Tag Archives: History Channel

Coal Ain’t Coming Back & Neither is AM Radio

114I lived in Kentucky for 7-years.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coal jobs ain’t coming back.

AM RADIO

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

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

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

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

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

FM RADIO

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

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

JOBS & ROBOTS

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

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

I grew up on AM radio.

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

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

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

What percentage of those are listening to AM?

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

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

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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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The End of Facebook…

…is about as likely as the end of radio. I’m sure I got your attention with that headline. But you might be surprised to learn that Facebook and radio have a lot more in common than you ever gave much thought to.

A study by two Princeton researchers in 2014 created quite a stir when they announced that Facebook would undergo a rapid decline in the coming years. They predicted that Facebook would lose 80% of its peak user base between 2015 and 2017.

Facebook folks, using the same flawed research techniques as those used in the study predicted that Princeton University would only have half of its current enrollment by 2018 and zero students by 2021. They were making a point, those fun folks at Facebook.

This whole dust-up reminded me of all that we in radio have been going through of late; everyone predicting our demise.

Gawd, I feel old to tell you how many end times of radio I’ve lived through. The 8-track tape player was going to put us out of business, then the cassette player, then the CB radio (never happened good buddy, but are CB radios still around?) then the CD player & CD changer, then the cell phone, then the iPod, then the Smartphone, then satellite radio and now Internet radio.  It never happened, but oh, did folks worry that it might.

Let’s face it, there are times we like to listen to our own music; our favorite tunes. I’m a radio guy and I do it. Nothing to be ashamed of. And how did all those tunes get bought and loaded into my digital music playing device? I heard them on the radio, that’s how.

Now I would like to say to Facebook, welcome to our world, the world of radio. Both over-the-air radio and Facebook are ubiquitous and when you get that big you suddenly find that your users take you for granted. They simply expect you to always be there when they want you, but they no longer talk-you-up all the time because you’re no longer the shiny, new thing in the world.

Radio appears to be losing its younger audience these days. Facebook is reported to be hemorrhaging fresh faced teens as well. Welcome to the consumer group of former leisure suit wearers.

Did you know that 45% of of Internet users over 65-years of age use Facebook?*  That means they’ve been AARP members for 15 years now; minimum.

Facebook likes to tell the world they have 1.4 billion users, but when we roll that back to just the USA it only amounts to around 56% percent of the population of 316 million Americans. Radio reaches 92% of Americans over the age of 12 and that number is only down 2% in the last decade. So radio reaches more people every week than use Facebook, but from the advertising world perspective, radio might as well be Rodney Dangerfield. We don’t get no respect.

Facebook likes to combine the USA stats with the Canada stats. We’re all family right? Wrong. Canada, as it turns out, is the country with the most active Facebook users. When you combine Canada’s users with those “lazy Americans” it makes the USA performance appear to be a little more robust.

I have 393 friends on Facebook. The average number of Facebook friends a person has is 245, so I’m above average (not that I care). My radio stations had tens of thousands of “friends” (we called them listeners) and that I DID care about!

The average radio listener listens to radio over 2 hours a day. In that amount of time, they might come in contact with about 20 to 30 ads. The average amount of posts that a Facebook book user is confronted with when they log on is around 1,500 and that’s in about 20-minutes time.

And while I’m talking about time spent with radio and Facebook, the average amount of time a Facebook user spends on Facebook per month is 8.3 hours. Now compare that with the amount of time a radio listener spends with radio in a month; 66 hours.

That’s over 8-times as much time spent listening to radio as browsing Facebook.

Radio is 93 years old. Facebook is just a teenager and like a teenager it really doesn’t know what it wants to be when it grows up.

Once upon a time, radio stations tried to be all things to all people. Then it began to specialize into various formats, demographics and lifestyles. Facebook is still in that mode of trying to be all things to all people. Good luck with that!

So am I telling you Facebook is over? Not at all. But if perception is reality, then Facebook is feeling the pain of radio.

Radio is the most impactful medium in the world today. In the history of innovation, the History Channel ranked radio as the #2 most important invention of all time (the Smartphone was #1). However, when you look at how it’s treated by the “Mad Men” it sure doesn’t feel that way.

At the moment those ad guys think things go better with Facebook. But like the soft drink Coca Cola that started out with a single beverage product (today it’s over 3,500) Facebook was created by Mark Zuckerberg to provide a simple and easy way for college students to connect with other college students. Today, that concept feels like ancient history.

By the way, the social media innovation for college students to communicate with other college students – Facebook – today only sees 11% of US college student social network users posting to Facebook daily.

Wall Street says you’re worth $128 to Facebook.

I’m here to tell you, that to your local radio station, you’re worth so much more than that.

You’re family.

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*Earlier version said: “Did you know that 45% of Facebook users are over 65 years of age?” which was incorrect.  Source: http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/by-the-numbers-17-amazing-facebook-stats/4/

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