Tag Archives: digital radio

Who Controls the Future of Digital?

digital futureI recently participated in a Hootsuite webinar by Simon Kemp on “The Future Forces of Digital, 2018 & Beyond.” It’s eye-opening and rather intuitive in its conclusions for where the internet of things is headed. Let me share with you what I learned.

The State of World Digital 2018

First, a dose of current reality:

  • World Population: 7.593 Billion
  • Population connected to the internet: 4.021 Billion (53%)
  • Active on social media: 3.196 Billion (42%)
  • Unique mobile users: 5.135 Billion (68%)
  • Active mobile social media users: 2.958 Billion (39%)

Right off the bat, seeing that 68% of the world’s population are now mobile users, most likely on a smartphone, was a wake-up call. And while social media is now ten years old, the world is still joining the conversation on social media at a rate of a million new users every day.

USA Digital 2018

Now that you have an idea of what’s going on globally, here’s what Simon told us about the current state of digital in America:

  • USA population: 325.6 million
  • USA population connected to the internet: 286.9 million (88%)
  • USA population active on social media: 230.0 million (71%)
  • USA population that are unique mobile users: 234.8 million (72%)
  • USA population that are active mobile social media users: 200.0 (61%)

We are past the tipping point for both mobile use and internet connectivity in America. In fact, 69% of Americans have now shopped online.

The researchers are forecasting content that inspires and educates will be more valued by this growing digital audience going forward, versus content that informs and entertains.

What Do We Do?

The big question we need to be asking ourselves in media is, what can we do that will make our target audience so excited about it that they would be willing to pay for it?

NPR/Public Radio and Christian Radio have figured this out and it’s why we have seen both formats doing so well in both audience ratings as well as listener support.

Every radio station should be asking this question, when planning any activity.

How Do We Know What Our Audience Wants?

Mayor Ed Koch knew how to find out what his constituents wanted. He asked them. Repeatedly.

Everywhere 3-term NYC Mayor Koch went, he asked “How am I doing?”

To get the answer to this question for your media property, ask your listeners. Your goal is to find out what your target audience wants, needs and desires in order to learn what will inspire them, educate them and make their lives better.Maslow's Needs Pyramid

Think Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” pyramid.

Tap into Your Influencers

Radio’s top influencers are their P1 listeners. To really understand your target audience, your P1 listeners are the ones you need to intimately know and take care of. Station logo’d stuff ought to be freely flowing to these important people, but it doesn’t stop there.

Your P1s are the people who understand what your target audience really cares about, and why. Think of them as consultants to your brand.

Lowest Common Denominator

In the next two to five years we can expect technology to accommodate the next billion users of digital media. People in the developing world, are the ones that will be shaping the internet.

They will impact ALL internet and mobile users.

Again, Simon gave these examples of that next billion users impact:

  • 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 content is texted 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 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.

When Mr. Kemper walked his audience through this part of his presentation, I immediately thought of having Apple put FM receivers into their iPhones.

FM, HD Radio, DAB, DAB+ etc. are 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.

 

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Tall Towers in Big Fields

55I worked for Clear Channel for five years. As best as I remember, not a meeting went by that John Hogan wouldn’t say “we’re not about tall towers in big fields anymore.” And as I watch radio companies all across America selling off their radio towers, I think that day has come to fruition.

Introducing the iPhone7

This week on September 7, 2016 the iPhone7 came out and the big news was that it eliminated the headphone jack. The radio industry was in shock. How would NextRadio be heard without the wire that connected the ear buds to the phone since that wire acts as the antenna to receive FM radio through a smartphone with the FM chip activated. Except Apple never activated the FM chip inside any iPhone.

PPM & the iPhone7

Then only two days later, Randy Kabrich published a concern that may be even more important to the radio industry, and that was, how would PPM* work with the new iPhone7? Randy posted this picture with his article iphone7-with-ppm and you really should read all that Randy has to say on the subject with his article on Tom Taylor’s NOW here.

Change is the Only Constant

Jim Carnegie, who founded Radio Business Reports, used to continuously preach to the radio industry you can’t hold back change. If you are to survive you must embrace change.

In the case of wireless headphones, the tipping point has been reached. More wireless headphones are now sold than wired ones. So I don’t think Apple was going out on a limb by eliminating a 19th century technology. I also fully suspect that AirPods will soon become the new “IN” thing.

What Should Radio Be Focused On?

MediaLife Magazine published a really interesting article on the seven important trends that radio should be focused on. You can read the article here. I will give you the “Reader’s Digest” version with some of my own thoughts.

The Future of Big Radio

Radio is best when it’s LIVE & LOCAL. The consolidation of radio has not been the successful business model that investors on Wall Street bought into. Of course the concept of “increasing shareholder value” and radio’s operating in the public interest, convenience and necessity were at odds with one another from day one. I would agree with MediaLife that radio’s future will be via locally managed radio operators.

The Future of Local Radio

Johnny Carson used to say: “If you buy the premise you buy the bit.” In this case if you believe in the demise of big radio, then you will also believe in the rise of local radio. I know right here in Kentucky many locally owned and operated radio stations that are fully engaged in every aspect of the lives of their listeners and they are thriving.

Radio Goes Digital

With radio company after radio company selling off their radio towers, the writing appears to be on the wall that all radio will be delivered digitally and via the internet. Gone will be towers and transmitters and FCC regulations, fees and fines.

Convergence of Media

I remember writing a paper on media convergence when I was in college. That was long before the concept of a world wide web. With the internet all media becomes identical. What difference is there between a newspaper, a radio station or a television station when each of them can do the same thing? What will separate them is the quality of their content.

NAB, NAA and IAB et al.

The coming convergence will really play havoc with media associations. When what once were separate and distinction constituencies will now also converge into a media association.

I remember being in Washington, DC when Senator Gordon Smith came on board at the NAB President. I shook his hand and asked him about the NAB inviting the satellite radio and internet radio operators into our big tent. I said better to have them with us than against us. He nodded and said that was certainly something to think about. (I think he may have just been being kind.)

Radio’s Opportunity

The History Channel did a program on the “100 Greatest Inventions” and number two on the list was RADIO. Number one was the smartphone. The smartphone really replaces many of our other devices. My digital camera lays somewhere gathering dust as my iPhone has been my digital camera since I got it. CD player, iPod etc, have been all replaced by my iPhone for playing my own music collection. My iPhone is my radio and TV too. Newspapers, magazines, books, are also easily accessible on my iPhone. I know I’m not alone in finding that their smartphone has become a very important part of their life. My iPhone is the model 4S. It’s ancient in the eyes of my students. That’s why the new iPhone7 with the 256GB storage, stereo sound, wireless AirPods, water resistant and all the rest has me thinking it’s time to upgrade.

For me, the big change is the size of the phone. I like the size of my 4S. It was just a bit smaller than the Blackberry Pearl it replaced, but the technology leap it offered over the Blackberry was incredible. I’m sure that the size thing is only in my perception and once I advance to the larger screen I will wonder how I lived without it.

No One Goes Backward

History shows that once people adopt something new, they never go back to the way it used to be. We may wax romantically about the good old days, but if we had to trade another time in history for life without our smartphones and wireless internet, I seriously doubt we could make the trade.

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*PPM is a Nielsen’s Personal People Meter. It’s a device used to measure radio listening in the top 50 radio markets in the USA.

Note: Randy Kabrich blogs here: http://blog.kabrich.com/

 

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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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The Day the “Dumbest Idea” Invaded the Radio Industry

shareholder valueLast week I wrote about killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. It was my way of comparing the Aesop fable to the world of American radio. It got a lot of discussion. But I felt that while I touched on how radio operators twenty years ago wanted to harvest all the golden eggs immediately versus waiting to get one each day, by virtue of a last minute insertion into the Telcom Act of 1996 that basically removed the ownership caps on radio, there was – as Paul Harvey used to intone – ‘the rest of the story’ to be told.

The rest of the story involves “the dumbest idea.” I grew up about a decade after World War Two ended. This was the period when America enjoyed an extended period of economic growth and a shared prosperity. By “shared prosperity” I mean it was a time when the workers who produced a product or service shared in the profits produced by the company. Managers and workers would see their income grow together. As everyone’s pay increased, there was more discretionary income to spend. This was the rise of the middle class in America. All boats were rising with the economic tide.

In 1968, I started on-the-air at one of my hometown radio stations while in the 10th grade in high school. I was paid the minimum wage; $1.60 per hour. Did you know that 1968 was the year when someone making the minimum wage had the most buying power for that rate of pay? The equivalent in 2012 dollars is $10.34 per hour. So what happened?

Somewhere in the 1970s things changed. Firms began to focus on themselves. The productivity gains produced by the workers were no longer shared with the workers. Since no one complained, this new way of doing business continued.

The 1980s really saw this new operational style take hold. And as it did, incomes for the middle class stagnated. When the middle class incomes stop growing, the ramifications on the rest of the economy are magnified. Workers no longer have discretionary income to spend. This was initially covered up by women entering the workforce producing two wage-earner incomes. Then when that ran its course, credit cards, second mortgages would keep the party going under false pretenses.

Today we are in a vicious cycle of decline.

What changed in the 1970s was a new idea about what metric should be used to measure the success of a business. Before this new idea was born, Peter Drucker’s measure was the rule. The purpose of a business, said Drucker, was to create a customer. But that went out with leisure suits, the new crop of business wizards would proclaim. What replaced it was something that even GE’s Jack Welch has called “the dumbest idea in the world.”

What was this dumb idea? Increasing shareholder value.

In an effort to offset declining profits and performance, a new operating modus operandi was conceived that the purpose of a corporation is to maximize shareholder value. To make sure the captains of industry got the message, boards of directors would change their compensation packages to cause these business leaders to focus on increasing the company’s stock price. What could possibly go wrong?

Everything!

The concept was embraced by both America’s business schools as well as industry. Unfortunately, the new policy not only didn’t solve the problem it was supposed to address but by unintended consequences created a myriad of new problems no one foresaw.

Tell me if any of these “unintended consequences” sound familiar to you: short-term decision making, relentless cost cutting, staff reductions (RIFs), less investment in the business, virtually no innovation, low workforce morale, no raises in pay, reduced benefits, non-stop mergers, increased debt, lost ability to compete, declining R.O.I., and economic stagnation. I’m sure you can add to this list based on your own experiences. For a more detailed look at this, you should read Steve Denning’s “Why ‘The System’ Is Rigged And The U.S. Electorate Is Angry,” the inspiration behind today’s blog post.

So twenty years ago, in 1996, President Bill Clinton signed into law the Telcom Act of 1996. This would bring “the dumbest idea in the world” to the radio industry. Wall Street jumped into the new shiny investment opportunity; radio. Everything that every other industry was experiencing from this new operational style was now rearing its ugly head in the broadcasting industry. All with the same negative impacts.

Not all organizations adopted this dumb idea of operating. They stuck with Drucker’s rule. And it’s the same with the radio industry. The smaller radio operations do operate differently. Their success has others sitting up and taking notice.

However, most organizations – and not just in broadcasting – are still in denial. The evaporating middle class is not good for an industry that lives off of advertising. Advertising is pitched to the masses who are the consumers that drive over seventy percent of the American economy. I wrote about the future of ad supported media last year after I read Thomas Piketty’s book “Capital in the 21st Century.” You can read that blog post here.

Based on the tumultuous presidential election season we’ve seen so far, it would appear that the American society has awakened and is now “as mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.” Cue Howard Beal here.

Steve Denning writes: “We are now at an ‘emperor has no clothes’ moment.” It’s now clear that this way is not working and is not only leading to systemic value destruction but an economy that no longer works for the middle class.

If we’ve ever needed real leadership in America, it’s now — and from all directions.

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Evolve or Lose Relevance

23In two months, the world’s largest radio meeting will once again be taking place in Las Vegas; the 2016 NAB Show. Ironically, since leaving the radio industry and entering academia at Western Kentucky University, I attended my very first NAB show in 2011 and have every year since. So as visions of massive crowds and very sore feet dance in my head, I thought I’d look back over those past years and see how the theme of these meetings has evolved.

In 2011, the NAB highlighted that media consumption had become more digital and connected. TV everywhere strategies, mobile TV, the connected TV and the use of social media dominated the show.

In 2012, everyone was shouting about 4K video, ISP content delivery and the evolution of special effects technology. Everywhere you went you were shown 3DTV (I didn’t care for it, personally.)

In 2013, the NAB show hosted its first ever 2nd screen Sunday and the impact of more than one screen (the television set) vying for the viewer’s attention was fully recognized if not totally embraced by broadcasters.

In 2014, the NAB show wasn’t so much memorable for what it had but for what it didn’t have 3DTV. What had once been prolific throughout all the convention halls was now nowhere to be seen. 4K video & TV was now all the rage with Japan’s NHK demonstrating 8K video & TV. NHK said they will be recording the Rio Olympics in 8K and plans to televise (in Japan only) the 2020 Olympics in 8K. When you see TV pictures this detailed, you can instantly see why 3DTV bit the dust. 4K and 8K feels three dimensional and you don’t need any funky glasses.

Which brings me up to last year’s NAB show in 2015 where the theme was “Evolve or Lose Relevance” voiced by NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith. Smith urged broadcasters to embrace the new technologies like ASTC 3.0 & 4K for TV, and NextRadio’s mobile app for FM radio on mobile devices. Smith also talked about the spectrum auction which begins in March 2016 and characterized the auction as both “exciting and daunting.”

What may have been most daunting and certainly not exciting was to have been an AM broadcaster at this meeting – or any of the meetings of the last five years. Move along guys and gals, there’s nothing for you to see here. HDRadio was there every year and I think they had more cars outside of their convention hall than any previous year featuring their spiffy HDRadios, a technology that has been better embraced by the automakers than radio broadcasters for the most part. And of course, there were drones. Lots & lots & lots & lots of drones. Big drones, little drones…a drone for every size and budget. I’m wondering if the FAA will start coming to these meetings along with their friends from the FCC.

The only thing I haven’t seen addressed over these past five years is what seems to me to be the elephant in the room. Everything is supported on a business model that has been around since commercial broadcasting began in 1920, that being the selling of advertising. The covenant with the consumer of radio/TV programs was we will give you the programming for free if you allow us to expose you to our advertisers; a business model that worked extremely well through the birth of the Internet and dial-up connections. It would be the introduction of broadband and its rapid expansion that would challenge everything.

Blockbuster vs. Netflix is a good example. 2004 Blockbuster has 9,000 stores and almost $6 billion in revenue and only 4.4% of American homes had broadband. Netflix was mailing DVDs to its customers. 2010 Blockbuster files for bankruptcy, 68% of American homes have broadband and Netflix had been streaming to their customers for three years. Today Netflix has a market cap of almost $33 billion.

That really brings home the concept of “evolve or lose relevance” doesn’t it?

So what will the business model for media be evolving to? That’s the billion dollar question. Nobody knows. But what we do know is that Apple gave up its free iTunes music streaming at the end of January 2016 and now will only offer a paid subscription model. Disney’s ESPN is suffering the “agony of defeat” as more consumers cut their cable bundle (for which it’s reported that ESPN gets $7 per sub) and is causing this revenue stream to dry up while the cost of bidding for live sports events continues to escalate. Everything appears to be moving in a direction of asking the consumer to pay for what they want – like they do for HBO, Showtime, and Netflix etc.

So what’s the plan Stan for broadcast radio and TV? Or for any advertising supported medium for that matter? I think about this a lot.

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Top 3 In-Demand Radio Jobs

What is the future for jobs in radio in our digitally connected world? Three jobs in particular stand out as being in demand right now and look to be still in demand as radio celebrates its 100th Anniversary in the year 2020. The first won’t surprise anyone, the second is a job that only recently became critical and the third is a job that’s been a part of radio since day one.

#1 Radio Sales People

I’m sure it comes as no surprise that the need for trained, professional sales people is the number one radio job in demand today and as far out as the eye can see. Since I’ve been in radio it seems hiring good sales people was always on the lips of general managers and sales managers. So when we asked the operator’s of Kentucky’s 300 radio stations what were the jobs they most needed to fill, sales was job one.

Ironically, it’s the class not offered by many of America’s colleges and universities that offer a broadcast curriculum. Where I teach at Western Kentucky University, Bart White started teaching radio sales decades ago as part of the broadcast degree program in Radio/TV Operations. In fact, Barton C. White wrote two books on radio sales, his second called The New Ad Media Reality Electronic Over Print should have been widely distributed from the day it came out in 1993. I know I wished I had been aware of it back then.

I was hired to replace the retiring Professor White and immediately charged with teaching both the Broadcast Radio/TV/Digital Sales class as well as the Radio/TV Operations Capstone class. Since I began five years ago as a tenure track professor at WKU, I’ve overseen the creation of the KBA WKU RADIO TALENT INSTITUTE that contains a strong sales component as well as adding a second sales class to the broadcast curriculum in Advanced Radio Sales that enables students earn their professional Radio Advertising Sales certifications in both radio and digital sales from the Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB).

My students have learned that with this type of training, they are almost guaranteed a job upon graduation wherever they decide to live. I’ve successfully placed students with companies like iHeartMedia, CBS Radio, E. W. Scripps, Cromwell Broadcasting, Alpha Media, Commonwealth Broadcasting, Viacom, Summit Media, and Forever Communications.

This year at BEA2015 (Broadcast Education Association) in Las Vegas I’m moderating a panel I proposed to encourage other colleges and universities to consider adding radio sales classes to their curriculum by letting them hear directly about the need in this area from some of the radio industry’s leaders who will be in Vegas attending the NAB April Convention.

#2 Internet Content Creator

The next position that is in demand is for people who can create original content for radio station websites. Not cut and paste artists who “borrow” others’ website content and re-purpose it but innovators that can act like a combination of journalist/advertising/public relations specialist and populate radio station websites with engaging, compelling original content that is of interest to people in the station’s service area.

#3 RF Broadcast Engineers

Not that it was ever easy to hire great radio engineers, the talent pool used to be a whole lot bigger. Consolidation chased a lot of them out of the business and what they learned was the job could be more lucrative by becoming a consultant engineer to groups of radio stations. Other engineers found new opportunities in other industries that could apply their talent and strong work ethic that was instilled into them by radio’s 24/7 on-call employment. Computers and digital technology also demanded that radio engineering learn this new radio operational system or get out.

Well, those who went into private consulting are now reaching the age of retirement. Those who went into other industries learned the pay and hours were often better than radio. Further complicating things, most schools are teaching the skills needed for the digital world and radio stations still generate broadcast signals using radio frequency (RF) and there are fewer schools turning out these types of engineers for radio stations. Graduates are sought by the wireless communications companies that have similar needs to radio stations and have the deep pockets to entice them to work for them.

Positions Not In-Demand

General Managers, Promotions Directors and News Reporters are found on the bottom of the employee needs list. It would appear this is a result of radio’s consolidation. One manager is now needed to oversee a cluster(s) of radio stations. Promotions are now planned on a group-wide basis and news hubs have been set-up to serve regional areas.

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The Problem with Digital Radio

The problem with digital radio is FM radio. FM radio is loved by the consumer. They don’t find anything wrong with FM radio (other than too many commercials). With no perceived need to change, the FM radio listener doesn’t. That’s not just a problem for radio station owners in America, but all around the world.

I often like to compare the start of HD Radio with the introduction of the iPod by Apple. Both happened about the same time. One has sold hundreds of millions of units and now is no longer made, and the other is HD Radio.

Interestingly enough, the introduction of digital audio broadcasting was born around the same time as the World Wide Web. It was born before MP3s and iPods. Born long before the advent of Smartphones and Tablets and yet, digital in the world of over-the-air radio transmission is still waiting to get traction with the consumer.

FM radio commanded 75% of all radio listening in America back in the 1980s when the number of AM and FM radio stations in America numbered about the same. So it’s no surprise that over three decades later that FM dominates when the number of FM radio stations, translators (FM stations) and LPFM (FM stations) far outnumber AM radio stations that are on-the-air today in the USA.

Across the pond, the British government was planning to switch that country’s radio listening from FM analog to digital when the penetration of digital radio listening reached 50%. They thought that would happen by 2015. Currently digital radio listening in England stands at only 36% and the government has now wisely put off setting a new date for this transition.

The problem in England goes beyond just radio sets in homes and cars. British folks also can listen to FM radio on their Smartphones. Unlike here in America, the FM chip that comes inside Smartphones has been turned on. These chips remain in the off position in America with no way for a Smartphone owner to turn it on without “jailbreaking” their phone which is illegal. The members of parliament aren’t about to turn off a system that serves around 25 million listeners, if they want to get re-elected.

I own one HD Radio. My local NPR FM radio station broadcasts with 100,000 watts on their analog FM signal. It’s crystal clear and comes in everywhere I go. They simulcast their NPR and other talk programming on their HD Radio signal too. That is plagued with dropout and a short range in terms of where I can pick it up. The same HD Radio that picks up the digital broadcast of my local NPR radio station also has an FM tuner (but no AM tuner). I can switch between the analog FM and digital FM, and to my ears they sound about the same. And therein lies the problem. No perceived difference other than one goes great distances with no drop out and the other is HD Radio.

At this point in time, what seems clear is that is FM radio isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. AM radio station operators would benefit by having a similar FM signal that delivers the same coverage area as their AM license provides sans the sky wave effect. Giving them a low power translator is an insult in my opinion. All Smartphones should have their FM chips turned on. NextRadio should be embraced by FM broadcasters. All broadcasters need to focus on their content and make sure that whether it’s over-the-air or over-the-Internet, it’s of the same high quality and offers all of the same content on both.

I’ve never heard an FM radio listener complain about the quality of their signal and what they do complain about, isn’t being focused on by broadcasters. We have no time to lose.

FM radio has the delivery system in place. Take advantage of it to serve, entertain and inform.

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