital entertainment subscriptions work, we need to subscribe to an internet service and since we use many of these services on our iPhones, we also need to add in our monthly call/text/data plan too.

Our monthly cost is $228 or $2,736 annually.

Fred reveals that in the upcoming Techsurvey 2022, two-thirds of the people in his survey now agree with the statement, “I am concerned about the growing number of subscription fees I’m paying for media content.”

I urge you to sit down with your bills and do an audit of your household’s entertainments subscription expenses. If you are like us, you didn’t subscribe to all of them at the same time, but added them one-by-one over a period of years.

Sophie’s Choice

The problem for all of us, comes to making a “Sophie’s Choice” of our media subscriptions. We love them all and trying to decide which ones to eliminate is NOT an easy decision.

What one learns when they are faced with this decision is that we are “happily hooked” on all of them.

Commercial radio and TV operators also need to realize as the subscription economy for entertainment continues to grow, the number of hours in a person’s day is finite, and our time with subscription media means little is left over for OTA radio/TV.

People will spend their time, on those media services

they spend their money with.

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