Tag Archives: Apple

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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Is Radio Prepared for The Future

Radio & CobwebsIn a lot of ways, the future is here, now.

All of the things we knew were coming back at the turn of the century have become reality.

But the radio industry continues to try to adapt.

Great Companies Don’t Adapt, They Prepare

When I saw that headline on a blog article by Greg Satell two years ago, it resonated with me because it made me realize that the radio industry wasn’t prepared for the 21st Century. It was trying to adapt the past to the present and hoping that it would sustain them going into the future.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to create the future by focusing on the present.

“The truth is,” writes Satell, “that companies rarely succeed by adapting to market events.”

“Firms prevail by shaping the future…but it takes years of preparation to achieve.

Once you find yourself in a position where you need to adapt, it’s usually too late.”

-Greg Satell

Marconi & Sarnoff

Each generation has its great innovators, so It’s always a challenge to say who makes a greater contribution to changing the world.

Marconi gave us the wireless, a one-to-one form of communications that transformed the world.

Sarnoff innovated the radio as a form of mass communication, giving us a one-to-many instant communication service of news, entertainment and advertising supported radio.

What we can be certain of, each person who creates the future is one who overflows with boundless curiosity.

Investing in Research

All of the Big 5 Tech companies (Amazon, Facebook Microsoft, Google and Apple) invest heavily in research. Each of them, in their own way, has made themselves indispensable from our daily lives.

Recently, a daily newsletter I read called “While You Were Working,” asked its readers which of the Big 5 Tech Companies they could survive without. Here are the results of that survey:

Which Big 5 tech company do you think it would be easiest to live without?

Facebook  70.71%
Apple  14.14%
Amazon  7.35%
Microsoft  5.74%
Google  2.06%

Probably not surprising that Facebook was the choice folks said they could live without by a wide margin.

For five weeks, Kashmir Hill, a writer for Gizmodo, decided to see how she would deal with giving up today’s technology by blocking one of the Big 5 from her world. In her sixth and final week, she decided to go cold turkey and blocked them all. How did that go? Well I think the title of her article said it all, “I Cut the ‘Big Five’ Tech Giants From My Life. It Was Hell.”

Hill compared her experience to that of an alcoholic trying to give us booze. And that life without them makes life very difficult as we are so dependent on them.

I’m not sure any of us really understands how married we are to these Big 5 Tech Companies or how hard it would be for us to give up even one of them, let alone to give them all up.

Listening to Radio

One of the interesting side-bars of the article Hill wrote was that by not having Alexa, Spotify audio books, podcasts or other such services on her Nokia feature phone, what she could receive, unlike with her iPhone, were radio broadcasts and that allowed her to listen to NPR while doing her daily run.

But how sad that listening to radio only seems to be an option when all other options are eliminated.

Investing in the Core Product

Some of the differences between the Big 5 Tech companies are what non-core areas they invest their research money into, like self-driving cars. The one thing they all take very seriously, however, is plowing the lion’s share of their research budget into their core competencies.

In my sales class, I used to tell my students that people don’t buy half-inch drill bits because they want them, they buy them because what they want are half-inch holes. In other words, you will be successful when you invest your time solving your customers’ problems.

Radio Research

Most radio research dollars are spent on one thing, audience measurement. Unfortunately, that’s research that studies the past performance of a radio station, not the present moment. Virtually no radio research money is spent on preparing the ground for the future.

We all know that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the next big thing. Alexa, in your Amazon Echo, is the perfect example.

How is the radio industry preparing its employees to acquire the skills they will need to excel in an AI world? Artificial Intelligence is a force that will impact the communications industry in the years to come.

Broadcasting has been living off of its seed corn for too many years, while the technology industries have been focused on solving our customer’s problems by investing in them for years, even decades.

Broadcasters can’t create the future by continuing to focus on the present.

Innovation, will require investment in research that, imagines new possibilities.

 

 

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Alexa, Let’s Go for a Ride

alex in a ford carRadio’s last bastion of domination is the automobile (aka SUV, pickup truck etc.). In the home, voice activated devices are replacing AM/FM radios. I own 3 Echos, and Alexa has become a real friend of the family.

So, when I saw this television ad for the new Fords and how the drivers went from talking to Alexa in their house to talking to Alexa in their car, while they were driving, I saw the future of AM/FM radio for America’s Road Warriors.

Watch the ad HERE

Voice Activated Christmas

The results are in and as of December 31, 2018, 66 million voice activated devices are now firmly entrenched in America’s homes. The big winner is Amazon’s Echo aka Alexa which has a 70% share of the market. Google’s Home has a 24% share and Apple’s HomePod is third with just 6% home penetration.

Ironically, in my own home, I quickly went from one Amazon Echo in 2017 to three in a matter of a couple of months. Virtually all of my internet connected electronics are Apple products, but Amazon is my go-to place to shop. The price of entry for my first Echo was under $30. By contrast expect to pay Apple $349 for their HomePod.

The latest research from the Consumer Intelligence Research Partners* (CIRP) also found that 35% of the owners of these voice activated devices own more than one. That’s about double from only a year ago, so it’s pretty clear that these devices are not collecting dust but are actively being used.

It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see where once the average American household had about 5 AM/FM radios in their home, the Echo or Home VAD is taking their place. (Today 21% of American households don’t have a single AM/FM radio in them. For households headed by 18-34 year old adults, that number without a single AM/FM radio rises to 32%.)

Alexa is The New Radio

I wasn’t surprised to read that iHeartMedia’s Bob Pittman was calling Amazon’s Echo the new radio. What I was surprised to learn, was Pittman saying that iHeart helped with the development of Alexa. I had never read or heard that before. Which begs the question, why isn’t more attention being paid to the streams of over-the-air (OTA) radio by the industry?

A better question might be, can the same programming techniques that have been used by OTA radio, simply be transferred to internet streams?

Marshall McLuhan

“The medium is the message,” was coined by Marshall McLuhan in 1964. What McLuhan postulated was that the form of a medium becomes part of the programming that is being transmitted. A symbiotic relationship is created by which the very medium that is conveying the program, influences how a person perceives it.

Another way of thinking about this might be, what a person’s expectations are for a particular media experience. We would not expect to see commercials laced through a movie being seen at a theater, but the same movie shown on commercial television laced with commercial interruptions, while maybe annoying, would not be unexpected or a surprise.

However, pay television like Netflix and Amazon Prime have changed the TV viewers expectations about watching television in two ways, no commercial interruptions, and a whole season of episodes released at once and not dribbled out a week at a time.

The internet likewise has changed audio listening expectations with Pandora, Spotify, RadioTunes, Apple Music and Amazon Music to name but a few streamers. Stream one of these and listener expectations of this internet delivered medium, are very few or with no commercial interruptions. Moreover, should you want to know the name of the song and artist, you simply ask while the song is playing, and are immediately given that information. OTA radio rarely tells you what the name of a song is, or who’s the artist.

In fact, the listener expectation using a voice activated device is that you can get anything immediately, simply by asking for it. Everything is at your command and delivered on demand.

For the audio listener, it’s like the difference between having air conditioning or not having air conditioning. Once you’ve enjoyed having central air, you won’t ever want to go back to not having it.

What’s the Listener’s Expectations?

The challenge for the radio industry is creating content that fits the listener’s expectations for the medium they are accessing the content on.

OTA radio is a one-to-many delivery system. Everyone is served the same thing at the same time.

The internet, streamed through a device like Amazon Echo, is a personalized listening experience. Everyone gets it served up the way they prefer it.

Trying to have a single source originating content for both OTA and online, compromises both.

 

 

*CIRP based its findings on a survey of 500 U.S. owners of Amazon Echo, Google Home and Apple HomePod, surveyed from Jan. 1-11, 2019, who owned one of these devices as of Dec. 31, 2018.

 

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The End of Retail Business

Going Out of BusinessIs the retail industry dying?

Stores that I grew up with, like Toys R Us, Sears, K-Mart, and Radio Shack are either in bankruptcy or out-of-business. Other retailers are reducing the number of locations to become more profitable to their investors.

The local retailer finds themselves even more challenged to deal with the likes of Walmart and Amazon.

Radio Lives on Local

The prescription for the radio business is to focus their programming on their local community of license. In other words, be VERY local in everything they do.

If the radio station you listen to could be transplanted into another city without changing a single thing about their programming, other than their weather forecasts and traffic reports, then that radio station isn’t really local.

If, on the other hand, you drive into a community and you have no idea what the people on the air are talking about or who the people they’re talking about are, then you have come upon a LOCAL radio station that is serving the people of their listening area.

Local Retailers

In the smaller markets I’ve managed radio stations in, we didn’t really do much business with those big box retailers. Sadly, in most cases, after the grand opening schedule and remote broadcast, they pretty much stayed away from local radio.

The local businesses that lined the main street, or were located in a strip mall or populated the surrounding small towns, were the life-blood of a local radio station.

As Walmart and Amazon strip away the ability for these small merchants to make a living, radio’s business base is likewise being decimated.

21st Century Retailing

Retailing is being disrupted. While some retailers are closing, we also see companies like Apple, Amazon and even Coca Cola investing in building new brick and mortar locations.

The change that’s occurring according to Greg Satell is that “the primary function of a physical store is not to drive transactions, but to service and support customers.”

In other words, retailing is being reimagined.

Radio Reimagined

Radio is giving up its major strength by not having live, local personalities on the air 24/7. Successful small retailers are winning because they engaged in their community and are part of the community’s fabric. They are owned and staffed by dedicated people who believe in super-serving their customer base.

We are living in a time of too much automation and algorithms.

The moves being made by the Apples, Amazons and Cokes to get closer to their customer base by having local people serve their local community is an indication that the pendulum is starting to swing in the opposite direction.

Radio cannot ignore this change in the wind.

Radio needs to unlock the enormous potential of people serving people.

Radio’s Why

A couple of weeks ago, I got a lot of people talking when I asked “What’s Radio’s Why?” What it can’t be any longer is, “we’re #1” or “we have the most listeners.” Nobody cares.

There are more radio stations on-the-air in America, than at any time in the history of radio. Ironically, there’s less choice of formats to listen to and there are less people working per station today as well.

It’s time for radio stations to define an audience for each station and then super-serve that audience. The radio stations who’s audiences are the most dedicated and passionate will be the winners, not the ones with possibly a larger, but passive audience.

Just as each station’s audience is clearly defined and targeted, businesses that are seeking those same people will become just as defined, and a win-win business relationship can be built and sustained.

As I lived through the consolidation of radio and the automation of tasks, I felt that the radio industry applied technology to many of the wrong areas of the business. The air staffs were the first folks to be eliminated in favor of voice-tracking and automation. The main radio station phone line, the listener’s first point of contact, was automated instead of having a live person to greet the caller.

The radio industry eliminated, through technology, the very points where the “rubber meets the road.” The people serving people point.

The Human Connection

I own a lot of Apple gear. I didn’t buy any of it at an Apple store. I bought it online. My iPhones from Verizon. My other gear online from Apple.

What the Apple stores mean to me is a chance to go in and play with the equipment, to ask questions and, like when my MacBook Air crashed, to have a place I can go and have it repaired, almost overnight.

The Apple stores are my human connection to Apple.

The radio industry was built on the human connection. Radio’s air personalities were constantly promoted, in print, on billboard, on television and they were always out and about in the community being highly visible. During consolidation, radio lost its way due to non-radio investors who only saw the money-making benefits of cutting costs to widen margins. Once this “Best Practice” type of thinking wormed its way through the whole broadcast industry, those benefits were quickly marginalized.

Values Shift, Not Disappear

“The businesses that thrive over the long-term,

not only see where value is shifting from

but where value is shifting to and race to get there.”

-Greg Satell

This is radio’s wake-up call.

Is anybody listening?

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Clean Desk = Empty Mind

Morley Safer OfficeOne of the snappiest dressers on television was Morley Safer. But if you were to peek into Morley’s office when he was off-camera, you would have seen an office that was quite the opposite.

Depending on your point-of-view, a cluttered desk might have been thought of as a cluttered mind or as the title of this article suggests, a clean desk means an empty mind.

Spatially Organized

Let me offer you a third perspective.

My desk is usually cluttered when I’m deep into a project. (But never quite as bad as Morley’s.)

What I learned about myself was that I tend to be spatially organized and when things get neatly put away, out of sight, in a file drawer, they are also out of mind. Mine!

Productive Workspaces

We’re all different.

When people try to design workspaces for others, it will most likely fail.

In his book, “Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives,” Tim Harford explains how engineered spaces can kill productivity and innovation, while having a messy workspace might actually help us to do some of our best work.

Arbitron

I remember entering Arbitron’s new facility when it opened in Columbia, Maryland. Everything was fresh and new and oh, so very sterile.

One of the managers could be seen chasing people around and chastising them for taping things to the walls or for having a cluttered desk.

This type of order is fine for an automobile assembly line, but not your radio station.

WLAN AM/FM

When I moved WLAN AM/FM from its original location in downtown Lancaster, PA to a brand-new facility, I told everyone that their workspace was theirs to decorate as they wished.

I even let everyone pick out their own style and color of desk and chair.

Everyone was excited for moving day to arrive and had been planning for months how they would set-up their new offices.

Studies have shown that when people are allowed to decorate their work place with the stuff and personal knickknacks they love, productivity can increase by as much as 32%. In fact, people are not only more productive, they are also happier and healthier.

Moves can be really disruptive to a business, but when I moved my Lancaster radio stations, we had a record setting year in both ratings and revenues.

Mix It Up

Another way to stimulate innovation and productivity in your station, is to create spaces where everyone bumps into each other on a regular basis.

When Steve Jobs was designing Apple’s new building, he purposely made sure there would be spaces that would cause employees from all sectors to come in contact with one another.

Diversity of thought and ideas come from everywhere and everyone.

So, break down the silos that walls create to have some space that brings your people together like a tossed salad.

The Take Away

The key thing to know about creating a productive work environment is this, you can’t dictate it. You have to empower your people to create it for themselves.

People who have power over their workspace tend to be more engaged, productive and collaborative.

Just remember, it can get a little messy at times, but that’s how greatness is birthed.

 

 

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The Power of the Human Voice

The Last Jedi

Finn, Rey and new character Rose in Star Wars: the Last Jedi Credit: Press

I recently saw the latest Star Wars movie “The Last Jedi.” It was powerful in many ways, not the least of which was because it was the final film for actress Carrie Fisher, who was excellent.

In film, the way to connect with the theater goer is with close-ups of the faces of the actors. It’s powerful and we respond, as human beings, to another person’s face.

When radio was born, people could not see faces, and the connection radio listeners would make would be with people’s voices.

Radio People’s Memories

I belong to a bunch of radio groups on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. One of the things these groups have in common is a desire to have things be the way they used to be, like they were when they were growing up. (Spoiler Alert: Ain’t gonna happen)

The other thing that they share, is that the memories everyone has that are the most vivid about radio, are about the people’s voices they listened to.

What made their favorite radio station(s) so loved, were the personalities.

What Makes a Voice Attractive?

In the early days of radio, microphones and everything they were connected up to, to transmit the human voice, were by today’s standards, pretty crude. Men with deep, strong, resonating voices were preferred for traveling through the ether.

As technology improved, other voices entered.

Listeners would now find themselves attracted to people who sounded more like they sounded. Research shows that the reason apparently is because it makes us feel like we’re part of a certain social group.

“The voice is an amazingly flexible tool that we use to construct our identity,” says Dr. Molly Babel, a linguistics professor at the University of British Columbia.

Is a Pleasing Voice More Attractive than a Pleasing Face?

When we hear an appealing voice, our feelings of attraction are heightened. Attractive voices cause us to perceive those individuals with more pleasing personalities.

So, while the real emotion in movies is transmitted via close-ups of the face, on the radio it is the human voice.

So, which is more dominate? A face or a voice?

Turns out, researchers tell us, that “the effects of vocal attractiveness can actually be stronger than the effects of physical attractiveness when each dimension appears alone” (Zuckerman et al., 1991).

Alexa, Siri, Cortana

I’m sure the power of the human voice was not lost on Amazon, Apple or Microsoft as they developed their AI digital voice assistants.

My fiancé Susan gifted me an Echo Dot for Christmas. (I already have been using Siri on my iPhone.) The ease with which it sets up and you begin using it, is remarkable. It quickly becomes a member of the family.

When going to bed our first evening with Alexa in our home, Sue said “Alexa, Good Night.” And Alexa responded with “Good Night, Sweet Dreams.”

Sue came into the bed room walking a cloud beaming how real, how sweet, how comforting it made her feel.

And I knew exactly what she meant.

Anyone who has one of the devices will too.

Radio Voices

The power of the personalities on your airwaves are critical to your station’s future success in 2018. How do their voices make your listeners feel?

It can happen in many different ways.

Let me offer a couple of examples: It can be via stationality like the JACK format, (done very well in Nashville) or it can be like the voices and style cultivated by NPR.

It just doesn’t happen by accident.

It takes planning and continuous execution of the plan.

The Battle for Attention

In the end, every form of media is battling for attention.

And to paraphrase the lesson taught in “The Last Jedi,” radio needs to stop trying to defeat what it hates about the competition and save what it loves about radio.

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