Tag Archives: Marshall McLuhan

Alexa, Let’s Go for a Ride

alex in a ford carRadio’s last bastion of domination is the automobile (aka SUV, pickup truck etc.). In the home, voice activated devices are replacing AM/FM radios. I own 3 Echos, and Alexa has become a real friend of the family.

So, when I saw this television ad for the new Fords and how the drivers went from talking to Alexa in their house to talking to Alexa in their car, while they were driving, I saw the future of AM/FM radio for America’s Road Warriors.

Watch the ad HERE

Voice Activated Christmas

The results are in and as of December 31, 2018, 66 million voice activated devices are now firmly entrenched in America’s homes. The big winner is Amazon’s Echo aka Alexa which has a 70% share of the market. Google’s Home has a 24% share and Apple’s HomePod is third with just 6% home penetration.

Ironically, in my own home, I quickly went from one Amazon Echo in 2017 to three in a matter of a couple of months. Virtually all of my internet connected electronics are Apple products, but Amazon is my go-to place to shop. The price of entry for my first Echo was under $30. By contrast expect to pay Apple $349 for their HomePod.

The latest research from the Consumer Intelligence Research Partners* (CIRP) also found that 35% of the owners of these voice activated devices own more than one. That’s about double from only a year ago, so it’s pretty clear that these devices are not collecting dust but are actively being used.

It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see where once the average American household had about 5 AM/FM radios in their home, the Echo or Home VAD is taking their place. (Today 21% of American households don’t have a single AM/FM radio in them. For households headed by 18-34 year old adults, that number without a single AM/FM radio rises to 32%.)

Alexa is The New Radio

I wasn’t surprised to read that iHeartMedia’s Bob Pittman was calling Amazon’s Echo the new radio. What I was surprised to learn, was Pittman saying that iHeart helped with the development of Alexa. I had never read or heard that before. Which begs the question, why isn’t more attention being paid to the streams of over-the-air (OTA) radio by the industry?

A better question might be, can the same programming techniques that have been used by OTA radio, simply be transferred to internet streams?

Marshall McLuhan

“The medium is the message,” was coined by Marshall McLuhan in 1964. What McLuhan postulated was that the form of a medium becomes part of the programming that is being transmitted. A symbiotic relationship is created by which the very medium that is conveying the program, influences how a person perceives it.

Another way of thinking about this might be, what a person’s expectations are for a particular media experience. We would not expect to see commercials laced through a movie being seen at a theater, but the same movie shown on commercial television laced with commercial interruptions, while maybe annoying, would not be unexpected or a surprise.

However, pay television like Netflix and Amazon Prime have changed the TV viewers expectations about watching television in two ways, no commercial interruptions, and a whole season of episodes released at once and not dribbled out a week at a time.

The internet likewise has changed audio listening expectations with Pandora, Spotify, RadioTunes, Apple Music and Amazon Music to name but a few streamers. Stream one of these and listener expectations of this internet delivered medium, are very few or with no commercial interruptions. Moreover, should you want to know the name of the song and artist, you simply ask while the song is playing, and are immediately given that information. OTA radio rarely tells you what the name of a song is, or who’s the artist.

In fact, the listener expectation using a voice activated device is that you can get anything immediately, simply by asking for it. Everything is at your command and delivered on demand.

For the audio listener, it’s like the difference between having air conditioning or not having air conditioning. Once you’ve enjoyed having central air, you won’t ever want to go back to not having it.

What’s the Listener’s Expectations?

The challenge for the radio industry is creating content that fits the listener’s expectations for the medium they are accessing the content on.

OTA radio is a one-to-many delivery system. Everyone is served the same thing at the same time.

The internet, streamed through a device like Amazon Echo, is a personalized listening experience. Everyone gets it served up the way they prefer it.

Trying to have a single source originating content for both OTA and online, compromises both.

 

 

*CIRP based its findings on a survey of 500 U.S. owners of Amazon Echo, Google Home and Apple HomePod, surveyed from Jan. 1-11, 2019, who owned one of these devices as of Dec. 31, 2018.

 

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What’s Changed in 98 Years?

Global Ad Spending Graph 2018 & BeyondIn the year 2020, commercial radio will celebrate its 100th birthday. Hopefully, by then, America’s two largest broadcasters will be out of bankruptcy. But before we light the candles and begin the celebration we need to face reality. Global ad spending, according to Zenith (see graph) will see newspapers, magazines, radio, cinema and outdoor all fighting to be the tallest ad-supported midget. TV will be marginally growing, but the internet will be the big winner; raking in more advertising revenue than, print, radio, cinema and outdoor combined. That’s sobering news.

It’s a Digital Future

Last week, I shared with you a “Readers Digest” version of a webinar I attended hosted by Kepios’ Simon Kemp. If you missed it, you can read it HERE

The essence of where things are headed will be influenced by the “next billion” people coming online. The “FLAAG” companies, Facebook-LinkedIn-Amazon-Apple-Google, are already in the process of having all of their interfaces, working on all devices, in the same way on a global basis. With a million new users a day joining the internet, mostly from underdeveloped countries, everything will be designed for the lowest common denominator.

Radio, Then vs. Now

Bob Shannon’s book “Turn It Up! – American Radio Tales 1946-1996” is a fascinating read. The legends of the radio industry share their own personal radio adventure as well as give their view on how radio is today. (Note: “today” being the mid-nineties when the book was being written.)

Chuck Dunaway said, “The formats haven’t changed in all these years – it’s just the music that changes.” “I still hear the stop sets falling in the same places and we’re still playing and programming to Arbitron (now Nielsen Audio), and not to the listener.”

Bill Figenshu noted that “when Wall Street started to pay attention to radio, it became more of a financial play and the corporations were turned over to the financial folks, who didn’t understand the value of local content.” “As a consequence, many radio stations, particularly those owned by large groups, sought to cut costs and localism, and being part of a community became a luxury; it didn’t happen everywhere, but it happened in lots of town and cities.” “It hasn’t been a good thing for radio or its listeners.”

That pretty much sums it up. Even after another decade since the book was written.

Radio hasn’t really changed but the world it operates in, has.

Time Spent with Ad-Supported Media

On Tom Taylor’s NOW, Jerry Lee is sharing his new book called “How to Grow Your Revenue More Than 20% by 2020.” In a recent headline, Jerry wrote:

“In Radio, we have two major problems. First, we are running far too many commercials for today’s audiences. Second, the commercials are awful. Our listeners can’t skip through the commercials. If they want to listen to their favorite station, they have to endure the seemingly endless commercial break or switch to another station that isn’t playing commercials at that moment.”

Sadly, the reality may be worse.

Time Spent with Media GRAPH

PQ Media released a graph showing the time spent with media that is ad-supported is going down while the time spent with consumer supported media is going up. This is even more worrisome when you realize that total time spent with media has been steadily increasing every year since 2011 and is projected to continue increasing through 2021.

Joe Mandese says that “advertising is falling to the lowest share of time spent with media ever.”

The Speed of Adoption of New Technology

technology-adoption-rates GRAPH

This graph shows how our world of technology adoption has picked up speed with each new innovation. But maybe even more important are the words Marshall McLuhan said about “the medium is the message.” McLuhan meant “that the form of a medium embeds itself in any message it would transmit or covey, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived.” McLuhan was prophetic in realizing how the very medium itself can impact society, by not only the content it delivers but also by the characteristics of the medium itself.

You probably can come up with lots of examples yourself that demonstrate this observation by just comparing how newspapers, radio, TV, Facebook and Twitter, delivering the same content, influence how it’s received.

Radio’s Future

The radio I grew up in was not what’s commonly referred to as “The Golden Age of Radio.” That was the period of time before TV. I grew up in radio’s “2nd Golden Age,” one of a music based, youth-oriented radio. Radio that appealed to my emotions.

Radio that’s winning today, like Public Radio/NPR and Christian Radio, are touching people emotionally and appealing to things their listeners are passionate about.

Ignore people’s passion and emotion, and your radio station will die on the growing pile of media clutter.

 

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