Tag Archives: iPhone

July 5th – Today in History

FlagI hope you are enjoying this holiday weekend celebration of America’s independence 244-years in the making.

As I was thinking about what I’d write this week, I came across this radio item, dateline Fort Wayne, Indiana that said on July 5th in 1929 radio station WOWO returned to the air one day after its transmitter site burned down. Obviously, that wasn’t a very WOWOjoyous time for the staff and management at that radio station. It was only four years earlier that WOWO signed on the air for the first time in its storied broadcast history, March 25, 1925.

July 5, 1951

It was on this date, 69-years ago that Bell Labs, and primarily William Shockley, announced the invention of the junction transistor during a press conference the company held in Murray Hill, New Jersey.

July 5, 1956

William Shockley and three others were awarded a Nobel Prize in Physics on this date for “their research on semiconductors and their discovery of the transistor effect,” a discovery that allowed radio to be reborn in car dashboards and on portable, hand-held receivers.

Regency TR1 (GREE)It was a joint venture between Texas Instruments and Regency Electronics that would produce the world’s first transistor radio, the TR1, in 1954. However, it wasn’t until three years later when SONY would introduce its smaller and cheaper TR-63 transistor radio that this new communication device would become the 1960s/70s mass market success story.SonyTR63 (HAND)

Steve Wozniak (Apple Computer Co-Founder) said he had a Regency TR1 transistor radio as a kid and was a big fan. “My first transistor radio…I loved what it could do, it brought me music, (and) it opened my world up,” said Woz.

July 5, 1963

The second Beatles song released in America which climbed to number 87 on the Hot 100 was “From Me to You,” and would mark a second “invasion” by the British kingdom.

It was the transistor radio that gave young people the opportunity to easily access “their music” without garnering their parents disapproval, being able to listen to the radio in their bedrooms, cars and anywhere they went.

The transistor radio opened up a world of new artistic expression along with the dissemination of new ideas. These hand-held radios played rock and roll, delivered the news, connected Americans to the Civil Rights Movement and kept citizens abreast of the ongoing Vietnam War.

I’ll come back to the transistor and William Shockley in a moment, but first, let’s look at some of the other things that changed our world on this day.

July 5, 1971

fightvote

The 26th Amendment to the United States Constitution was certified, reducing the voting age in America to 18.

July 5, 1989

SeinfeldThe successful television sitcom “Seinfeld” debuted on the NBC television network. The show “about nothing” ran for nine years and has grossed more than $4 Billion, making it the most profitable half-hour television program in history.

July 5, 1994

amazon

Jeff Bezos begins a new venture in Bellevue, Washington. On this date, “Amazon.com” was born. In just 26-years, Amazon is only the fourth tech company to join the “$1 Trillion Club.” Jeff Bezos’ net worth is now estimated at $111 Billion.

July 5, 2003

On this date, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the SARS virus, known technically as SARS-CoV (coronavirus), was “contained” after affecting 26-countries and resulting in 774-deaths.

Transistor & Shockley

Getting back to William Shockley and his development of the transistor, he would not only change the way Baby Boomers would grow up, listening to their transistor radios, but he is also credited as being “the man who brought silicon to Silicon Valley.”

For you see, one of the key benefits of the transistor was the ability for electronics manufacturers to create smaller and smaller devices, that eventually gave us the computer in our pocket, better known as the smartphone.

1980s to Today

In time, these little transistor radios would be replaced by the Boom Box. Then along came the SONY Walkman (and headphones), followed by the Discman, iPod and today’s internet powered iPhone.

iPhone12Each new generation of technological development has moved media consumers away from traditional broadcast radio’s position as the leader for reaching the masses with new music, news and cultural trends.

The broadcast industry has been slow to adapt to the 21st Century. As greatest hockey player of all time, Bobby Orr might put it, to skate from where the puck is to where the puck will be.

Let’s hope it’s not too late.

“You have to change with the times

or

the times will change you.”

-Marv Levy, Buffalo Bills Coach

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What Is Normal?

What Is NormalA reader of this blog recently asked me if things would one day return to “normal.” They said that over the past ten years, they’ve moved beyond wondering “why” there have been so many massive changes and disruptions in our lives, pondering now if things will ever settle down.

Will we ever get back to “normal,” or is this our “new normal?”

Is it possible, “never normal,” is where we are headed?

Normal

If you look up “normal” in the dictionary, you will see that as a noun “normal” is defined as “the usual, average or typical state or condition.”

What do you consider “normal” temperature for where you live? What do you consider average as the amount of time you interact with other people? What is the typical state or condition of your car?

When we think about “normal” in this way, we quickly realize that temperatures are constantly changing; by the hour, the day, the week, the month, the year, and so on. When we apply that to personal interactions with others, again you’re probably thinking to yourself things like, are we talking about a weekday, weekend, holiday, vacation etc. And when it comes to your car, its condition changes with every mile you put on the odometer.

In other words, “normal” means things are constantly changing.

When Were Things Ever Normal?

When you really start to think about the concept of “normal,” you quickly realize this thing called normal never existed.

What we have are periods in our lives when things are going well (and we like to think this is “normal”) and other periods where things are completely FUBAR*(we call these times “not normal”).

The truth is, normal life is constant change.

History’s Lessons

History doesn’t repeat, but often rhymes.

Do you think the village blacksmith wondered as cars drove down the streets past his shop, when this “fad” would end and people would return to riding horses or in carriages pulled by horses? I’m sure he did.

In April 1860, pony express moved mail across the country faster than ever before, but for only 18-months before it was then replaced by the wired telegraph.

As wireless telegraphy was born, the wired telegraph would see its challenges.

Morse Code, with the dots & dashes communication method of the telegraph, saw its demise with the transmission of voice and music through the ether.

Television would add pictures to radio’s sound, leading many to predict the end of radio. But radio didn’t end, it changed with the times and was reborn for a new generation of youth who listened to it for hours on transistor radios.

Then the biggest disruption of all arrived, the iPhone. Now this singular device has replaced your cellphone, typewriter, camera, video camera, radio, TV, newspaper, magazine, computer, tablet, flashlight, credit cards, keys, tape recorder, note pad, iPod, GPS, blood pressure monitor and more that I’m sure I’m forgetting about.

Having an iPhone or similar Android device many would call the “new normal.” It’s almost hard to consider a world where, it too, has been replaced by something even better and more essential to our lives.

You Can’t Go Back

I first heard this advice when I was taking a film making course in college. My instructor told the class, be sure you get every shot you need when you’re out filming your movie, because you can’t ever go back and shoot something you missed at a future date. Things change, and nothing will be like it was, the first time you were there.

My film was about glass blowing. The day I was to film the making of a glass vase, the glass blower welcomed me. He was sporting long hair and a beard. The molten glass he was working with that day was green and produced a lovely green glass vase.

I filmed every part of the process of making a vase, from the liquid molten glass in the furnace to the rolling, blowing, shaping, cutting and cooling of the glass into a finished product.

I was so grateful to the glassblower for allowing me to come to his shop and film him that I bought that green glass vase.

Back when I was in school, filming was really shooting on film, 16mm film. That meant shipping the undeveloped film off to Kodak for processing and then waiting for the film to return so I could view it and begin the process of editing the footage into a final 15-minute film.

It wasn’t until I was viewing the rough footage that I discovered some of my shots were out-of-focus. There was simply no way to complete my film without some key parts of the process included.

So, I called up the glass blower and made an appointment to come back to his shop and film those sections I needed.

When I arrived, he had shaved off his beard, gotten a crew cut, and was now working with purple glass.

My instructor, unbeknownst to me, would buy that second purple glass vase to give to me for Christmas that year and to bring home the point that I indeed, “could not go back.” Things always change.

Change

If you’re really honest with yourself, you want change in your life. You want to learn new things, see new movies and TV shows, hear new music, visit new places, watch your children grow up and so much more.

We want change that makes us happy, we don’t want change that doesn’t.

I seriously doubt anyone would want to give up their smartphone that’s connected to the internet, no matter how much we may pine for simpler times.

Change in our lives, is like normal in our lives, it’s individually defined. Others may look at our life and call it abnormal.

Normal is change from sunrise to sunset. Normal is changes in weather and seasons. Normal is also pandemics, being a cycle that can span decades or a century.

What Does This Have to Do with Radio/TV?

OK, this is a blog where I write about radio/TV and you may wonder what any of what I wrote so far has to do with broadcasting, well here it comes.

Jeffrey Katzenberg put it this way, “One thing that’s happened to me in 45-years of being in Hollywood, and in this industry is, I’ve never seen an instance where real quality entertainment hasn’t found an audience.”

While some say “Radio is dead,” or more specifically “AM Radio is dead,” this past April we saw that AM Radio (WOR) was #1 on Long Island, AM Radio (KFI) was #1 in Los Angeles, AM Radio (WBBM) was #1 in Chicago, AM Radio (KCBS) was #1 in San Francisco, AM Radio (WSB) was #1 in Atlanta, and AM Radio (WWJ) was tied for #1 in Detroit. I’m sure there are others, but I think you get my point.

Mr. Katzenberg has it right, when you provide content that people want, they will find you, even if it’s on the AM Radio Dial.

Change is normal and wanting to hold on to the past that has been romanticized in our memories, is normal.

But what never changes is people are born, they age, and they die.

Success belongs to those who can touch the most hearts with their product or service, and make a difference in their lives.

The only way RADIO or TV will lose, is if they do it to themselves.

Broadcasting holds the keys to its success in its own hands.

Will they use them to unlock all they are capable of?

—————————————————————————————

*FUBAR is a military term that means out of working order; seriously, perhaps irreparably, damaged. For a more literal definition of this acronym, Google FUBAR.

 

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Is Radio Being Disrupted or Simply Lacking the Human Factor

slide ruleI was a physics major in college. The slide rule was a necessary piece of equipment when I was going to school. Hewlett-Packard then came along and replaced it with a line of scientific pocket calculators.

When I began my radio sales career, I adopted the DayTimer written system for keeping track of my schedule and appointments. Then Palm came along and I replaced it with their Palm Pilot Digital Assistant.

When I became a general manager, I wore a pager. That soon was replaced by a Motorola flip phone.

Then Research In Motion (RIM) came along with the Blackberry and suddenly my flip phone and Palm were replaced by a single device.

I loved the size of my Blackberry Pearl smartphone and it wasn’t until I realized that the iPhone4S was the same size as the Pearl and more versatile that I switched to my first iPhone. I also saw Blackberry phones were clinging to life and wanted to adopt an ecosystem that would be around as long as I would be.

Today, I’m fully immersed in the Apple ecosystem and could not imagine what would ever get me to leave it.

Disruptive Innovation

I thought for years that these disruptive changes were due to mechanical innovation. But was that the core reason? Could it be something else?

In 1943, Thomas J. Watson of IBM is credited with saying, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” And Ken Olson of Digital Equipment Company (DEC) while acknowledging the growth of people using personal computers, said he couldn’t understand why.

The Human Factor

How important is the Human Factor in the future of a company, or even an industry?

October 6, 1997: Michael Dell makes an infamously bleak appraisal of Apple’s fortunes. Asked what he would do with Apple, the founder of Dell Inc. says he would “shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders.”

Where do you think Apple would be today if Michael Dell had been put in charge? What did Steve Jobs, who had just returned to lead Apple say to Dell’s assessment? “We’re coming after you buddy!”

Jobs gave Apple a vision, backed it up with management fortitude and people with the technical skills to make the Apple vision a reality. It was those human factors that carried Apple to become one of the most valuable companies in the world.

Apple’s market value (at the time I was writing this article) was $948M and Dell’s was $27M.

Radio’s Human Factor

Which brings me around to the industry I loved for over 50-years, RADIO. The aspect of radio that first captured my attention was the radio personality. These were the people who built the relationship with the listener.

Then there was the dedicated radio programmer who created the stationality, the promotions and like a good sports coach, kept the radio stars playing together as a winning team.

While it appears, too much of the radio industry is focused these days on mechanical things, blaming it for disruptive innovation, maybe the real culprit is radio’s loss of the “Human Factor.”

“Absolutely everything begins with imagination.”

-George Johns

Howard Stern was never really replaced when he left OTA radio for Satellite Radio. Howard Stern, like him or not, has a vivid imagination. For his listeners, he creates a style of radio that they have to hear.

My favorite part of the Stern movie, “Private Parts,” is dialog between the audience researcher and Stern’s WNBC program director Kevin Metheny, aka Pig Vomit.

RESEARCHER: The average radio listener listens for eighteen minutes. The average Howard Stern fan listens for – are you ready for this? – an hour and twenty minutes.

PIG VOMIT: How can that be?

RESEARCHER: Answer most commonly given? “I want to see what he’ll say next.”

PIG VOMIT: Okay, fine. But what about the people who hate Stern?

RESEARCHER: Good point. The average Stern hater listens for two and a half hours a day.

PIG VOMIT: But… if they hate him, why do they listen?

RESEARCHER: Most common answer? “I want to see what he’ll say next.”

Does anyone want to listen to your radio station to hear what comes next?

“Radio only needs to move @ the speed of life.”

-George Johns

 

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The Voice Interface

Siri Voice InterfaceThis week I sat in on the Fred Jacobs webinar “Mobile Strategy for Radio: What we learned from Techsurvey 2019” and the #1 take away was “voice (not just smart speakers) is the next important user interface at home and in the car.”

I wasn’t surprised.

The Lowest Common Denominator

Here’s where we can expect technology to be headed to accommodate the next billion users that will be joining the digital media party. The next internet addicted people are those living in the developing world, the ones that will be shaping the internet over the next five years or less. They will be impacting ALL internet and mobile users.

What are the characteristics of these folks?

  • Literacy: lower levels of literacy will require different interfaces.
  • Language: a greater variety of language needs will inspire new content formats.
  • Technology: varying devices & connections will impact content format.
  • Motivations: new wants, needs, and desires will inspire new products & services.

Most of today’s internet is text based, but as populations of lower literacy levels sign-on, that will change this. Voice commands, image search and video content will become more dominant in the near future.

Economies of Scale

Technology companies are already working to have all devices and interfaces operate the same way on a global basis. Everything will be designed to cater to the lowest common denominator because it makes fiscal sense. It’s already happening on Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon.

Why Apple won’t ever put FM receivers into their iPhones.

FM, HD Radio, DAB and DAB+ are all different standards for broadcasting OTA radio signals and do not meet the test of a global standard.

The Next Internet Revolution is Coming

Look for the next billion to drive the next internet revolution in the areas of:

  • Search: SEO will look very different for voice-centric search.
  • Social: People’s social media interactions will be more video than text.
  • Shopping: E-commerce orders will depend on spoken word.
  • Addressing: URLs & Hyperlinks will move from text to image.

Convergence

Something I researched back when I was an undergrad, convergence, is coming to fruition in my lifetime. Every form of media will be delivered over the same pathway and received on the same type of device plus it will be on-demand and on our schedule, not the creator’s schedule.

Fred’s latest webinar shows that were deep into this transition.

If you’d like to take a Deep Dive into this subject, watch this Hootsuite webinar from 2018 HERE

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Is Radio Prepared for The Future

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

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

But the radio industry continues to try to adapt.

Great Companies Don’t Adapt, They Prepare

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

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

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

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

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

-Greg Satell

Marconi & Sarnoff

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

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

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

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

Investing in Research

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listening to Radio

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

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

Investing in the Core Product

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

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

Radio Research

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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What a Radio Looks Like in the 21st Century

first iPhone introducedIt was only 11-years ago that Steve Jobs took the stage and held in his hand the future. It was an iPhone.

Many people were skeptical that this device could compete with the very popular Blackberry. I think I may have been one of them, as I was a Blackberry owner/user until 2012.

I quickly realized that I knew how to operate an iPhone, after buying an iPad in the fall of 2011.  All Apple devices share a core eco-operating system that makes learning them fast and easy. My first iPhone was the 4S. The “S” stood for Siri and I quickly learned to use Siri to type all of my text and emails via dictation. In 2017, I upgraded to an iPhone 7.

OK, so I’m probably not telling you anything you don’t already know. But in just a decade, have you ever stopped to think about the impact that the smartphone has had on our lives and the technology we use?

RADIO

In America today, 29% of households don’t have a single working AM or FM radio. But it gets worse. The percentage of households without a single working AM or FM radio grows to 50% for the 18-34-year-old age group.

Edison Research recently reported that even 63% of heavy radio listeners now consume their audio online. 82% of those listeners own a smartphone and the most commonly downloaded App is Pandora (40%).

For many, a radio in the 21st Century looks like a smartphone.

SMARTPHONES

Crosley AM FM Radio

Often it appears like radio people think they are the only ones who are not affected by the innovations of technology. Such as, no matter what comes along, AM/FM radio will always be there. Unfortunately, that kind of thinking is like sticking your head in the sand.

Let’s think about how smart phones have replaced other “must have” technologies:

  • My Nikon camera no longer goes on vacation with me, it has been replaced by the pictures I take on my iPhone
  • Same for videos using my very expensive camcorders
  • My iPod is now my iPhone
  • My newspaper is my iPhone
  • My calculator is my iPhone
  • My eBook reader is my iPhone (or iPad)
  • My pocket voice recorder is now my iPhone
  • My GPS when on foot is my iPhone, though I still prefer my Garmin SmartDrive 61 in the car
  • My flashlight is now my iPhone
  • My iPhone is my compass, barcode scanner, and portable video player
  • My iPhone is the way I access Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn away from home
  • My iPhone is the way I get both my local weather forecast as well as access weather radar. Weather alerts come in immediately to my iPhone replacing the need for my weather radio.
  • I’ve been a cellphone only household since 2000
  • My smartphone is my household answering machine
  • My smartphone is my alarm clock
  • I no longer wear a wrist watch, as my iPhone is my watch
  • I use my iPhone as a timer when I’m cooking
  • I have my digital library on my iPhone
  • My work and personal calendars are all on my iPhone
  • I keep notes and other records on my iPhone
  • Since I take all my pictures with my iPhone these days, my photo album is also my smartphone. (Note: I have 2-TerraBytes of iCloud storage to back up everything)
  • My entire “rolodex” (contact list) is now on my iPhone (I started with a Day-Timer and went digital in 1989 with a Casio Boss. Then moved to a Palm Pilot. Then to the iPhone.)
  • I check my email when not at home on my iPhone
  • I surf the internet frequently on my iPhone
  • When I call the kids & grandkids, it’s using Facetime on my iPhone
  • My credit cards, plane tickets, show tickets are now all in my Apple Wallet on my iPhone
  • I can even use my iPhone to run my Apple TV as a remote control

SMARTPHONE ADDICTION

A new research study by Pew finds that 54% of U.S. teenagers, age 13 to 17, worry they may be spending too much time on their phones. While they also say they are trying to reduce their smartphone and social media time spent, 56% of teenagers find that doing so makes them feel anxious, lonely, or upset.Group Of Children Sitting In Mall Using Mobile Phones

And it’s no better for parents (and may I add, grandparents). Pew’s survey tells us that we are struggling with the same impulses over the time we spend on our phones and social media, sometimes with even worse results than teenagers.

Adults lose focus on their work and students lose focus in the classroom, by the constant need to check their smartphone.

SMART SPEAKER

echoMost research today indicates that since the introduction of the smart speaker, the device that’s getting a little less use is the smartphone. I would concur that is the case in my home as well. Our 3 Amazon Echoes are the way we access at home radio listening, get flash briefs, find out the time and latest weather forecast.

At home, 100% of our radio listening is streamed through a smart speaker.

Speaking of Voice Command devices, my Garmin GPS SmartDrive 61 is now programmed by my voice and I can add via points while driving simply by telling my Garmin where I want to go next. It’s the best improvement in automobile navigation since the GPS itself.

ON DEMAND

on-demand-cpeWhat the smart speaker and the smartphone have in common, are both devices give the user what they want, when they want it. On Demand is the real game changer of the 21st Century communications world.

Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV etc. are delivering on demand television. The smartphone and smart speakers are doing that same thing for podcasts, radio, news, weather and everything else.

Edison Research noted, in their recent research, that the hardware challenge in the home is significant. Getting analog radio back into the home (and I would add, in the very near future, the car) seems unlikely

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Radio Has an Addiction Problem

listening_to_radioHave you heard the latest? People are addicted to their smartphones. “We now see smartphones as dangerous for young minds,” writes Jean-Louis Gassée in a Monday Note.

More than 30 years ago MIT professor Sherry Turkle postulated that computers weren’t just a tool, but were sneaking into our minds. In doing so, they would change our relationship with the world around us.

Smartphones are Mobile Computers

Turkle would continue her thoughts on this subject in a 1995 book “Life on the Screen, Identity in the Age of the Internet” saying “computers don’t just do things for us, they do things to us, including our ways we think about ourselves and other people.”

Smartphones plus Social Media

When our mobile computers are married to a social media site like Facebook, things get really sticky. Sean Parker, a founding partner at Facebook, wrote about the problem after he left the company saying, “[Social Media] literally changes your relationship with society, with each other…It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it is doing to our children’s brains.”

Time for Apple to Build A Less Addictive iPhone

The NY Times published an article by Farhad Manjoo that made the case for a less addictive iPhone. Can you imagine someone writing that broadcasters should be making TV or radio less addictive? That watching too much TV or listening to too much radio might be bad for our brains.

Broadcasters today find they have a different problem. They have lost the addictive luster of the past.

The Amazon Addiction

“For many businesses, Amazon is simultaneously a sales channel, a potential service provider and a competitive threat,” says Forrest Research. For broadcasters, Amazon is attacking our retail advertising revenue, by undermining the very businesses we sell to. Today Amazon is the go-to website for retail search, surpassing Google.

Trying to compete with Amazon is a retail challenge. The very retailers’ broadcasters depend on for their revenue.

Retailers measure how well they’re doing by their bottom line.

Amazon is all about increasing top line sales growth. (Wall Street hasn’t demanded Amazon to be profitable yet.)

See the problem?

Trying to beat the Amazon model is a race to the bottom with pricing for our advertising customers.

Free shipping, two-day shipping, lowest prices, biggest selection, customer ratings etc. are among the things making Amazon addictive.

People Made Radio Addictive

Over the years, radio has had personalities that made the medium addictive like Howard Stern, Rush Limbaugh, Dan Ingram, Larry Lujack, Robert W. Morgan, Jess Cain, Dale Dorman, Paul Harvey and many more.

Once upon a time, music formats could be addictive, but today’s access to streaming audio is challenging that beachfront.

Alexa Doesn’t Know My Local Radio Station

My local radio stations are called KISS (WKSI-FM) and WINK (WINC-FM). When I ask Alexa to play either KISS-FM or WINC-FM, I get the Los Angeles KIIS-FM or the WINK-FM licensed to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

When I asked Siri the same questions, she couldn’t help me play anything. Siri told me, “Sorry, Dick, I can’t help you with that on your iPhone.”

When your branding is not unique, these new consumer voice activated devices don’t have a clue what you’re trying to ask them. They either make their best algorithm guess or just throw in the towel.

Broadcast Station Call Letters

The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) solved this problem early in broadcasting by assigning each broadcast station its own unique call letters, but broadcasters abandoning those identifiers for branding like Kiss, Froggy, Hot, and others, that are duplicated all across the country, is now a problem in a voice activated world. But it’s not just the brand not being unique, the programming is likewise just as non-unique.

Don’t Be Generic

No one ever became addicted to a generic.

Addiction stimulates parts of the brain that trigger craving and longing, that release habit-forming, feel-good chemicals such as dopamine and endorphins.

Your iPhone does that for you.

You voice activated smart speaker does too.

Broadcasting is show business.

Which do you think stimulates the part of the brain that causes addiction? The show part or the business part?

Answer that question correctly and you’re on your way.

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The Power of the Human Voice

The Last Jedi

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

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

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

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

Radio People’s Memories

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

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

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

What Makes a Voice Attractive?

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

As technology improved, other voices entered.

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

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

Is a Pleasing Voice More Attractive than a Pleasing Face?

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

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

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

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

Alexa, Siri, Cortana

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

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

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

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

And I knew exactly what she meant.

Anyone who has one of the devices will too.

Radio Voices

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

It can happen in many different ways.

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

It just doesn’t happen by accident.

It takes planning and continuous execution of the plan.

The Battle for Attention

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

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

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The End of the iPhone

121I write about radio in most of these weekly articles. Recently, an article that compared the future of AM radio to the future of the coal industry created a lot of conversation.

People who don’t listen to AM radio wondered why this was even a topic for discussion and people who own AM radio stations felt they would never go away, even though they were actively acquiring (or had already acquired) an FM translator for their AM station.

Putting your programming content on an FM translator is NOT saving AM radio. Period

Saving Fax Machines

I remember the day I got a fax machine for my radio stations in Atlantic City. It was the day one of our biggest client’s ad agency called about the next month’s orders for their casino client and told me that if I wanted to be on the buys going forward, I needed a fax machine. Only those radio stations with fax machines would be bought.

Holy Batman! I got a fax machine that same afternoon.

Soon a dedicated phone line was installed just for the fax machine.

How important is faxing these days? I still see fax numbers on business cards and websites but really, does anybody send faxes anymore?

There’s no effort that I know of to save the fax machine.

AM Radio

I spent over four decades of my life in radio broadcasting because of AM radio. I remember my first radio, a Zenith transistor radio 103 that came with a single ear piece. I remember sneaking it into school to hear the Red Sox playing in the world series. I don’t remember what the teacher said in those classes.

The transistor liberated radio from being a piece of furniture that occupied the living where the whole family would gather around to hear broadcasts. The TV would be the electronic piece of furniture that would take that spot once radios moved to the kitchen, bedroom (clock radios) and just about everywhere else people went now that the transistor made them light weight, stylish and very portable.

119

Model 66 Skyscraper Radio, 1935; Designed by Harold L. Van Doren (American, 1895-1957) and John Gordon Rideout (American, 1898-1951); Manufactured by Air-King Products Company, Inc. (Brooklyn, New York, USA); Compression-molded Plaskon, metal, glass, woven textile; 29.8 × 22.5 × 19.1 cm (11 3/4 × 8 7/8 × 7 1/2 in.); Promised gift of George R. Kravis II; Photo: Matt Flynn © Smithsonian Institution

In fact, I just visited the Cooper Hewitt Museum of design in New York City that showed the evolution of radio set design from the beginning to the present.

The present is characterized by the iPhone and Google Home (smart speaker technology) neither of which looks anything like a radio.

Bag Phones

My first mobile phone was a bag phone that sat on the front seat of my car with a wire that would run out the back window to a magnetic antenna that attached to the roof. That seemed like a big improvement from the previous form of remote communication with my radio stations; the pager.

Flip Phone

The bag phone would be replaced by a Motorola flip phone. It rode in a holster on my belt. I wouldn’t trade my flip phone for a bag phone for anything at that time. It was such an improvement in cellular communications.

Blackberry

Of course, the need for more information to be communicated remotely demanded that I get a Blackberry to stay in contact with not just my radio stations but corporate. I opted for a Blackberry Pearl as it was very small and so compact, it fit into a pocket in my dress pants, that I think was designed for loose change or maybe car keys.

iPhone

I stayed away from the newest smartphone technology because it was so big compared to the size of my Blackberry Pearl. Until my son took his iPhone out of its Otterbox and put it next to my Pearl and I realized it wasn’t all that big. In fact, it was thinner than my Pearl.

I got my first iPhone soon after that. An iPhone4S. Siri would begin to write all of my emails and text messages from my verbal dictation. It made written communication a breeze.

I would stay with my 4S for what many of my students thought was an eternity, five years (2012-2017). The main reason was it worked perfectly and the other reason was I didn’t want to move to a larger phone.

Finally, the iPhone4S could no longer receive software updates because the technology was “so old” and my battery was beginning to show its age with all the nightly recharging. So, I bit the bullet and upgraded to the iPhone7 with 256GB (the same as my MacBook) and a pair of AirPods to go along with it.

While in some ways it is larger than my old 4S, it really is sleek and I quickly fell in love with it.

I would never wish to return to the days of only having a pager, bag phone, flip phone or Pearl. I would not even wish to return to my 4S, though it now is attached to my home FM system to stream music wirelessly to FM radios in every room of my home and taken on a second life.

Bye Bye iPhone

Microsoft’s Alex Kipman is the person who says that augmented reality could “flat-out replace the smartphone, the TV and anything else with a screen.”

Up to the present time, all gadgetry depended on us wearing something. But Elon Musk co-founded a new company called Neuralink and its working on technology that would blend the human brain to computers making humans one with the digital world.

No iPhone, tablet, computer, TV or radio would be needed to access the digital internet world.

Musk believes at the rate of digital development the only way humans will be able to keep up with change will be through being augmented themselves via a neural lace.

This is the stuff of science fiction with a Stephen King twist.

The questions it poses to future government regulation, education, ad supported media et al is mind boggling.

The smartphone connected to the internet has given everyone superpowers by instant access to all the world’s knowledge and wisdom. Eliminating this passive device so that our minds can be continuously linked to that information fountain is the natural evolution.

Can you see why smartphone makers aren’t worrying about having an FM chip in their devices?

The Book of Ecclesiastes (adaptation & music by Pete Seeger)

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven

A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late

-sung by The Byrds

Let’s hope it’s not too late.

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The Era of Stand-Alone Electronic Devices is Ending

111It was 10-years ago this past Thursday that the iPhone went on sale. On that fateful day, I was using a company issued Blackberry Pearl. It was such an amazing upgrade from my old Motorola flip-phone that I got a couple of years earlier.

Cell Phone Evolution

It was 1983 that Motorola introduced the DynaTAC 8000X Advanced Mobile Phone System. It was with the DynaTAC in his hand that Michael Douglas told the world “greed is good” in the movie “Wall Street.”

This phone could make and receive calls from almost anywhere. But that was it.

I never had one of those phones, my first cell phone was a bag phone that sat in the front seat of my car with a wire running out of a rear window connected to a magnetic antenna on my car’s roof.

Only six years later, the Motorola MicroTAC 9800X would become the first truly portable phone. Having this phone was a real advancement as it now fit onto a belt clip and went everywhere I went. However, I was still using a Palm Pilot to keep track of my calendar, contacts and other notes and a Nikon Coolpix to record radio station events for posterity.

In 2004, I got my first Blackberry and in 2007 I upgraded to a Blackberry Pearl.

None of these phones really changed my life other than they got better at making and receiving calls, sent & received text messages and company emails could be sent and received. I still relied on other single use devices to do the other things in my life.

My 1st iPhone

One of my problems with iPhones were how big they were. I grew to love the size of my Blackberry Pearl and didn’t want to go backwards to a larger phone. (Later I would learn it was the huge cases people put their iPhones into that made them so large, not the phone itself.)

My second Apple device, after my iPod Classic, would be an iPad2, purchased in November 2011. I wasn’t sure why I needed one, but since I was teaching at a university to the next generation of broadcast students, I thought I needed to stay up with the technology.

I quickly fell in love with my iPad and realized I now knew how to fully operate an iPhone.  So, in January 2012, I purchased the latest iPhone that had just come out, the iPhone4s. The iPhone4s was actually more compact than my Pearl and I would store it in a leather sheath just as I had with my Pearl.

The iPhone4s WOULD change my life!

The Beginning of the End

The day that Apple introduced the iPhone4s – October 4, 2011 – was one day before the death of former Apple CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs. The “s” stood for Apple’s new voice assistant Siri. (Siri would not be the first intelligent personal assistant but would be the one that would start a new round of innovation giving birth to Amazon’s Alexa and the Voice Activated Devices I wrote about last week.)

Equipped with my new iPhone4s, I quickly converted my entire contact file from Palm to Apple. My calendars – both personal & professional – were converted to my iPhone and iPad. My Nikon Coolpix began to gather dust as all of my pictures would be now taken with my new iPhone4s.

Being new to the Apple ecosystem, I signed up for the iCloud and iTunes match to connect my PC, iPad and iPhone all together. I was surprised to learn that many Apple devotees didn’t use these internet connected systems. But then I didn’t realize they only came on the scene a few months before I got my first iPhone.

Very quickly my iPhone4s replaced my camera, my video camera, my Palm Pilot, my cassette recorder, my note pad, my desk calendar, and even my iPod Classic. It became my way to email, text and make calls. My landline phone was discontinued the day I got my iPhone4s.

My unlimited data plan allowed me to stay connected to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google Search. My phone became my resource for breaking news and if severe weather were imminent it would immediately alert me of pending danger.

Would bad weather cancel classes? My iPhone4s would alert me of any delayed opening or closing.

Very quickly my iPhone4s became one of three things I would not leave my house without: those being my wallet, my car keys and my iPhone.

Noteworthy is that Apple has made privacy “a fundamental human right” and is the only consumer-oriented technology giant with a business model not based on sucking up tons of personal data in order to target advertising to consumers, writes the Economist. In fact, this online business magazine says “the end of stand-alone electronic devices, however slick, is coming to an end.”

The End of Single Skill Students

What I’ve seen change in just the last seven years as a broadcast professor are the needs of the broadcasting industry in terms of what they want graduating students to know when they enter the workplace. In a word, EVERYTHING!

They need to be equipped with the “Swiss Army Knife” of skill-sets.

They need to be able to write for broadcast – online web-pages – social media, take pictures, take & edit videos, record & edit audio and so much more. Where once each one of these tasks was a single skill, today’s broadcaster needs to be able to it all. Much as we require of our electronic devices.

Cutting the Cord

When my laptop died, I replaced it with a MacBook Air. When it was time to replace my desktop PC, I bought an iMac. My iPhone4s has been replaced by an iPhone7 (that has as much memory as my MacBook Air) and AirPods. And when I moved to Virginia, I “cut the cord” on cable TV and went with AppleTV.

Everything is tied to the Apple ecosystem – iCloud, iTunes Match and to each other.

What I still enjoy using are my BOSE Wave Radios (I have two of them), my Garmin GPS and my car radio.

However, I know that my students have no such need for anything other than their smartphone.

And they are the people who will determine the future of broadcasting by the choices they make.

For radio the game will be less about numbers and more about attracting and engaging with a specific audience by super-serving their needs, wants and desires to such an extent they will find you on whatever device they choose to listen on.

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