Tag Archives: AM Radio

Why do people buy what they buy?

120If you’re in sales, this is probably the question that haunts you most: Why do people do the things they do?

Daniel Pink recently wrote a book “To Sell is Human” and in the book, he tells us, we are all in sales today. In fact, we may not even be aware that we are selling all the time. Daniel told the Harvard Business Review:

“I’m obviously selling books because that’s a part of my business. But if you go beyond that, I (also spent my) time trying to convince an editor to abandon a stupid idea for a story. I tried to get an airline gate agent to switch his seat. I’ve got kids. So, I’m trying to persuade my kids to do things. I have various people I do business with. And I’m trying to get them to see it my way, rather than their way, to go my direction, rather than their direction.”

“And when you actually tease it all out, I’m spending an enormous amount of time selling.”

We’re All in Sales

Looking at this from a broadcaster point of view, we too are all in sales, NOT just the people in the sales department.

Programmers are selling their ideas to management and if management gives them enough rope, they then have to sell those ideas to their air staff who then has to sell the concept to the listeners.

Events Change Our World in a Heartbeat

Sometimes events change the dynamics of what people want, need and do. The recent hurricanes have certainly had that effect on broadcasting.

In Houston, KTRH was ranked #11. 122Then Houston was hit by Hurricane Harvey and KTRH zoomed to #3, but soon after the impact of the storm began to fade and life in Houston began its long road back to “normal,” KTRH sank back to #15.

I ran a news-talk-information AM radio station back in the 90s in Atlantic City and in spite of our big commitment to local news and information, research showed that people would rather spend their day with one of the many FM music stations. However, they knew in times of coastal storms or other emergencies, our AM radio station was the one to turn to.

Radio cannot live waiting for the next emergency.

iPhones vs Androids

We all know that iPhones have not activated the FM chip to receive OTA FM radio broadcasts in their older iPhones. Plus Apple’s newest iPhones (7, 8 & X) don’t even have an FM chip in them to activate. So, if having an FM chip in their smartphone was important to Apple’s customers, why do people keeping buying iPhones? Maybe it is because they use them for other things.

In the USA Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS mobile operating systems are sharing the market about evenly says John Koetsier writing in Forbes. However what we’ve seen over the last couple of years is that what they don’t share equally is commerce. iOS is used to make more online purchases than Android. If you’re selling stuff, that’s an important distinction and its why Apps are usually first developed for the Apple Store and then later for Android devices.

Digital Cameras

I recently read an article that said if digital cameras were to stay relevant, they should connect to the internet. Guess what, they now can. Here are seven of the best WiFi cameras on the market according to Lifewire.

Should they also be able to make & receive calls, texts? Contain an FM chip?

As everything becomes connected to the internet should they also be able to receive OTA broadcast?

Electric Cars

BMW was the first car company I was aware of, that when it introduced its all electric car said it would not contain an AM radio. BMW said they couldn’t isolate the noise interference it would cause to the AM signals.

Funny, but I remember when cars used to have only an AM radio and that isolating an alternator was often necessary to not get horrific noise through the speakers. Is this really that much of a problem or has BMW carefully defined its customer’s wants, needs and desires?

Tesla in introducing their new Model 3 also said AM radio would not be part of the center stack options.

Do you think this will give people pause in buying an electric vehicle?

Go with the Flow

None of these things really represent a change in why people do the things they do. Roy H. Williams, the Wizard of Ads, has been writing about these things for decades.

In his book “Secret Formulas of the Wizard of Ads” in Chapter 70 “Better Jewelry, Better Jeweler,” Roy poses this question: “If you had to choose between selling what you wanted to sell, or what the majority of people wanted to buy, which would you choose?” Your future success is determined largely by your answer to that very question says Roy.

Bringing this back to broadcasting, AM, FM, digital, TV, cable, streaming is really nothing more than a display case in a jewelry store. It’s what you put into that display case that matters.

Your success comes down to serving your viewer or listener in the very way they want to be served.

If you’re in sync with the people of your broadcast property’s service area, then you will enjoy their business and they will demand you be easily accessible on the latest device.

The curve ball today is connecting your programming to the internet. The internet is a global community. You can’t be all things to all people. If you try, you will fail.

Define your market, know what they want, then serve it up to them. It’s OK to put it on the internet as long as you stay true to the people’s wants and needs that you aim to serve.

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The End of the iPhone

121I write about radio in most of these weekly articles. Recently, an article that compared the future of AM radio to the future of the coal industry created a lot of conversation.

People who don’t listen to AM radio wondered why this was even a topic for discussion and people who own AM radio stations felt they would never go away, even though they were actively acquiring (or had already acquired) an FM translator for their AM station.

Putting your programming content on an FM translator is NOT saving AM radio. Period

Saving Fax Machines

I remember the day I got a fax machine for my radio stations in Atlantic City. It was the day one of our biggest client’s ad agency called about the next month’s orders for their casino client and told me that if I wanted to be on the buys going forward, I needed a fax machine. Only those radio stations with fax machines would be bought.

Holy Batman! I got a fax machine that same afternoon.

Soon a dedicated phone line was installed just for the fax machine.

How important is faxing these days? I still see fax numbers on business cards and websites but really, does anybody send faxes anymore?

There’s no effort that I know of to save the fax machine.

AM Radio

I spent over four decades of my life in radio broadcasting because of AM radio. I remember my first radio, a Zenith transistor radio 103 that came with a single ear piece. I remember sneaking it into school to hear the Red Sox playing in the world series. I don’t remember what the teacher said in those classes.

The transistor liberated radio from being a piece of furniture that occupied the living where the whole family would gather around to hear broadcasts. The TV would be the electronic piece of furniture that would take that spot once radios moved to the kitchen, bedroom (clock radios) and just about everywhere else people went now that the transistor made them light weight, stylish and very portable.

119

Model 66 Skyscraper Radio, 1935; Designed by Harold L. Van Doren (American, 1895-1957) and John Gordon Rideout (American, 1898-1951); Manufactured by Air-King Products Company, Inc. (Brooklyn, New York, USA); Compression-molded Plaskon, metal, glass, woven textile; 29.8 × 22.5 × 19.1 cm (11 3/4 × 8 7/8 × 7 1/2 in.); Promised gift of George R. Kravis II; Photo: Matt Flynn © Smithsonian Institution

In fact, I just visited the Cooper Hewitt Museum of design in New York City that showed the evolution of radio set design from the beginning to the present.

The present is characterized by the iPhone and Google Home (smart speaker technology) neither of which looks anything like a radio.

Bag Phones

My first mobile phone was a bag phone that sat on the front seat of my car with a wire that would run out the back window to a magnetic antenna that attached to the roof. That seemed like a big improvement from the previous form of remote communication with my radio stations; the pager.

Flip Phone

The bag phone would be replaced by a Motorola flip phone. It rode in a holster on my belt. I wouldn’t trade my flip phone for a bag phone for anything at that time. It was such an improvement in cellular communications.

Blackberry

Of course, the need for more information to be communicated remotely demanded that I get a Blackberry to stay in contact with not just my radio stations but corporate. I opted for a Blackberry Pearl as it was very small and so compact, it fit into a pocket in my dress pants, that I think was designed for loose change or maybe car keys.

iPhone

I stayed away from the newest smartphone technology because it was so big compared to the size of my Blackberry Pearl. Until my son took his iPhone out of its Otterbox and put it next to my Pearl and I realized it wasn’t all that big. In fact, it was thinner than my Pearl.

I got my first iPhone soon after that. An iPhone4S. Siri would begin to write all of my emails and text messages from my verbal dictation. It made written communication a breeze.

I would stay with my 4S for what many of my students thought was an eternity, five years (2012-2017). The main reason was it worked perfectly and the other reason was I didn’t want to move to a larger phone.

Finally, the iPhone4S could no longer receive software updates because the technology was “so old” and my battery was beginning to show its age with all the nightly recharging. So, I bit the bullet and upgraded to the iPhone7 with 256GB (the same as my MacBook) and a pair of AirPods to go along with it.

While in some ways it is larger than my old 4S, it really is sleek and I quickly fell in love with it.

I would never wish to return to the days of only having a pager, bag phone, flip phone or Pearl. I would not even wish to return to my 4S, though it now is attached to my home FM system to stream music wirelessly to FM radios in every room of my home and taken on a second life.

Bye Bye iPhone

Microsoft’s Alex Kipman is the person who says that augmented reality could “flat-out replace the smartphone, the TV and anything else with a screen.”

Up to the present time, all gadgetry depended on us wearing something. But Elon Musk co-founded a new company called Neuralink and its working on technology that would blend the human brain to computers making humans one with the digital world.

No iPhone, tablet, computer, TV or radio would be needed to access the digital internet world.

Musk believes at the rate of digital development the only way humans will be able to keep up with change will be through being augmented themselves via a neural lace.

This is the stuff of science fiction with a Stephen King twist.

The questions it poses to future government regulation, education, ad supported media et al is mind boggling.

The smartphone connected to the internet has given everyone superpowers by instant access to all the world’s knowledge and wisdom. Eliminating this passive device so that our minds can be continuously linked to that information fountain is the natural evolution.

Can you see why smartphone makers aren’t worrying about having an FM chip in their devices?

The Book of Ecclesiastes (adaptation & music by Pete Seeger)

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven

A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late

-sung by The Byrds

Let’s hope it’s not too late.

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Coal Ain’t Coming Back & Neither is AM Radio

114I lived in Kentucky for 7-years.

Kentucky actually issues black license plates that say “Coal Keeps the Lights On.”

And yes, a lot of our electricity is generated from coal fired generating stations. But our dependency on coal has been in decline for years, today only about 30% of our electricity is generated from the burning of coal. 15% is generated from renewal energy sources.

But when it comes to jobs, solar & wind-energy jobs are growing 12 times as fast as the US economy. This has all been happening over the last 10-years or so. Renewable-energy jobs grew at the rate of 6% while fossil-fuel jobs declined at 4.5% from 2012 to 2015 according to Business Insider who also notes that the average number of employees at US coal mines dropped by 12% in 2015.

The solar industry now employs more people than coal, oil and gas combined.

The most recent statistics (2014) for the coal industry say 76,572 people are employed mining coal. That includes miners, office workers, sales people and others who work at coal-mining companies. In 1980, the industry employed about 242,000 people.

But to put the coal industry employment in perspective, there are more people employed in education in Kentucky than in coal. And the Washington Post compared the number of people employed in coal to other industries and reports: “Although 76,000 might seem like a large number, consider that similar numbers of people are employed by, say, the bowling (69,088) and skiing (75,036) industries. Other dwindling industries, such as travel agencies (99,888 people), employ considerably more. Used-car dealerships provide 138,000 jobs. Theme parks provide nearly 144,000. Carwash employment tops 150,000.”

In fact, more people are employed in RADIO (94,584 people) than in the mining of coal.

Coal jobs ain’t coming back.

AM RADIO

When I hear people in coal country cheering about coal jobs coming back under a new presidential administration, I look to my own industry; radio. AM radio is like the coal industry.

America, to a large extent, was built on coal due to the industrial revolution. All of our great factories depended on coal to power their machines. Coal was plentiful and we had lots of it. It was coal’s time.

In the 1920s, AM radio was born. Nothing like it had ever existed in the world. While the telephone brought people together, one person to another person, radio would bring the masses together. Inc.put together a list of “The 25 Greatest Inventions of All Time” and radio was #2 following the wired telephone. The History Channel compiled its own list and it put the smartphone in the first position followed by radio.

The “Golden Age of Radio” is the period from the 1920s to the 1940s when AM radio was the main source of entertainment in American homes. It would be replaced by television in the 1950s.

The transistor and car radio would pump new energy into the radio industry to a young generation in the 1960s and AM radio would be “born again.”

FM RADIO

The latest FCC (Federal Communications Commission) report as of the end of December 2016 shows that there were 4,669 AM radio stations on the air in America. Over on the FM dial, 16,783 signals now beat the airwaves (FM, FM educational, translators and low power FM).

To put things in perspective, at a time in America’s radio history when the number of FM signals equaled the number of AM signals on the air, 75% of all radio listening was to FM. So, you can only imagine what it’s like today for AM radio listening.

JOBS & ROBOTS

In coal mining, the need for coal miners goes down every year. Today, mining for coal no longer means muscle hardy men in maze-like tunnels wielding picks and shovels. The coal industry has steadily been replacing those jobs with robotic machines that require far fewer miners but more computer engineers and coders.

The radio industry employs its own cadre of computer engineers and coders that allows for fewer folks to appear on more radio stations through automation and voice-tracking. Is what’s happening in radio broadcasting any different than what’s happening in coal; or any other industry today?

I grew up on AM radio.

AM radio was my world and the people who made the magic caused this boy to make radio a career.

But AM radio and those jobs are not coming back any more than coal miner jobs.

93% of Americans 12-years of age or older listen to radio every week.

What percentage of those are listening to AM?

As AM radio stations add FM translators, do you think that number will grow again?

Sadly, AM radio is to broadcasting as coal is to power generation.

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First Impressions

113You’ve probably heard the old saying “you can’t make a second first impression.”

It’s true.

In sales, in those first few seconds when you meet a new client, you are either going to continue forward progress or it will be full-stop.

Same goes for job interviews or first dates. This is what makes making a good first impression so stressful.

Attitude

Good first impressions start with projecting a positive image. Projecting a positive image comes from your attitude.

I won’t go all Norman Vincent Peale on you, but your attitude is formed by what you do every waking moment. You can’t just turn it on when you need to. That will project a faux image easily discerned by any human being that can fog a mirror.

Derry’s Dad

In my broadcast sales class on talent assessments, guest lecturer and professional sales trainer Chris Derry, shared with my students that his dad was a stickler for having a positive attitude by what you wore on your face.

Come down to breakfast without a smile and you were immediately sent back upstairs. His dad didn’t care if you were late for school, you were not going to start the day at breakfast with a frowny face or a grumpy attitude. Chris said his sister went back up stairs many a day, but he quickly learned how to play the game.

But it wasn’t a game. It was building a positive character trait that would lead to a life of success in every endeavor that Derry would take on. He quickly learned even on days when he didn’t feel like smiling that forcing a smile for breakfast with his dad very quickly had him feeling more exuberant.

Fake It Till You Make It

Zig Zigler tells the story of faking a smile on his face and voice when he wasn’t exactly feeling it. He said that by faking it, it quickly became genuine and his mood would reflect his face.

Therapists will tell you that logic cannot change an emotion but action will. That by doing something that gives you a feeling of accomplishment, you will enrich your spirit and improve your attitude.

HD Radio’s 1st Impression

HD Radio is 15 years old. It answered a question no listener was asking (and still isn’t).

But why was HD Radio such a bust?

First, it was introduced with very low power that made reception of HD Radio nearly impossible in the home, office or car.

It tried to fix the poor quality of AM radio and improve the quality of FM radio. It would destroy AM radio with increasing co-channel noise interference and really make a mess of the band’s sky wave at night. With FM its improvement was almost unnoticeable to the average listener.

Worse, the promotion of HD Radio on FM radio stations often drew the comment to a listener with an FM not an HD Radio set that the sound of the station did sound better in HD. The listener didn’t understand from the radio ads they needed to buy a new radio set to pick up the HD Radio signal and so they didn’t. And even if they did figure out they needed an HD Radio set, trying to find one to buy at Walmart, Target or even Radio Shack was an exercise in futility.

Media Life magazine reported that media buyers say things like “HD Radio doesn’t feel like a thing” or “there’s almost zero consumer interest” or “it’s the least-promising technology of the new ones introduced in radio in recent years” or “most people won’t be able to hear the difference between HD Radio and regular radio and that’s a problem.”

First Impressions are a Bitch

There are 19,778 FM radio signals on the air as of the end of 2016 according to the FCC. Of those, around 2,000 of them are broadcasting in HD, about ten percent.

The number one reason those 2,000 FM radio stations are broadcasting in HD is to feed an FM translator that is not broadcasting in HD.

Media Life magazine compared how New Coke was introduced after the Pepsi Challenge was promoting it was beating Coca Cola in taste tests. I remember those days well. I was in radio sales and the local Pepsi bottler was my account. (I was a Coke drinker.)

I took that Pepsi Challenge one time with the owner of the Pepsi bottling plant and yes, I said I liked the taste of Pepsi better. He beamed.

I could tell the super sugary taste of Pepsi easily and I preferred the less sugary, belching kick of Coke. But I wasn’t about to pick the wrong one. I was in sales after all. I knew which side my bread was buttered.

Coca Cola totally bummed out about the Pepsi Challenge introduced a high sugary version of its drink and called it New Coke. It was a disaster. In months Coke brought back the original formula as Coke Classic. Today all remnants of New Coke are gone.

The lesson Media Life tells us is that “you can introduce something new and improved, but you can’t make the public want it.

Which brings me back to HD Radio.

Classic Radio

Maybe it’s time to bring back the elements that make great radio, great.

A product that is focused on a defined listener 100% of the time.

A product that is curated from music to jingles to personalities to commercials.

Nothing is put on the air that is out-of-place.

I think FM radio sounds great sonically.

Listeners do too! It’s why radio still reaches over 93% of Americans every week. It’s the #1 reach and frequency medium in America. It beats everything else. Period.

FM radio doesn’t need to make a first impression. It already is embraced by its listeners.

Bring back the classic formula that made radio great and cement radio’s future with the next generations.

Being Human Never Changes with Technology

No matter how much the technology changes, the reason one human being is attracted to another human being will never change.

Radio has their ear.

What will you say to them?

 

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You Can’t Have Too Much Fun

77There are some things in life you can’t have too much of.

You can’t have too much fun.

You can’t have too much wisdom.

You can’t have too much love.

Too Many College Bowl Games

My university invested a ton of money to upgrade to Conference USA. We won our bowl game in Florida this year too. Did you watch our team win? Probably not. Turns out attendance at the plethora of Florida college bowl games is down.

“When the Outback Bowl in Tampa announced an attendance of 51,119 on Monday who watched Florida dismantle Iowa 30-3, it became the sixth college bowl game among eight in Florida to have a decline in attendance from the previous year,” reports the Florida Times-Union.

NFL TV Viewership Decline

Rolling Stone magazine wrote that one of the big stories of 2016 was the decline in viewership of the NFL. How big was the decline? Down 8%.

Prime Time games were down the most with an audience erosion of 10 to 12%.

Commuter Traffic

The Federal Highway Administration says that by 2025 passenger miles traveled will have increased 72%. Why? Because that same agency says our population will have increased by 26% by that same year.

Tell me the road you commute to and from work isn’t already over congested.

Why is Country Music not the Top Radio Format in Nashville?

Nielsen Audio did a research study in 2014 and said the top radio format in America was country music. Ironically, the top radio station in Music City aka Nashville was NOT a country station. And it’s still not.

The latest ratings for Nashville show the highest rated country music station is ranked #7. The following radio formats are all ahead of that country station: Adult Contemporary, CHR, Sports, Urban AC, Talk and Variety Hits.

However, if you combine all of the audience of the many country format radio stations in Nashville, you will have a higher share of audience than the number one radio station commands.

Less Is More

So while you cannot have too much fun, wisdom, or love, you can have too many choices of products and services. Great for consumers’ maybe, but not for business owner/operators. Ask those who are dealing with the increase in college bowl games, NFL games, traffic congestion or playing country music in Nashville.

Radio is experiencing its own issues with supply versus demand.

The FCC will open up two windows for new translators this year. That’s after 750 new FM translators were signed on in 2016. Currently there are 19,778 FM signals beating the airwaves throughout America. Compare that to 4,669 AM radio stations currently on the air.

At the point in America’s history when the same number of AM radio stations equaled the number of FM radio stations on the air in America (end of 1992), 75% of all radio listening was to FM radio.

The Psychological Aspects of Overpopulation

This brings me back to my own undergraduate college days and psychology class. I remember learning about an experiment about putting too many rats into a confined space.

“As the number of rats rose above a certain level, the effects became rather dramatic,” wrote Albert J. M. Wessendorp, Psychologist-Psychotherapist. The rats displays behavioral disturbances, death rates rose, male rats began to show deviant sexual behavior and more. You can read more here.

Whales are known to commit collective suicide in order to control overpopulation.

What about you and me? How are we impacted by overpopulation (or over choice)?

The research says even human population growth is subject to limits. If we fail in controlling things ourselves, mother nature will begin to do it for us. (Think: Climate Change)

Radio Station Overpopulation

I love the radio business.

I share these thoughts because I’m concerned that the current overpopulation of the FM band is not taking into consideration the laws of physics or the impact of anything that gets overpopulated.

The FRC when it was formed (Federal agency that pre-dates our current FCC) it made it its mission to see America have quality radio stations or a large quantity of mediocre ones. We now look back on this period of time as “The Golden Age of Radio.”

Wessendorp writes that Maslow taught us that “People are only stirred into action when they feel their basic needs to be threatened.”

Have you looked at the revenue forecasts for radio for 2017? Are you feeling threatened yet?

What You Can Do

Next week I will continue with this topic and offer up what I believe is a solution to radio’s problem in an overpopulated entertainment world.

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Radios Go High-Definition

37That was the headline that appeared in the Baltimore Sun on January 7, 2004. Unfortunately, unlike HDTV (High Definition Television) HDRadio never stood for “High Definition” radio. And maybe that was the first mistake. HDRadio was simply a name they chose for the digital radio technology.

The iPod was introduced in October 2001. Steve Jobs introduced this music delivery changing device this way. Only a month earlier, XM began broadcasting the first satellite radio programming to be followed four months later by Sirius satellite radio. So by 2004, digital radio was already late to the party.

KZIA-FM Z102.9 saw Kenwood USA sell its first digital receiver in Cedar Rapids, Iowa to take advantage of KZIA-FM’s HDRadio broadcasts. “This is a significant move,” Michelle Abraham, senior analyst at In-Sat/MDR, a market research firm in Arizona, said of the roll-out of digital radio equipment. “It may not seem duly significant in the beginning, but in a few years from now, it will be a huge leap.” The hope was it would prove to be competitive to the newly launched satellite radio offerings from XM and Sirius (now merged into a single satellite company). HDRadio was also seen as improving FM to have CD quality sound and making AM sound like FM. It was heralded to help struggling AM radio stations.

Solving a Problem That Didn’t Exist

What HDRadio did for FM radio stations was solve a problem that listeners to FM didn’t feel existed. No one who listened to FM radio was complaining about the quality of the sound of the transmission. (They were complaining about other things, like too many commercials.) And for AM radio stations, it meant people buying radios for a service that didn’t offer anything they really wanted to hear or couldn’t get from someplace else. AM radio was now the service of senior citizens who already owned AM radios, who grew up with AM radio’s characteristics and whose hearing was not the best now anyway. So HDRadio for AM wasn’t something they were asking for either. Worse, AM radio stations that put on the new digital signal found it lacked the benefits of skywave and often interfered with other company AM radio stations as the industry quickly consolidated radio ownership.

Industries Most Disrupted By Digital

In March 2016, an article published by Rhys Grossman in the Harvard Business Review listed “Media” as the most disrupted by the growing digital economy. Turns out if you’re a business to consumer business, you’re the first being most disrupted by digital. The barriers to be a media company used to be huge, but in a digital world they are not. The business model that media companies depend on has not adapted well to the digital economy.

Education – Disruption Ahead

Having moved from media to education I only got ahead of digital’s disruption for a while. But even those industries that had perceived high barriers of entry are finding those walls crumbling quickly. Grossman says fifty percent of executives see education being impacted in a big way in the next twelve months.

Where Are The Radios?

Edison Research did their latest “Infinite Dial” webinar and the slide that most impacted me was the one about radio ownership. From 2008 to 2016 the percentage of people in America that don’t own a single radio in their home has gone from 4% to 21%. When Edison narrowed this down to household between the ages of 18-34, non-radio ownership rose to 32%. Mark Ramsey’s Hivio 2016 Conference had one Millennial describe a radio set as being “ancient technology.” Ouch!

It doesn’t seem all that long ago that Jerry Lee’s WEAZ in Philadelphia was giving away high quality FM radios to increase listenership to not just his radio station but to FM radio. And KZIA in Cedar Rapids gave away HDRadios to allow people to hear their new signal. It now appears time for the radio industry to begin giving away AM/FM radios every time they are doing station remotes, contests or appearing at venues that will attract lots of people.

Elephant in the Room

But the elephant in the room remains the broken media business model. Newspapers, magazines, radio, and television – any media that is ad supported – will be challenged to find a way to capture revenue to continue.

As Walt Disney famously said “We don’t make movies to make money, we make money to make movies.”

To anyone in ad supported media, we would agree we do it for the same reasons.

The $64,000 question is how.

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Radio is Going to HAL

22You remember HAL? The HAL 9000 is a fictional character from Arthur C. Clarke’s Space Odyssey series. HAL’s name stood for Heuristically programmed Algorithmic computer. HAL was the future of artificial intelligence. HAL always spoke in a soft, calm voice and in a conversational manner. HAL was born in the 90s according to Clarke.

I remember computerizing my radio station’s traffic and billing system around that same time. Computers would quickly invade every part of my radio station operations. It was scary. I remember looking at that computer box and thinking, if that darn thing “dies” there goes the whole enchilada. It wasn’t like losing a phonograph needle or a cart machine or a CD player. Computers changed the game to an all or nothing model. Computers also introduced another concept foreign to radio broadcasters, planned replacement schedules while they were still fully operational. Radio always used to run every piece of equipment until it could run no more. But you couldn’t play that game with computers.

More Dead Air

Programming great, George Johns, recently posted this thought on his blog: “Is it just me or are there a lot more pauses on the radio now than there was when we were using carts.”   And I wrote back to Geo that I noticed the same thing. I figured it was because today, the people charged with running radio stations are not listening to them. Not because they don’t want to, but because they can’t. They are busy – very busy – multi-tasking.

When computers were introduced into radio, I thought it would be great because it would allow air talent to spend more time working on show prep, interacting with the listeners and being focused on their show and not about cuing up records, pulling carts etc. For small market radio stations, it meant that air talent would have an engineer just like the big city radio stations had always had for their air talent. But that’s not what happened.

The radio industry had a different idea in mind. Computers would allow air talent to do more.

After the Telcom Act of 1996, the radio industry began to rapidly consolidate. General Managers became Market Managers. (GMs usually were charged with overseeing an AM/FM broadcast property. MMs would oversee multiple AMs, FMs and in many cases, multiple markets of AMs & FMs.) Computers were quickly seen as a way to do more with less. More work with less people that is.

Multi-tasking Kills Your Brain

Air personalities now could be on multiple radio stations at the same time. They could multi-task. The unfortunate part of this is research now shows that multi-tasking will kill your brain. Turns out our brains were not built to multi-task.

MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller quoted in Inc. magazine says that our brains are “not wired to multi-task well and when people think they are multi-tasking, they are actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost.” This constant switching actually produces bad brain habits. Worse, multi-tasking actually lowers your work quality and your efficiency. It actually lowers a person’s IQ like if you were to skip sleeping or use drugs. So if you wonder why today’s air talent isn’t connecting with listeners like they used to, it really isn’t their fault. The deck has been stacked against them by an industry that is using computers and voice tracking to enable their air talent to multi-task. Multi-tasking is not a skill to add to resume. It’s a bad habit to quit doing.

Computers Change College Radio

Erik O’Brien wrote in an article in Radio Survivor about how automation was introduced into his college radio station and how it changed the way college radio was now done and not for the better in his opinion.

KUTE adopted the ENCO DAD radio automation software. What had been a college radio station comprised of student radio enthusiasts, experimenting, having fun – sometimes producing radio greatness and sometimes not – would turn into a more “professional” operation through the use of computerized software. A radio station that had live radio personalities around the clock could now operate without any DJs.

Everything that goes on the air goes through DAD (Digital Audio Delivery). If it’s not in the computer, it won’t go on-the-air. This standardization now allowed for KUTE to begin monetizing their programming. KUTE had an AM signal, licensed by the FCC, but when the transmitter broke down and there was no money to repair it, it became an online only station. Now it was not subject to FCC rules that embraced a community-driven model of radio. It also could now support advertising that could be scheduled and aired that its non-commercial FCC license did not allow.

The new computerized system meant the station was now stable and standardized and predictable. Except when the computer loaded programs didn’t air and other operator errors would plague the station’s on-air sound. What used to be a fun college experience now was a stressful chore.

The Bottom Line

What it all comes down to, whether we’re talking about college radio or commercial radio, is what value are we offering to our listeners by the technology we employ? What do we want the listener experience to be? If we use technology to allow our air talent to be more focused on the station’s mission, radio will be great but if we use it in other ways, probably not.

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