Tag Archives: AT&T

The Birth of Radio in America

Early Radio ListeningWhen World War I ended, it didn’t go unnoticed what a powerful role radio communication had played in the outcome. Led by the General Electric Company, the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) was formed in October of 1919. With guidance from the federal government, RCA brought together GE, Westinghouse, and AT&T to develop the radio broadcasting industry in the United States.

In the early 1920s, no one knew what radio might become. RCA would be the entity to coordinate the manufacturing and sales of all radio receivers. They held all the patents from GE, Westinghouse and AT&T and it was RCA that would authorize others to use these patents to produce radio receivers, as well as collect and distribute the royalties to the patent owners. GE, Westinghouse and AT&T could manufacture equipment for their own use, as well as build and operate their own radio stations.

The Interstate Commerce Commission

Initially, the regulation of radio broadcasting fell under the jurisdiction of the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC). In 1920, interest in broadcasting ranged from amateurs to experimenters and businesses. Some talked, some played music, and some began broadcasting news of local interest and weather reports. In an effort to bring some order to what had become a chaotic broadcasting environment, the ICC decided to place amateur broadcasters into the less desirable air space, below 200-meters, as well as restrict the type of broadcasting they could air. Amateur broadcasters had to agree that their radio stations could no longer air weather or market reports, music concerts, entertainment, speeches, news or other similar information. The ICC would begin to issue a new broadcast license on the 360-meter band for radio broadcasters that would be licensed to provide such services. All the members of RCA, including RCA itself, would begin to build radio stations. Westinghouse would be the first to establish one of these new radio stations, with their own inhouse amateur radio enthusiast Dr. Frank Conrad, and what became KDKA in Pittsburgh on November 2, 1920. Westinghouse followed this station with WBZ in Springfield, Massachusetts and WJZ in Newark, New Jersey.

However, Westinghouse management quickly realized that merely providing a superior broadcast service, which would create demand by the public to buy the new radio receivers they manufactured, would be futile if their broadcasts were harassed and interrupted by uncontrolled amateurs disrupting their ability to be heard.

Quality vs. Quantity

The ICC now had a new problem on its hands. Broadcasters interfering with other broadcasters, and what kind of culture should America’s new, growing middle class, be hearing through their radio sets? Since the decision had been made to not have radio be government controlled in the United States, broadcasters said they needed the government to regulate radio in order to help establish order and control.

Westinghouse proposed a solution to the ICC, to create two classes of commercial radio service.

Broadcasters on the current 360-meter band would become Class A broadcasters and a new service on the 400-meter band would be reserved for Class B broadcasters.

In order to qualify as a Class B broadcaster and receive higher power authority (500 to 1,000 watts), the licensee would need to never play phonograph records on the air, or any other kind of recorded material. Class B broadcasters would only air live talent and performances. Such a requirement would insure the public was receiving radio entertainment that was unique and original and not available on any other radio station.

The new license would also mean that only wealthier and more established organizations would be able to afford to operate radio stations under these new conditions.

Westinghouse’s concept, having government and business working together, was a way to “improve” radio broadcasting through restricting it to “responsible” parties without stepping on anyone’s First Amendment rights as to what a radio broadcast should consist of.

The Radio Act of 1927

This act laid the foundation for what radio broadcasting in America would be for the next several decades. The first being that radio broadcasting would not be open to everyone, but restricted based on quality. The feeling being that Americans would be better served by a few quality broadcast radio stations, rather than a plethora of mediocre ones. The new act also introduced the hard to define concept of “operating in the public interest.”

Radio, unlike newspapers or the movies, was to become a government regulated medium, with decisions about quality and public interest being made through an alliance of government and private interests.

And it was with the Radio Act of 1927, that America decided that radio broadcasting would be a commercial medium operated in private hands. Radio would support itself through the selling of advertising.

Today’s Radio Marketplace

From June 1927, when 705 commercial radio stations were on-the-air in America (all on the AM band and most with transmitter power of under 1,000-watts) to June 2019, we now have 25,819 radio stations (21,209 FM / 4,610 AM) with transmitter power up to 100,000-watts on the FM band and 50,000-watts on the AM band.

The concept of quality over quantity is certainly no longer the guiding principle.

The Ad Pie

As I read about how radio revenues are doing, I’m struck that both public and private radio broadcasting companies are reporting that local advertising revenue is dismal for Q2. However, major radio stations that enjoy eating from the national trough, saw this category of advertising as their only bright spot for radio ad revenue.

While digital revenue is hoped to be a new area to grow advertising revenues for radio broadcasters, the reality is that Facebook, Google and Amazon are already gobbling up about 90% of those dollars, so how fertile is this area for broadcast radio?

Reading comments being made about radio advertising conditions, I was struck by what Beth Neuhoff, CEO of Neuhoff Communications had to say when Radio Ink asked her, “what are local advertisers saying about the economy?” She responded by saying: “Local advertisers seem less focused on the economy and more concerned about over-saturation of the competitive landscape.”

It’s something that I believe the radio industry should be just as concerned about when it comes to OTA (over the air) broadcasting.

Gone are the days when putting another broadcast station on-the-air is a license to print money. People who aren’t use to quality, always will chase quantity.

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Seniors & Technology Adoption

old hands using high techTraditional habit patterns used to be that as people grew older, they grew into the same habit patterns as their parents. Things like reading a newspaper, watching the evening television news, becoming involved in their children’s schools, the community and listening to radio. But new research says, those patterns have been upended by what else but, the internet.

Connected Seniors

Perhaps the fastest growing segment of new users on Facebook are seniors. Over half of the people aged 50 to 64 use Facebook, but people over 65 have almost doubled their use of Facebook with now over 32% of them on the social media juggernaut.

It may be why younger generations are moving to other social media platforms, to get away from us oldsters.

You Can’t Turn Back the Hands of Time

Pew Research says seniors who become engaged in social media say they would find it very hard to give up. I’m one of those seniors and yes, I would find it hard to give up. How about you?

Social Media, according to the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) helps seniors to remain independent. Adoption of new technology by seniors goes against the conventional wisdom that only the young want the latest new thing, but these shiny, new, high tech devices attract kids of all ages; even us “big kids.”

Us Baby Boomers were the biggest market segment for all of my life. Only recently have Millennials outnumbered us, but expect Boomers to change the concept of retirement and technology use. Broadcasters take note: Once people discover new technology, it’s unlikely they will return to the days of old.

Social Media Addiction

I don’t remember anyone ever sending out alerts about radio or television addiction, but with social media the world is seeing addictive properties akin to alcohol, tobacco or drugs.

Consider that the average adult now spends nearly 2 hours a day on social media. We can access it on our home computers or away from home on our smartphones. Of the 3.1 billion social media users globally, it’s estimated that almost 7% have a social media addiction problem. This form of addiction is defined as “a proposed diagnosis related to overuse of social media, similar to Internet addiction and other forms of digital media overuse.”

71% of us now sleep with or next to our mobile phone. I know I do and it also is my alarm clock. Worse are those people who check their social media before going to sleep or wake-up during the night to check their social media, estimated to be about 45% of us, making getting a good night’s sleep challenging.

Maybe even more alarming is the fact that 90% of drivers say they use their smartphones while driving. Half to check social media while behind the wheel. (I DO NOT) And according to the Center for Disease Control & Prevention, 9-people are killed and more than a thousand are injured daily by people using their smartphones while driving.

I can’t think of any reports of people suffering the same amount of death or injury listening to their car radio. Can you?

Apple even now tells me how much my weekly screen time is on each of my Apple devices in an effort to make me more aware of how much time I spend with them. I can even set-up my devices to force me to limit my time with them. That’s how different these platforms are from the traditional media of the 20th Century.

If you’d like to do a deep dive into “The Future of Well-Being in a Tech Saturated World,” here’s a link to a long report on all of this by the Pew Research Center.  Click HERE

Reader Question

I share all of this for radio broadcasters, the first social media, to consider the challenge of today’s new communications media. It’s addictive. Broadcast not so much.

A reader wrote to me asking this question: ‘Was radio the dominant media because it truly was a companion or because it was pre-internet, consumers had a lot fewer choices for basic full service information and music?’

Reaching Our Time Limit

Back in the early 90s I was living in New Jersey and AT&T did a presentation for my Rotary Club on a future of infinite capacity in communications. Just to be clear, these scientists defined “infinite” as having more transmission capacity through their wires than they could conceive of what to transmit over them.

I remember asking the question if the future was going to make available so much media product, how would a viewer or listener know what to consume? The answer they gave me was, ‘the media would pay the listener or viewer to listen or watch their program.’

It feels to me like we’re approaching that point in time now.

What are your thoughts?

 

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You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd

you-cant-roller-skate-in-a-buffalo-herdRoger Miller was a very creative guy. His 1966 hit song, “You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd” was a crazy list of things you could not do to be happy, but did offer a remedy on how you could be happy, if you had a mind to.

It got me to thinking about other things you can’t do, especially when it comes to radio.

You Can’t Combine WINS & WCBS

New York City has two all-news radio stations, 1010 WINS and News Radio 88 WCBS. They’ve competed against each other since Westinghouse owned WINS, and CBS owned WCBS.

Even when both radio stations found themselves under the same ownership several years ago, they were run and staffed independently, and continued to compete for audience and ad dollars.

Now Entercom owns both, and would like to implement plans for “cross-utilization” of personnel. The New York Daily News provides all the details in their recent story and you can read it HERE.

You Can’t Be Serious

Recently James Cridland tweeted this news story: “Black day for UK radio. 43 local breakfast shows to go by the end of the year. 24 drivetime shows. 10 studio buildings gone.” In the UK, consolidation fever was spreading among the commercial radio operators after securing deregulation. Owners say it’s a huge step for the commercial radio sector and you can read all about the changes HERE.

“When we change the way we communicate, we change society.”

-Clay Shirky

You Can’t Shrink Your Way to Success

One of my mentors is Roy H. Williams, aka The Wizard of Ads, who writes a weekly Monday Morning Memo that I’ve been reading since the 80s.

Recently, Roy’s subject was “Shrink Your Way to Success?” The article said that “when a business is struggling financially, cost-cutting looks like a brilliant move.” Unfortunately, you can’t cut your way to success. This is something that has been born out over the decades, and in all kinds of industries. So, what’s the alternative? Increasing revenues. “Cost-cutting comes at a very high cost,” says Roy. The Wizard’s prescription is worth your time to read and you can find it HERE.

You Can’t Become Intimate Without Repeated Contact

Then Fred Jacob’s JACOBLOG published an incredible two-part blog piece on “Can Radio Achieve Brand Intimacy?” Part one looked at the twelve brands that consumers say they can’t live without. #1 on the list was Apple. Then Fred shared the top ten list of the brands people say they are most intimate with, Disney was #1 and Apple was #2.

Part two of Fred’s daily blog then went on to share twelve things RADIO could be doing to achieve brand intimacy. You can read Part 1 HERE and Part 2 HERE.

After reading the two-part blog, I commented back to Fred with the following observation:

“Intimacy takes time, but just like in personal relationships, it’s worth it.” Unfortunately, radio’s consolidation years under valued the intimacy that its personalities and brands had built up over time, and quickly discarded both.

The real success stories in radio today are those properties that have carefully maintained and continued to nurture their place in their listener’s lives.

Radio Can’t be “Just OK”

I recently have been amused by a new television advertising campaign by AT&T that says being “Just OK, Is Not OK.” You can view one of their ads HERE. In a field that has very limited competition for its services, the ads clearly portray that you deserve the best and AT&T is here to deliver it.

Radio used to be in the business of competing with other radio stations in its city of license, and stealing as much advertising as it could from the local print media. Print media always grabbed the lion’s share of the local advertising budgets. Today, all traditional media competes with the internet delivery system, which means it now competes with the world.

If there was ever a time when radio could not afford to be “just OK,” it’s now.

“As great and pressing as change and betterment may be,

we can’t toss away the very bedrock

upon which the radio industry was built.”

-DickTaylor

 

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FM Chip, Data Usage & Streaming

121Apple recently introduced the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus & iPhone X (it’s 10th anniversary iPhone). Each of these new iPhones have an FM chip in them, I’ve read, that if turned on, could receive OTA FM radio signals, but these chips are not activated.

I’m not an engineer, but I suspect there’s more to making an iPhone receive FM radio than just turning on a software switch. I will let those more knowledgeable about these things weigh in on this aspect.

Streaming Audio & Data Usage

One of the reasons broadcasters cite for having FM chips activated in smartphones is that it uses less battery power and doesn’t consume your data plan like streaming does.

And the other reason is that FM radio stays on-the-air when cell towers go down in a storm, like Hurricanes Irma or Harvey.

NextRadio says it’s seen a big percentage jump in usage to their App in Florida during Irma by allowing a smartphone equipped with an FM chip to listen to over-the-air FM radio broadcasts.

Verizon’s Smallest Data Plan

I’m a Verizon customer. Have been for a long time. I was on their unlimited data plan until a Verizon rep said my data consumption was not even half of Verizon’s smallest data plan and that I could cut my monthly phone bill in half by getting off that plan. So, I did.

This past Memorial Day weekend I streamed Allan Sniffen’s WABC Rewound while driving from Massachusetts back to Virginia. I consumed almost all of my 1GB plan due to this. I called Verizon about what I could do and was told they would switch me to their new small data plan at no charge. It’s now 2GB, plus any unused data rolls over.

I have something like 4+GB now and it grows because most of my music streaming is done when I’m connected on WiFi and not over-the-air.

I expect that this will be expanded again by Verizon due to competition from other wireless carriers.

T-Mobile Unlimited Music Streaming

Back in July 2016, I wrote a blog article titled “SiriusXM Radio is Now Free.” That article still sees lots of traffic from people searching for this service. I think they thought I wrote that it was now free, but the nature of the article mused what if they made some of their music channels free and then sold commercials in those nationwide free music channels. It’s actually something that’s been kicked around by America’s only satellite broadcaster.

But in 2014, T-Mobile introduced “Music Freedom.” T-Mobile wrote, “With Music Freedom, T-Mobile Simple Choice customers can stream all the music they want – without ever touching their high-speed data – at no extra charge.”

Then in 2016, T-Mobile expanded this to more than 100 music and video services. T-Mobile CEO and president John Legere vlogged: “Music Freedom and Binge On have radically changed the way T-Mobile customers watch video and listen to music.”

T-Mobile & Sprint Merger

CNBC says that T-Mobile and Sprint are in active merger talks. If they do become one, they would become America’s second largest wireless carrier. Can you see how both Music Freedom and Binge On would provide a very competitive stance to AT&T and Verizon?

Radio’s Streaming Effort May Be Screwed

Then Mark Ramsey published part one of a two-part blog post titled “Radio’s Streaming Effort May Be Screwed – Part 1” and showed Triton streaming activity for broadcasters and pureplays year-over-year. It’s not pretty. Pureplays up 16.2% and broadcasters down 1.6%.

Radio is not getting more important in the streaming world.

I believe it’s because, like most people, I listen to OTA radio using a device designed for listening to this service, a car or home radio set.

When I stream, I go to things I can’t get over-the-air, like Smooth Jazz music.

I put two new Smooth Jazz radio stations on the air in my radio career. Both of them are gone, as is the format in most radio markets in America today. Streaming is about the only way to listen to this genre of music.

Streaming Audio & NetFlix

Streaming audio teaches people to expect a different listening experience as Netflix taught people to expect a different viewing experience. Like getting an entire season of a show (House of Cards, for example) released on the same day and not dribbled out one episode per week, like broadcast TV.

Dave Van Dyke’s Bridge Ratings just showed how broadcast radio is being impacted by streaming: “New behavior by on-demand streaming listeners has accelerated time-spent-listening attrition because radio has not been able to accommodate the volume of songs released by popular artists.”

Broadcast radio can now sympathize with broadcast television with the way new product is released to the listening/viewing audience.

JJJRH

In my broadcast capstone class, one of the books my students read was by Gary Vaynerchuk called “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World.”

Gary skillfully shows how you can’t take your message and just paste it across all the various forms of social media. That each platform is like a different radio format. Your message to be effective and cut through needs to be molded to fit the social medium. Facebook is different than LinkedIn that’s different from Twitter, that’s different from Pinterest et al.

I believe it’s the same with taking your radio station’s over-the-air signal and simply streaming it (with a few exceptions, like a 1010 WINS or WTOP).

When your offering can be as easily received, as every other audio offering from anywhere in the world, yours will need to be either the very best, very niched or one-of-a-kind.

 

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