Tag Archives: Car Radio

When TV Disrupted Radio

97I grew up with TV.

Essentially, we were “born” in the same year.

I don’t remember a time when TV didn’t exist.

TV was supposed to put radio out-of-business. It was the “great disruptor.”

Why TV Didn’t Put Radio Out-Of-Business

While I loved my TV shows and even remember planning my life around TV GUIDE and the new fall shows, I still fell in love with radio and wanted to be a radio personality since elementary school and my first Zenith transistor radio.

Radio for me was never about Jack Benny or Groucho Marx or Amos & Andy or radio dramas like Orson Welles “War of the Worlds.”

Radio was exciting execution, engaging personalities and the best of new music from all genres.

Radio was addictive because it was so engaging.

Disruption Knows No Loyalties

It’s reported that as this decade began only 67 of the original Fortune 500 companies were still in business. Welcome to the 21st Century of Disruption.

The reality in today’s world of accelerating change is that the very success that rockets a company to raving success usually becomes the dagger that runs through its heart when the market environment shifts. Then new firms take over and former leaders fade into the history books.

The business truth is eventually every business sees its model fail.

Radio’s New Business Model after TV

Can you imagine a more difficult time than when TV swooped in and stole all of radio’s programs and talent? It was a time when people said things like “The last person to leave, please turn off the lights on your way out.”

It was a dark time for radio.

But not for all.

Only those who couldn’t see their way past the way it had been.

New broadcasters were quick to develop new formats.

1965 saw the birth of BOSS RADIO in Los Angeles with Bill Drake & Ron Jacob’s 93-KHJ.

At the same time 1010-WINS in New York would pioneer the all news format and everyone would know the phrase “You give us 21-minutes and we’ll give you the world.”

These new broadcasters would be the ones that inspired me to want to be a radio guy.

The Transistor Radio

Radio took advantage of the transistor radio. The youth of my day would all want a transistor radio of their very own and radio owned the youth generation.

The Car Radio

As we grew older and bought our first car, the car radio was a MUST HAVE accessory.

Movies like American Graffiti would romance the glory of the young and their radio.

The Internet of Things (IoT)

Today’s 21st Century finds radio with a new disruptor, the internet. It’s not a new product but an ecosystem.

Amazon and Walmart sell many of the same products and are quite competitive on price. The big difference is Walmart is a brick and mortar ecosystem and Amazon is internet based.

For radio to compete the industry needs to have a vision for how its product fits into a complex network of components, systems and user experience.

That’s the 21st Century radio challenge. (TV faces the same challenge.)

Today’s radio must seamlessly fit into a listener’s life on any platform the listener uses.

Disruption will crash and burn any business model that wants to hold onto the past.

Disruption will clear a path for those who are innovative, nimble and responsive to a changing marketplace.

For those broadcasters, the opportunities are limitless.

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My oh MAYA

81Have you ever heard of the MAYA Principle? Neither had I. But I saw an article in The Atlantic titled “The Four-Letter Code to Selling Just About Anything, what makes things cool” and I wondered if there might be some application for radio.

MAYA

MAYA stands for “Most Advanced. Yet Acceptable.”

It means that as you design your product or business for the future you need to keep it in balance with your users’ present. In other words, as Tony Bennett might have sang, “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.”

This 1931 jazz composition by Duke Ellington was given the MAYA treatment by Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga in 2014. Proving anything that’s old can be new again.

Age of Distraction

I doubt anyone would take issue with the statement that the 21st Century is the “Age of Distraction.” I also am sure that when your computer, smartphone, tablet, software says you have an update, you sigh a big sigh and utter something like “Uff da. Fina mina doh.” (Translation: Oh boy. Here we go again.)

Sequels

Hollywood and television have long understood MAYA. To date we have twelve Star Wars movies, ten Halloween movies and CSI grew from Las Vegas to Miami and New York. I’m sure you can think of many others.

The reason is each is new but familiar.

Change

We humans are a fickle lot.

We hate change and we love change.

What we really like is what Derek Thompson calls “the simulation of innovation, which pushes the right buttons for novelty while remaining fundamentally conventional.”

________ R Us

Remember when Toys R Us had everyone copying their success by calling themselves “R Us” too. The iPod, iPhone, iPad had lots of imitators as well, as if putting a small “i” in front of your name made you cool.

Well, it can.

Ask Bob Pittman.

He changed Clear Channel Radio to Clear Channel Media & Entertainment before abandoning the old CC brand to adopt its successful App brand for the entire company. Voila, iHeartMedia.

“iHeartMedia reflects our commitment to being the media company that provides the most entertainment to the most engaged audiences wherever they go, with more content and more events in more places on more devices,” said Bob Pittman, Chairman and CEO of iHeartMedia, Inc.

Car Radios

I recently drove a Toyota Rav4 rental for a week in Florida. The radio was a trial. Thank goodness it had a volume and a tuning knob. Everything else was activated by the touch screen or the myriad of buttons on the steering wheel. (Don’t get me started about the HD reception.)

Laurence Harrison, Director of Digital Radio UK did a presentation at the Connected Car Show in 2016 on what the consumer wanted in their car radio. Here’s some of what he told his audience.

  • 77% want LIVE radio
  • 82% said a radio was a MUST HAVE
  • 69% said if they could only chose one entertainment option it would be radio
  • Digital is the future of radio
  • Want better radios
  • Listener centered design
  • Metadata to make it smart

Summing it all up, consumers want a car radio that’s broadcast digital, with a simple, easy-to-use interface (that’s familiar) and an app-like experience that is safe according to Harrison.

Raymond Loewy

The MAYA principle was the design approach brainchild of Raymond Loewy. You may not know his name but you know his work. Loewy designed the Coca Cola bottle, the logo for Air Force One, the logos for Shell, USPS and Greyhound. He also designed some of the iconic cars of the 40s – 60s and so much more.

Loewy understood us fickle humans. We want change, just not too quickly. He was a master of giving consumers a more advanced design but not more advanced than what they were able to deal with.

Apple

Steve Jobs was good as applying the principle of MAYA with the introduction of the iPod and its evolution. The iPod over time removed most of its buttons creating the entrance for the iPhone.

Apple wasn’t about to repeat the disaster it had with the Newton, a product that was more advanced than consumers were ready for. Google Glass is another such product that made too big a leap.

Knowing Your Customer’s Current Skill Level

For the consumer to embrace change, change must be introduced gradually over time.

The Air Pods might seem like a contradiction to this but when the iPhone7 introduced them and took away the headphone jack the percentage of wireless headphone sales to wired ones had already crossed a tipping point. iPhone7 sales are an indicator that it was MAYA time for this innovation. Apple didn’t have to explain the concept to its consumers, they were already there.

Consumers are not going to spend their time and money on trying to learn your product if there’s a product out there that is easier to use and more familiar to them.

And that is the challenge for radio.

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History’s Technology Rhyme

Transistor Radio, Car Radio and Rock & Roll

Transistor Radio, Cars & Rock ‘n Roll

I’ve written before how history never repeats itself, but usually rhymes. So when I was reading an article in the NY Times about “Tech’s ‘Frightful 5’ Will Dominate Digital Life for Foreseeable Future” it hit me. Here was how history was rhyming when it came to communications. Fasten your seat-belt, this will get bumpy.

What this article’s author Farhad Manjoo wrote was how Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft (others include Netflix in this mix) came along at a perfect time to roll up their user base. They were in the right place, at the right time in other words.

Geoffrey G. Parker, a business professor at Tulane University has co-authored a book called “Platform Revolution” where he explains how these tech companies were able to ride the perfect wave of technology change – that being a decrease in the cost of IT, an increase in connectivity and the introduction/fast adoption of mobile phones.

And when it comes to advertising, these companies are in the right place to leverage digital marketing and enjoy most of the benefits of this growth area as well. In fact, since there is a sense that these major digital companies will receive most of the online advertising monies, traditional media – like radio & TV – could see advertising monies return to them.  Let’s hope that happens.

So, where’s the rhyme in this story? Well consider this other time in communications history when television burst onto the scene after the end of World War Two in the 1950s. Radio, a lot of people thought, would cease to exist. Radio’s stars, programs and advertisers, to a large measure, jumped into television. Radio had to find a new act.

Radio was in the right place, at the right time for the birth of three things when TV came along; the transistor radio and the car radio. Both of these technology advancements would be the savior of radio along with one other important development; rock ‘n roll.

Radio was in the perfect place to ride the baby boomer youth wave of rock music, cars and transistor radios. Television grew in large measure by scarcity, only two or three television networks and few TV stations.

When broadband came along, that scarcity factor went poof. Radio now sees its dominance in the car being challenged by a digital dashboard.

The newest radio format to have come into existence – all sports/talk – is now 29 years old. Clearly, innovation in the radio world has stalled.

The good news is radio in America has more reach than any other form of mass media. The bad news is it sees annual erosion of its TSL (time spent listening). This can be fixed. To do this, radio needs to address the very factors that are causing its TSL to erode.

The thing most often heard from consumers about what they dislike about radio are its commercials. Yet, commercials don’t have to be a tune-out factor. No one tunes out the Super Bowl when it’s a blowout because they want to see what other clever commercials might still be coming on their television.

Most radio stations long ago did away with their copywriters. These masters of the spoken word who can craft a story about businesses need to be enticed back into the radio business at every radio station.

The number of commercials in a break needs to be reassessed by the radio industry as well. You can’t kill the goose that lays your gold revenue egg and expect it to continue to lay you golden eggs.

Bring back personalities. They not only sell the music (the record companies need you!); they sell your station and through live reads, your advertisers’ products and services.

Those who remember Paul Harvey News & Commentary will tell you that page two (his first live read commercial) was always something you turned up the radio for. I remember reading Paul Harvey brought in more money for the ABC Radio Network than everything else they did. And everyone loved Paul Harvey’s commercials and bought the products he talked about.

I think retired CBS Radio President Dan Mason said it best when he said this about radio:

“Without community and companionship, we have nothing.”

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Radio – America’s #1 Mass Reach Medium

radio-reaches-245-million-americans-2015-2This was certainly true in the first golden age of radio, that period of time from its birth in 1920 through the mass takeover of television in the 1950s. Once TV came along, radio had to reinvent itself.

 

That reinvention came in the form of Rock ‘N’ Roll, the transistor radio and the car radio. Radio was portable, TV was not. TV took over the living room, but radio took over every other place.

 

In my life, I’ve lived through every new form of technology that was going to be the death of radio. The 8-track tape, the cassette tape, the CB radio, the CD player, the CD changer, the cell phone, the MP3 player, and most recently, the World Wide Web, Internet streaming and wireless broadband.

 

So you might be surprised to learn that at the 2015 annual meeting of the Association of National Advertisers Masters of Marketing Conference in Orlando, Florida attendees learned that when it comes to adults 18+, RADIO reaches 93% of them every week. That’s more than TV, more than smart phones, more than PCs and more than tablets.

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I remember when I got my first GM position. It was a daytime radio station that featured Al Ham’s “Music of YOUR Life” format, big band music for those not familiar with the programming. Yes, my audience was old. But only according to the calendar, but not the way they thought about themselves. Nampa and his corvette

It was always a tough putt with new advertisers, getting across this concept that you are as young as you think. So I wasn’t surprised to learn that one of the sessions talked about “APT.” APT was all about the “Age People Think” not demographics.

 

I’m not sure that lumping people by demographics was ever a sound marketing idea, but like a lot of bad ideas (buying radio on a Cost Per Point basis) in advertising, people do what’s always been done and ignore if it’s a sound way to place advertising.

 

A lot of my radio stations over my career have focused on an older demo. When Ken Dychtwald’s book “Age Wave” came out in 1990, I read it with enthusiasm. Dychtwald told of the massive population and cultural shifts that would be taking place because of the Baby Boom Generation. He put forward how the boomers would shift the epicenter of consumer activity from a focus on youth to the needs, challenges, and aspirations of maturing consumers. Those predictions are playing out today.

 

So again, I wasn’t surprised to read that at the ANA gathering attendees were told that old people were a growth market. In light of the trillion dollars in student loan debt, the millennials are cash challenged in a way that the Boomers are not.

 

I grew up in a Chevy family. Remember those days of yore? Chevy families and Ford families competing for bragging rights as to which drove the better cars?

 

Many marketers would have you believe that we are now stuck in a rut with our product choices and only the young are pliable enough to be swayed to try or change brands. So let’s see how that plays out in my family. I have two older brothers; one drives a Honda and the other a Toyota. How about our kids? Well we have a BMW, Mercedes Benz, Hyundai and Honda. In my case, I drove a Hyundai for the past eight years before switching to a Honda Accord; so much for that concept that once you are stuck in a brand, you stay there for life. Even my toothpaste is not the brand I grew up using.

 

Everything has changed about the world with the exception the way marketing is created and advertising is bought.

 

One of the big changes is that RADIO is back! It’s the massive reach medium that advertisers seek to expose their products and services on, except that they don’t know it.

 

Radio needs to use some frequency and repetition to get the word out.

 

Willie Sutton said he robbed banks because that’s where the money was.

 

If you’re an advertiser, you need to advertise where the people are and that’s today’s RADIO.

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New Radio World Column Premieres

Thirty years ago Michael C. Keith entered a small New England college to start a new career. Keith had just spent the past ten years as a professional broadcaster and was now transitioning into the world of teaching. The first thing that he would learn was the only textbooks available at that time were woefully out-of-date. Radio was now format driven and there were no textbooks available in 1986 that were teaching the kind of radio Michael Keith had just left. So, Keith decided to write his own textbook. He called it simply “The Radio Station” and he pitched his manuscript to Focal Press.

If you like to read the entire article, simply click here: Focal Press Updates “Keith’s Radio Station”

This is the premiere of my new column in Radio World that will appear quarterly.

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The Paradigm Shift in Auto Mobility

I just finished watching a webinar on “The Paradigm Shift in Auto Mobility” presented by TU-Automotive Detroit 2015 (www.tu-auto.com/detroit). It was fascinating hearing Doug Claus of BMW talk about self-parking cars. Imagine, you pull into a parking garage and get out of your car and your car goes into the garage on its own and seeks out a free parking space and parks. It then patiently waits until you summon it to pick you back up using either your Smartphone or Smartwatch technology.

Doug pointed out that car sharing vs. car ownership is where many young adults see the future. Autonomous vehicles are also on the horizon, though he pointed out that European countries have better painted roads, better road signage and better road maintenance than we do here in the United States. It’s another example of our crumbling infrastructure and how it makes us a less competitive place in the world when it comes to implementing these coming new technologies.

But the reason I attended this webinar was to hear about the future of AM/FM radio in the car dashboard of the future. What Raj Paul of LochBridge calls “Infotainment Systems.”

Raj said that each OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) has built a unique proprietary system. He mentioned a couple of them like Honda’s HondaLink, Ford MyTouch, Toyota Entune, Chrysler UConnect, Cadillac Cue and Mercedes mBrace2. There are also the Google Android and Apple iOS systems that are being developed. Expect that every OEM will seamlessly work with their own proprietary system as well as both Android and iOS.

When Raj put up the slide about existing infotainment architecture, you couldn’t help but notice the Pandora button on the screen. The other two symbols were apparently there to represent how Apps from your Smartphone would load into the car’s system.

The next generation integrated infotainment interface was packed with GPS maps, live traffic, navigation, routing, parking locator, gas & price locator, etc. A lot of information displayed in front of the driver. Yes, the Pandora button was once again prominently displayed on this slide, but only to indicate the accessibility of streaming audio services. I was happy to see an AM/FM button there too.

The competition for utilization of each point of access has never been greater. It makes the AM radio with push buttons for favorite radio stations seem quaint by comparison.

You won’t have to set your favorite applications, because your car will learn what you like and what you use and put that configuration up when you sit in the driver’s seat and push the button for your personal seat position. This is what OEM’s call adaptive profiling.

For radio station operators, being at the top of your game has never been more important. Advertising and promoting your brand will be critical to make listeners aware of what you offer and why they should care.

In a way, I see it as history repeating itself. For before there was radio, those early pioneers needed to tell people why they needed to go out and buy one. Then they had to program those radio stations and promote themselves to be the “must listen to” radio station and keep those listeners returning each day. Those days are back, only this time the game has changed to how do you brand your radio product and stand out in an car infotainment world where audio programming options are ubiquitous.

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Winners Invest in the Future

America got to be the leading country in the world by investing in its future and much of that investment came from the government investing in the new ideas of its citizens.

In 1825, an American painter was commissioned by the City of New York to paint a portrait of Lafayette.   The painter traveled from his home in New Haven, Connecticut to Washington, DC to paint Lafayette before he departed back to France. While in DC, the painter received word his wife was very sick. Before he could even begin to travel back to New Haven, a second letter arrived to say his wife had passed away. Grief stricken, this event would cause the middle aged painter to search for a faster means of communication.

Samuel Finley Breese Morse would, with the financial assistance of the United States government, build the first telegraph system between Washington, DC and Baltimore, Maryland in 1844. He would secure his patent for the telegraph in 1847 and be given the rights to privately build telegraph systems throughout America and the world. He co-founded the Morse code language that bears his name and is still the code used today by practitioners of this form of communication.

This kind of investment in the future has been the Hallmark of America.

Radio has benefited from many creative geniuses over the years since its commercial birth in 1920. Programmers, air talent, engineers, managers and visionary stakeholders have all played a role in making radio the second greatest invention of all time (according to the History Channel).

Growth of any enterprise only occurs if there’s a steady stream of new innovation. Innovation occurs when experimental research is conducted without thought for where it may lead. The transistor was invented in 1947, but it didn’t really see a practical application until the first transistor radio was put on sale in November 1954. It was the Regency TR-1.

The transistor radio and car radio would be the salvation of AM radio with the advent of commercial VHF TV in the 1950s. The inventors of the transistor did not envision that their creation would save the radio industry by making it available to a whole new generation who wanted to hear the latest music wherever they went.

Ironically, our government funded virtually every piece of technological development that would make possible the Internet, the iPhone and even Siri. Radio can either be like Google and Apple and take advantage of what’s been created to leverage it for their business or relegate their medium to the era of flip cameras, walkman, dial telephones etc.

Radio today invests a lot of energy in trying to hang on to the past. It’s playing defense instead of offense as it did back when television was born.

To win in the future, you have to invest in it.

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