Spending the 4th of July in the Berkshires

tanglewood_at_dusk_photo_credit_stu_rosner_1_1It’s a 4th of July tradition in The Berkshires.

Picnicking on the grass outside the Music Shed at Tanglewood, listening to James Taylor.

James Taylor

Enjoy celebrating our Nation’s birthday safely with family & friends.

See you next week with a brand new article about how “Radio is the Load Bearing Wall of Audio Media.”

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Vacation Time

Cape Cod

A little R&R in Old Cape Cod.

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The Importance of Free Speech

Tom Taylor NJBAI had the honor this past week to attend the 71st Annual New Jersey Broadcasters Association (NJBA) Conference and Gala held at the Tropicana Resort and Casino on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City.

I plan to share more information about this East Coast NAB style event in a future blog, but today I want to focus on something Tom Taylor said that I feel is critically important for all broadcasters to hear.

Tom Taylor Receives Lifetime Achievement Award by NJBA

I’m sure, like me, you are still experiencing some “Tom Taylor Now” withdrawal since the time Tom announced his retirement in December of 2018 and his daily coverage of the radio industry ceased publication. For anyone who’s lived around the Philadelphia area, Tom’s style was akin to that of Channel 6’s Action News. You got all the news you needed to know, delivered in an easy to digest style, sometimes accompanied by a sense of humor.TT NOW

NJBA President/CEO Paul Rotella and his Board of Directors’ selection of Tom Taylor for his 31-year run as a radio trade journalist was well deserved.

How It All Began

Tom was the son of a radio broadcaster. He was born in North Carolina and started at a radio station where his dad once worked.

Tom moved to New Jersey over 40 years ago to program the heritage WPST in Princeton, New Jersey and he has lived in the Garden State ever since.

Tom left WPST after 12 years with the title of Station Manager and Vice President of Programming for Nassau Broadcasting to begin a career in radio trade journalism. First for Kal Rudman’s Friday Morning Quarterback (FMQB) and then to Jerry Del Colliano’s Inside Radio, both based in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

For the last six years of Tom’s radio trade journalism career, he rejoined Robert Unmacht and Kristy Scott to form RTK Media and publish Tom Taylor NOW – Radio’s Daily Management Newsletter. That publication ended on Friday, December 28, 2018 with Tom writing his “Final sign-off for the daily Tom Taylor NOW Newsletter.”

Tom’s “One Quick Word About Journalism”

In his acceptance speech, Tom said something I believe all broadcasters should hear about the importance of journalism in today’s world and the role of radio/TV operators in carrying out our responsibility to the communities we are licensed to serve. Here’s what Tom said:

“I spent 31 years as a New Jersey-based trade journalist. During that time, no boss or business partner ever said ‘Don’t do that story, because it will make somebody mad.’ Or, ‘be nice to so-and-so.’ More than ever, we need to support good journalism. And as local broadcasters, the responsibility is especially on us, because people look up to us – or down to us – as ‘the media.’ We’re really in the crucible.

This is something I said at the opening session of the recent NAB Show in Las Vegas – Regardless of your politics, does anyone in this room really believe that journalists are the enemy of the people?

Mark Twain said this – ‘Free speech is the cornerstone of every right we have.’

Let’s not forget that – or why we became broadcasters in the first place.

There’s an old joke, where the guy says ‘I wanted to be on the radio when I grew up. But then, I was told I couldn’t do both.’ On the inside, part of us is still a little kid, and that’s probably a good thing. But the rest of who we are is… (are) grownups who have a responsibility to the community. As long as we remember that, we should have listeners (and podcast users, and video consumers, and social media fans).

Here’s the other thing I said at the NAB Show – Plan well. Try new things. And adopt some extra confidence and pass that along to the folks who work for you. It’s contagious. And as you go home from Atlantic City – keep having fun with broadcasting. Because I believe, and I’ll bet you believe, that it’s still magic.”

Thank You Tom

Tom Taylor is still an inspiration to broadcasters everywhere and I’m grateful for this friendship that has spanned over 35 years since moving to Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1984 and becoming a member of the NJBA.Sharan & Tom Taylor

You and your lovely wife Sharan, have earned your retirement.

Live well. Live long. And be happy.

 

P.S. Scott Fybush produced a podcast with Tom Taylor and you can hear that HERE 

The part with Tom begins in 11:16 minutes into the podcast.

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Convention Time in Atlantic City

NJBA 71st ConferenceI’m off again. This time I’m back to New Jersey for the 71st Annual New Jersey Broadcasters Association Conference & Gala to be held at the Tropicana Resort & Casino in Atlantic City.

This year’s conference theme is “The Majesty of Radio.”

The conference is expected to attract over 500 broadcasters and over 70 broadcast students from around the mid Atlantic region.


Harry Hurley

I’m especially excited that Harry Hurley will be honored as “Broadcaster of the Year.”

 

Tom Taylor

Tom Taylor

And that Tom Taylor will be honored with a “Lifetime Achievement Award.”

NJBA President/CEO Paul Rotella puts on a conference as impactful as the NAB annual shows in Las Vegas.

I’m proud to be a lifetime member of the New Jersey Broadcasters Association.

 

Next week, I hope to share with you, some of the highlights.

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Is Radio Being Disrupted or Simply Lacking the Human Factor

slide ruleI was a physics major in college. The slide rule was a necessary piece of equipment when I was going to school. Hewlett-Packard then came along and replaced it with a line of scientific pocket calculators.

When I began my radio sales career, I adopted the DayTimer written system for keeping track of my schedule and appointments. Then Palm came along and I replaced it with their Palm Pilot Digital Assistant.

When I became a general manager, I wore a pager. That soon was replaced by a Motorola flip phone.

Then Research In Motion (RIM) came along with the Blackberry and suddenly my flip phone and Palm were replaced by a single device.

I loved the size of my Blackberry Pearl smartphone and it wasn’t until I realized that the iPhone4S was the same size as the Pearl and more versatile that I switched to my first iPhone. I also saw Blackberry phones were clinging to life and wanted to adopt an ecosystem that would be around as long as I would be.

Today, I’m fully immersed in the Apple ecosystem and could not imagine what would ever get me to leave it.

Disruptive Innovation

I thought for years that these disruptive changes were due to mechanical innovation. But was that the core reason? Could it be something else?

In 1943, Thomas J. Watson of IBM is credited with saying, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” And Ken Olson of Digital Equipment Company (DEC) while acknowledging the growth of people using personal computers, said he couldn’t understand why.

The Human Factor

How important is the Human Factor in the future of a company, or even an industry?

October 6, 1997: Michael Dell makes an infamously bleak appraisal of Apple’s fortunes. Asked what he would do with Apple, the founder of Dell Inc. says he would “shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders.”

Where do you think Apple would be today if Michael Dell had been put in charge? What did Steve Jobs, who had just returned to lead Apple say to Dell’s assessment? “We’re coming after you buddy!”

Jobs gave Apple a vision, backed it up with management fortitude and people with the technical skills to make the Apple vision a reality. It was those human factors that carried Apple to become one of the most valuable companies in the world.

Apple’s market value (at the time I was writing this article) was $948M and Dell’s was $27M.

Radio’s Human Factor

Which brings me around to the industry I loved for over 50-years, RADIO. The aspect of radio that first captured my attention was the radio personality. These were the people who built the relationship with the listener.

Then there was the dedicated radio programmer who created the stationality, the promotions and like a good sports coach, kept the radio stars playing together as a winning team.

While it appears, too much of the radio industry is focused these days on mechanical things, blaming it for disruptive innovation, maybe the real culprit is radio’s loss of the “Human Factor.”

“Absolutely everything begins with imagination.”

-George Johns

Howard Stern was never really replaced when he left OTA radio for Satellite Radio. Howard Stern, like him or not, has a vivid imagination. For his listeners, he creates a style of radio that they have to hear.

My favorite part of the Stern movie, “Private Parts,” is dialog between the audience researcher and Stern’s WNBC program director Kevin Metheny, aka Pig Vomit.

RESEARCHER: The average radio listener listens for eighteen minutes. The average Howard Stern fan listens for – are you ready for this? – an hour and twenty minutes.

PIG VOMIT: How can that be?

RESEARCHER: Answer most commonly given? “I want to see what he’ll say next.”

PIG VOMIT: Okay, fine. But what about the people who hate Stern?

RESEARCHER: Good point. The average Stern hater listens for two and a half hours a day.

PIG VOMIT: But… if they hate him, why do they listen?

RESEARCHER: Most common answer? “I want to see what he’ll say next.”

Does anyone want to listen to your radio station to hear what comes next?

“Radio only needs to move @ the speed of life.”

-George Johns

 

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The Voice Interface

Siri Voice InterfaceThis week I sat in on the Fred Jacobs webinar “Mobile Strategy for Radio: What we learned from Techsurvey 2019” and the #1 take away was “voice (not just smart speakers) is the next important user interface at home and in the car.”

I wasn’t surprised.

The Lowest Common Denominator

Here’s where we can expect technology to be headed to accommodate the next billion users that will be joining the digital media party. The next internet addicted people are those living in the developing world, the ones that will be shaping the internet over the next five years or less. They will be impacting ALL internet and mobile users.

What are the characteristics of these folks?

  • Literacy: lower levels of literacy will require different interfaces.
  • Language: a greater variety of language needs will inspire new content formats.
  • Technology: varying devices & connections will impact content format.
  • Motivations: new wants, needs, and desires will inspire new products & services.

Most of today’s internet is text based, but as populations of lower literacy levels sign-on, that will change this. Voice commands, image search and video content will become more dominant in the near future.

Economies of Scale

Technology companies are already working to have all devices and interfaces operate the same way on a global basis. Everything will be designed to cater to the lowest common denominator because it makes fiscal sense. It’s already happening on Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon.

Why Apple won’t ever put FM receivers into their iPhones.

FM, HD Radio, DAB and DAB+ are all different standards for broadcasting OTA radio signals and do not meet the test of a global standard.

The Next Internet Revolution is Coming

Look for the next billion to drive the next internet revolution in the areas of:

  • Search: SEO will look very different for voice-centric search.
  • Social: People’s social media interactions will be more video than text.
  • Shopping: E-commerce orders will depend on spoken word.
  • Addressing: URLs & Hyperlinks will move from text to image.

Convergence

Something I researched back when I was an undergrad, convergence, is coming to fruition in my lifetime. Every form of media will be delivered over the same pathway and received on the same type of device plus it will be on-demand and on our schedule, not the creator’s schedule.

Fred’s latest webinar shows that were deep into this transition.

If you’d like to take a Deep Dive into this subject, watch this Hootsuite webinar from 2018 HERE

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Great Expectations

OR FMI read with great interest the five part series by Matt Bailey on “The Alexa Effect.” In the 5th and final installment Matt shared what he called the “radio weapon Spotify will never have.” What is it? The radio personality. He wrote:

 

  • “A radio personality can tell you the backstory of a breakthrough artist that makes you want to hear her work.”

  • “A radio personality can point out that crazy line in the second verse to stay tuned to hear.”

  • “A radio personality can engage you to smash or trash a song on the station’s social media.”

  • “A radio personality can give you the chance to be among the very first to hear a new song by a star artist.”

“A radio personality can add context that will make listeners excited to hear a song that otherwise would simply be weird and unfamiliar. It’s a deeply personal and emotionally engaging weapon no algorithm can match. When we stifle their voices and their role in introducing new music simply to avoid potential tune-out, we might win a few tenths of a point in the PPM battle, but we will lose the new music war to Spotify.”

Consolidation & Voice Tracking

I don’t disagree with Matt, but I lived through the ramifications of the Telcom Act of 1996 and the consolidation of radio stations, along with the rollout of voice tracking.

Clear Channel called it “Premium Choice,” and we were told it would replace our local personalities with big market talent.

I watched in market after market as radio personalities, who were like members of the radio listener’s family, were sent to the unemployment lines. Relationships that took years, even decades to establish, wiped out in an instant.

Early Media Expectations

I grew up at a time when the family television set received a signal from a couple of antennas on the roof. We had two channels, which meant we received two television networks, CBS and NBC. If you wanted to change the channel, you had to get off the couch and change it. There was no remote control.

Our radios had both the AM and FM bands, but I remember wondering why. I often scanned the entire FM band to hear nothing at all with only the AM band picking up radio signals.

My early media expectations were two TV channels and AM radio stations. The radio provided a lot more variety, plus I had a radio in my room and our family had a single TV located in the living room. I controlled my radio, my parents controlled the family TV.

Media Expectations Change

In time, I would come to expect television to be in color, to be connected to a cable and have a remote control to easily change the multitude of channels I could now receive, from the comfort of my couch.

Radio would expand to the FM band and a whole new type and style of radio was born. The one thing that connected AM and FM radio was the radio personality. Every station had them and the decision to listen to one station over another was because of the radio personality.

In fact, I wrote an article on the power of the radio personality back in 2015 entitled “We Never Called It Content.”

I wrote this article after reading about the latest round of “forced retirements” in the radio industry.

And if you thought this type of downsizing was only occurring in large radio metros, the movie “Corporate FM” told the story of how in the 80s, ninety percent of mass media in America was owned and controlled by about fifty different companies, but after the Telcom Act of 1996 it was down to just six corporations.

New Media Brings New Expectations

Let’s fast-forward to today. I cut the cord on cable TV two years ago and all of my television viewing is streamed. Netflix, Amazon Prime, Sling TV and YouTube provide me with more hours of television entertainment and information than I could ever have time to watch, and I’m retired.

Amazon Echo provides me with all of my audio entertainment and I do mix it up between stations via TuneIn and the pureplays like Pandora and Amazon Music.

I also read a lot and subscribe to several online newsletters that all link to the original source of the material.

Which leads me to this conclusion, my calendar age did not cement my media habits. They’ve been fluid all of my life.

My 21st Century Great Expectations

  • I expect NPR to open up my world to things I should be aware of, that I might not have been. I expect them to also provide me with more depth to the stories in the news. I expect them to have all of this posted online for almost immediate access. They don’t disappoint.
  • I expect my television viewing to be On Demand and commercial free.
  • I expect my music listening to match my mood and be there by simply asking Alexa to play my favorite channels when I want to hear them.
  • Finally, I expect I’m not alone in these “21st Century Great Expectations.”

Rewound Radio DJ Hall of Fame

On Saturdays, I enjoy asking Alexa to play Rewound Radio so I can hear another fabulous radio personality featured in the weekly “DJ Hall of Fame.” The other weekend they featured WOR-FM out of New York City and the air personality was Johnny Donovan. OR-FM air checks are all in stereo and the music mix has plenty of variety. It was a time when Music Radio 77 – WABC dominated the world’s airwaves on the AM band. But the one thing I notice in these weekly trips down memory lane is how integral the radio personality was in the total program. They were a constant companion. They really were radio’s “secret weapon” to attracting faithful listeners.

The question I ponder often is, was this period of radio history akin to the vaudeville period of theater. It filled the right hole at the right time but won’t ever be coming back again.

I welcome your thoughts.

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