Tag Archives: Netflix

Subscription Media

The inspiration for this week’s article came from a blog written by Fred Jacobs titled “When will ‘Netflixification’ Come To Radio?” Fred’s article revolved around Netflix’s innovation of a subscription model for its entertainment offerings, which got me to thinking about when the subscription business model for media began.

The Subscription Model

We would have to journey back to the 17th century to find the earliest records of book and periodical publishers pioneering a subscription business model for print media.

The subscription business model is one where the customer

pays a recurring price

at regular intervals to access a product of service.

Most recently, Apple is said to be working on a subscription model for its hardware; iPhones, iPads, computers etc. Why? Well customers are good, but it turns out that subscribers are even better. Emarsys’s Chris Gooderidge writes that over the last nine years, “the subscription economy has grown nearly 6x (more than 435%),” with subscription businesses growing five to eight times faster than those with a traditional business model. The two years the world closed down due to COVID only served to accelerate companies’ and consumers’ digital transformation.

On Demand & Subscriptions

What most of us want, as consumers, is convenience. We want what we want, when we want it. The subscription business model fulfills this desire. It enables us to listen to music or play games, as well as watch TV shows and movies.  

The more customers gain a taste

of truly personalized repeat services,

tailored specifically to them…

they won’t want to go back to what they had before.

-Chris Gooderidge

Subscription Radio

In 1923, in Dundee, Michigan, an early radio entrepreneur offered subscribers a wired radio system, that would provide radio programs from several radio stations for $1.50 a month; which would be $24.75/month in 2022. While it didn’t succeed, it was the precursor to what later would become the cable television industry.

Subscription Television (STV)

Back in the 60s, over-the-air television experimented with a subscription model. Companies in Connecticut and California each found themselves in court with theater owners when they developed a subscription business model that offered recent movies to be viewed in the home. The battle in Hartford, Connecticut made it all the way to the Supreme Court.

In the end, the pay television model was taken over by cable television, which learned in addition to providing a community antenna to receive distant broadcast television signals, could also create original programming. These new program channels could be offered on a subscription basis, like CNN, ESPN, The Weather Channel etc.

Is a Subscription-Based Business Model Right for You?

Like most questions along these lines, the answer is: it depends.

The subscription model is dependent on products and services that have a high perceived value to the consumer. (Note: things offered for “FREE” often don’t have a high perceived value)

On the blog, Billing Platform, they list four common successful subscription based business models:

  1. Consumables and Retail Models in Subscription Billing: companies like Dollar Shave Club and Blue Apron
  2. As-a-Service Subscription Billing Models: companies like Microsoft with their Office 365 and Dropbox
  3. Digital Entertainment Subscription Billing Models: companies like Netflix, Disney+, Apple TV+, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Peacock etc for video and Spotify, Pandora, Radio Tunes etc for audio
  4.  Maintenance and Repair Subscription Billing Models: companies like landscaping, pest control, heating & cooling, as well as other common maintenance needs

Peak Subscription

Which brings us to the million dollar question, when do we max out on all of these monthly/annual subscriptions? When do we reach, “peak subscription;” that light-bulb moment when we realize we need to start eliminating some of these expenses.

It was that very question that finally got me to sit down and review our monthly household subscriptions and total things up. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do anyway, but Fred’s blog was the spark that put me in action.

Here’s our entertainment subscription list:

  • Amazon Prime
  • Frndly TV
  • Netflix
  • Disney+
  • Apple TV+
  • Washington Post
  • Time Magazine
  • The Atlantic
  • Consumer Reports
  • Radio Tunes
  • Pandora Premium
  • Sling TV

Now, to make most of these digital entertainment subscriptions work, we need to subscribe to an internet service and since we use many of these services on our iPhones, we also need to add in our monthly call/text/data plan too.

Our monthly cost is $228 or $2,736 annually.

Fred reveals that in the upcoming Techsurvey 2022, two-thirds of the people in his survey now agree with the statement, “I am concerned about the growing number of subscription fees I’m paying for media content.”

I urge you to sit down with your bills and do an audit of your household’s entertainments subscription expenses. If you are like us, you didn’t subscribe to all of them at the same time, but added them one-by-one over a period of years.

Sophie’s Choice

The problem for all of us, comes to making a “Sophie’s Choice” of our media subscriptions. We love them all and trying to decide which ones to eliminate is NOT an easy decision.

What one learns when they are faced with this decision is that we are “happily hooked” on all of them.

Commercial radio and TV operators also need to realize as the subscription economy for entertainment continues to grow, the number of hours in a person’s day is finite, and our time with subscription media means little is left over for OTA radio/TV.

People will spend their time, on those media services

they spend their money with.

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What Makes Your Radio Station Unique?

In teaching broadcast sales at the university, one of the things I taught my students was to help their advertising clients to identify their unique selling position in the marketplace. In other words, what was the one thing that made them different than everyone else in their specialty.

Something For Everyone

The answer you most often hear when you ask an advertiser what makes them unique is, “well, we have something for everyone.”

Something for everyone is nothing special for any one. To the radio listener, it’s like blah, blah, blah. It’s meaningless. Why? Because every other advertiser selling everything from soup to nuts says the same thing and the listener has become trained to tune out these advertising clichés.

Plumbers

Plumbers are probably not something you ever give much thought about, UNTIL you need one. That’s true for lots of repair services when you think about it.

What’s the one thing you hate about calling a home repair company? Knowing that you will be kept waiting and waiting and waiting for their arrival at the time when they said they would.

“It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation and only one bad one to lose it.”

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin Plumbing could have said a lot of things about the services they provide, but instead they decided what would make them unique in the ears of future customers would be being punctual.

Benjamin Franklin

The Punctual Plumber

They built their whole franchise around the realization that people hate to be kept waiting. In fact, they promise when you don’t have time to wait around, you can count on them to be punctual plumbing professionals, but if they are ever late, they will pay YOU for every minute they’ve made you wait. Doesn’t that resonate with you? It does for me.

Give Your Radio Station a Diagnostic

When is the last time you pulled out the Advertiser Diagnostic sheet and used it on your own radio station(s)?

What makes your station unique? Not the music, that’s for sure. The songs you play were carefully crafted by composers, producers and talented artists, who have record labels that have worked relentlessly to get those songs played on as many radio stations, pure play streamers, movies, TV shows and any other place that uses music to entertain people.

Is your brand name unique? Well, if you branded your radio station KISS you are one of 78 radio stations in America that call themselves that, along with radio stations in Ireland, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Poland, Ukraine, Romania, Moldova, Iceland, Greece, Spain, Sweden, Germany, Brazil, Canada and Australia. It’s no different than calling your radio station HOT, Jack, Bob, Alice or some other cute name that dozens upon dozens of other radio stations are doing, especially in a world where voice commands increasingly are the way people are accessing audio on their smart devices.

But if your brand is 650AM -WSM, you are the only one in the world that has that brand. You have set yourself apart from the estimated 44,000 radio stations currently on-the-air in the world. WSM is the Home of the Grand Ole Opry. I don’t expect this historic radio station to ever call itself by any other name, but by the one it owns exclusively: WSM.

Streaming Radio

In a world where you can receive virtually any radio station on an App like TuneIn, being unique and one-of-a-kind has never been more important.

If a person tries asking Alexa, Siri or Google to play the KISS radio station, I have no idea which one she will play. However, I don’t have to wonder for a second, if I ask my smart speaker to play WSM, I will hear any other radio station, but the one from Music City USA, in Nashville, Tennessee.

What Makes Your Radio Station Unique?

If you stake your radio station’s future on things created by others, like music, talk shows, network news, syndicated programs, jingles – things every other radio station in America has access to – then your radio station is NOT unique.

When other providers are able give your listeners more of what they want while eliminating the things they dislike, your days as a broadcaster are numbered.

Another way to think about this is, if you were to eliminate all of your commercials – the thing radio listeners say they object to most – would you be able to sustain your radio station by listener support, like public radio and Christian radio does? Or the way that Netflix or SiriusXM does?

If a listener hasn’t heard of your radio station,

wouldn’t choose your station or recommend it,

your brand is dead.

<Picture: The Fuse Vert is a premium vertical vinyl audio system which can also play FM radio>

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Is it LIVE or AI?

One of the loyal readers to this blog, wrote and asked me what I thought the future looked like for the combination of radio and Artificial Intelligence (AI). In today’s blog, I will consider that very question.

Is it Live, or is it Memorex?

I remember when the audio quality of tape recorders became so improved with audio reproduction, that the question of the day was, “Is it live or is it Memorex?” Memorex was a company established in 1961 for selling magnetic computer tapes. In the 70s Memorex moved into producing quality audio tape for recording music and voice.

TV commercials at that time featured Ella Fitzgerald singing a note that shattered a glass, while simultaneously being recorded on an audio cassette. The recorded audio would then be played back and the recording would also shatter a glass, to which the announcer would ask, “Is it live, or is it Memorex?”

Is AI Going to Replace Voicetracking?

Then Radio Ink published a story that got many of the people in my radio, podcasting and other social media groups talking about, titled “Is AI going to replace voicetracking?”

Voicetracking technology has been used to replace live radio personalities for decades, but what AI presents the industry with is the possible ability to bring back the big name radio personalities.

Dan Ingram, Larry Lujack, Robert W. Morgan, The Real Don Steele…

Imagine your radio market’s favorite radio personality returning to the airwaves. It’s not out of the realm of possibility.

A company called WellSaid Labs has created dozens of human voice avatars where all one needs to do to get them to talk, is type text into a computer and the voice will say it.

Imagine how having a creative person, who has studied the style of an iconic personality, and then creating new, contemporary material to be delivered in that personality’s voice might sound.

Netflix Research

Now you might be wondering why anyone would want this type of technology. Well, Netflix now streams content worldwide and buys new content from producers all over the world. Much of that content is produced in the country’s native language and so Netflix has to show that content with either subtitles or voice-dubbing the dialog with voice actors speaking in the language of the country the material will air in.

It might not surprise you to learn that when Netflix has offered viewers two ways of viewing  a program, Americans in particular, prefer voice-dubbing to subtitles. (I know I do.)

To speed up the process of voice-dubbing and to have voices that sound the same as the original actors, companies like WellSaid are developing artificial intelligence technology that by voice sampling can then re-create the voice automatically.

ALEXA

I already have conversations with Alexa and have wondered what she might sound like as a DJ on a radio station, haven’t you?

The afternoon DJ on KCSN, Andy Chanley, has been on-the-air there for over 32 years. Now using a robot DJ named ANDY (Artificial Neural Disk-Jockey), Chanley’s voice will continue to be heard in many places throughout Southern California. During a demonstration for Reuters, reporters say that Chanley’s AI voice was hard to distinguish from his human voice.

You can listen to these computer generated voices WellSaid has created for yourself by clicking on this link: https://wellsaidlabs.com/?#actors-preview-list

Is Your Favorite DJ Already a Robot?

WellSaid says its voice avatars are doing more than just DJ work, they are being used extensively in corporate training material and the creation of audio books.

Do I think I will live to see radio’s great personalities coming back to life? No, because I think there will be too many legal issues that might complicate that from happening anytime soon.

But I do think that original voice avatars, teamed up with creative content developers, might just come into existence sooner than we imagine and provide us with an entirely new form of radio entertainment.

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Is Radio Up Schitt’s Creek?

When we travel, we’ve noticed that radios have vanished from hotel/motel rooms across America, replaced by free WiFi. Televisions didn’t go away, but were upgraded to widescreen High Definition TVs and you almost always still find a Gideon Bible.

Schitt’s Creek

When watching movies and TV shows, I often look to see if there’s a radio in sight, noticing in British productions they often are, but not in American ones.

The series Schitt’s Creek was produced for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in Canada and is currently running on Netflix. Sue & I have watched all six seasons of the show twice and while the residents of the fictional Rosebud Motel can be seen using televisions, computers and cellphones, we never see anyone listening to a radio*.

Nostalgia Sells

If you think about it, many forms of nostalgia have been reborn and enjoy great success in the 21st Century. Sonic successfully brought back the drive-in restaurant, Major League Baseball got its highest television ratings playing ball on a “Field of Dreams” in Iowa, Drive-In Movies are a way to watch a movie on the big screen while socially distancing and Schitt’s Creek, along with COVID, might be credited with bringing back the MOTEL.

The Johnny Rose character envisioned franchising his Rosebud Motel and found investors that believed in his dream.

MOTELS

The New York Times published an article over the Labor Day Weekend titled “Who Wants a Hotel With a Hallway Anyway?” The article explains that since COVID hit, people’s desire to travel hasn’t diminished, but that traveling by personal automobile and staying in places that allowed easy entry to a room without having to take an elevator or travel down a crowded hallway suddenly became an important criterion in lodging.

And when you think about it, motels are like baseball, hot dogs and apple pie; they are woven into the fabric of Americana.

Car Radios

Just as American, is our love of the automobile. Motels, which get their name from the merging of the words “hotel” and “motorcar,” grew across the USA right along with car ownership.

Car radios were an expensive option when they came on the scene in the 1930s, but by 1946, it’s estimated that over nine million cars had a radio in them. With the advent of the transistor, radios became a smaller and inexpensive auto option, so much so that by 1960 over 50 million cars – 60% of all the cars on the road – had a radio in them.

I’m sure the cars used on Schitt’s Creek had a radio in them, but we never see them used on the show like we do televisions, computers, cellphones and laptops.

We also see Facebook, Twitter, and online ratings sites being used on the show. Even the town’s real estate agent has a podcast that takes advantage of internet access and WiFi.

Staying Current

The big difference between those original motels and the motels of the 21st Century is that they have taken the positives – parking your car right in front of your room, avoiding crowded spaces – and eliminating the negatives – primitive furniture, lumpy bedding,  and dingy décor – creating an inviting and COVID-SAFE getaway experience.

Motels today have free WiFi, HDTVs, and plenty of places to charge your laptops, tablets and smartphones.

Interestingly, like radio many operators have taken the word “radio” out of their company names and logos, some motel operators think a better name might be “motor lodge” or “boutique hotel.” They are concerned the word “motel” conjures up bad images of the places shown in TV shows like Breaking Bad or in movies like Chevy Chase’s Vacation.

But whether you call them motor lodges, high-end motels or exterior-corridor hotels, they are once again in vogue because they are perfect for getting away in a coronavirus mutating world.

Buy the Rosebud Motel

Several years ago, when I was traveling through Cleveland, Ohio, I visited Ralphie’s home featured in the movie classic “A Christmas Story.” It was bought in 2004 by Brian Jones, a San Diego entrepreneur and a big fan of Jean Shepherd’s classic film. Jones used the revenue from his Red Rider Leg Lamp Company to purchase the home on eBay for $150,000 remaking the inside of this 19th century Victorian house an exact replica of the movie’s interior.

Since its opening on Thanksgiving weekend in 2006, millions of people have toured the home making it one of the top tourist attractions in Cleveland. Jones also built a wonderful museum and gift shop near the house and continues to enjoy success selling his leg lamps, Red Rider BB guns, and other movie nostalgia.

If you are just as enamored with the motel in Schitt’s Creek and think you might be able to turn it into your own “goldmine,” you can buy it for $1.6 million. Known in real life as the Hockley Motel, you will find it located just an hour outside of Toronto, Canada.

If you do decide to buy this piece of television nostalgia, please consider putting digital streaming radios in each of the ten rooms as part of your renovation.

*A clock radio appears for brief moment by Johnny’s bed in Season 2, Episode 4, but it never gets used, like the TVs, computers and cellphones.

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What I Recently Witnessed About Radio Use

Sue & I just returned from a seven week trip out west to visit our children and grandchildren who are living in Nevada, Montana and Washington. For me, our trip would also be a chance to witness how radio is used (or not used) in three different households, as well as in hotels, businesses and public transportation. What I would witness, was concerning.

Nevada

In Nevada, I noticed that for a household of seven, not a single radio was to be found. Audio was accessed by asking Alexa (Amazon Echo) to play something or a particular playlist was sent wirelessly to speakers via someone’s iPhone. Everyone, even the very youngest grandchild, who’s five, had their own iPhone.

In a house where both parents work, and can be called out at any hour of the day, this type of communications for all family members becomes a necessity.

Radio listening, if done at all, was something only done when in the car. Television, was connected to a cable bundle and only CNN or Netflix seemed to get viewed. The grandkids spent most of their time playing video games on the house computer, game console or their iPhones.

Montana

Here a Sonos home speaker system had been installed in the home. I found that two different local radio stations (country & classic rock) were programmed into rotation, along with an Amazon Echo smart speaker. Our grandkids called up songs they wanted to hear by asking Alexa to play them, so in the week we spent, Alexa was pretty much the default choice for anything musically played.

Television programs were all streamed via YouTube TV.

Radio pre-sets in the car were set to several country stations, several classic rock stations, several contemporary music stations and an oldies station. In all, 22 different radio stations were loaded onto the pre-sets. I added KBMC to that pre-set list when we borrowed the car a couple of times. KBMC programs a variety of jazz and classical music.

Washington

Our stay in the State of Washington took place on Whidbey Island. The only radio signal licensed on the island plays regional Mexican music and the majority of its content is in Spanish. So, it wasn’t surprising to find the pre-sets on the car radio did not include KNZW – La Zeta 103.3.

What was surprising was to see that all the pre-sets were to HD1 signals in this Mazda 6 sedan. (It appears Mazda has their radio default to HD signals and you have to toggle it off to get FM signals.) Since the island is just across the water from Seattle, all of the pre-sets were to Seattle radio stations. The two that dominated the listening in the car were KSWD (Audacy’s 94.1 The Sound) when mom was behind the wheel and KQMV (Hubbard’s Movin’ 92.5) when either of the grand kids got control of the radio. However, what is dispiriting to witness is how frequently the radio stations get changed whenever something comes on that they don’t wish to hear. When commercials come on, the station gets changed. Likewise, when songs they don’t like come on, the station gets changed. It’s like watching football using the Red Zone.

Here again, not a single radio receiver was to be found inside the home.

The Bus & Hotels

When we departed Whidbey Island, we took a bus into Seattle. On the bus we listened to KSWD 94.1 The Sound out of Seattle. It provided a nice sound track for the ride and the bus driver never changed the station for the two hours it took to reach our destination.

Every hotel room we stayed in featured flat screen TVs but none had a radio. The old clock radios have been replaced by digital clock/USB charging stations for our iPhones, iPads and laptop computers.

Summing It All Up

I realize there is nothing scientific about this, it’s all anecdotal, but it was a dose of reality that confirms much of the research I’m reading about today’s radio landscape.

No one in our seven weeks on the road tuned into any AM radio station. FM, was radio to everyone, but then, only in their vehicles. Listening to radio in the home was not possible, because there was only one radio in any of the homes we stayed at and that was in the garage.

HD Radio sounds great, but in all honesty, the one family that had this easily accessible in their car, probably didn’t know that’s what they were listening to and it certainly wasn’t the reason they were listening to any particular station.

With the exception of our two hour bus ride, radio exposure could be measured in short segments, that only happened to occur because the radio comes on with the ignition switch. Sadly, changing radio stations occurs constantly, so any commercial content never gets heard.

Likewise, businesses we frequented either had their own franchise “radio station,” like Walmart Radio or streamed a music channel from some other music service they subscribed to.

In our travels, we didn’t see a TV commercial, billboard or bumper sticker for any radio station. Lots of shirts and sweatshirts promoting lots of things, but not one for any radio station.

Radio, it would appear, has become the Rodney Dangerfield of media.

“We don’t get no respect.”

But then maybe, it’s a self-inflicted situation

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The Better Advertising Mousetrap

Ralph Waldo Emerson is said to have coined the phrase: “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.” When it comes to advertising, social media has built the better mousetrap, and you and I are helping them to improve it every day.

The Social Dilemma

There’s a new documentary on Netflix called “The Social Dilemma” about how social media is impacting our lives, and is truly eye-opening. I encourage you to watch this documentary if you subscribe to Netflix, but especially if you’re in advertising and marketing. In fact, it would pay you to subscribe to Netflix just to view this documentary; it’s that important!

This blog won’t be about many of the important social issues raised in the documentary, but instead I plan to focus on how traditional media, like AM/FM radio broadcasting, is fighting a battle for advertising with the internet companies that isn’t a fair fight. Broadcasters are in essence coming to a gun fight, wielding a knife.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to regular readers of my blog, because back on February 25, 2018, I wrote an article titled “Radio Has an Addiction Problem,” that quoted MIT professor Sherry Turkle’s 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 ways we think about ourselves and other people.” Turkle said that computers weren’t just a tool, but were sneaking into our minds and changing our relationship with the world around us.

Monetizing Social Media

Social media quickly realized that in order to sustain itself it needed to monetize its service. Google’s search engine business was a Silicon Valley marvel for not only harnessing the power of the internet but simultaneously building a revenue engine that grew right along with it. Tim Kendall, now CEO of Moment, was one of the early people at Facebook, charged with coming up with a way to make money. He said that he decided that the “advertising model was the most elegant way.”

Advertising

The advertising business has always been about selling exposure to the people who use the product. Newspapers sold access to its readers, radio sold access to its listeners and television sold access to its viewers.

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted;

the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”

-John Wanamaker

Businesses have always wanted to get the biggest bang for their advertising buck, but realized that in the world of advertising, there were no guarantees, that is until social media came along. Mel Karmazin, former broadcasting and satellite radio CEO put it this way when he met with the founders of Google: “You’re messing with the magic of sales.”

Jaron Lanier, who wrote the book “Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now,” explains that what social media is doing more effectively than traditional media is “changing what you do, how you think and who you are…it’s a gradual, slight, imperceptible change in your behavior and perception.” It’s similar to a magician performing slight-of-hand tricks, and making you believe things that aren’t real.

“This is what every business has always dreamt of, to have a guarantee that if it places an ad it will be successful. That’s (social media’s) business, they sell certainty. In order to be successful in that business you have to have great predictions. Great predictions begin with one imperative, you need a lot of data.

The internet has given us a new kind of marketplace that never existed before, a marketplace that trades exclusively in human futures. Just like there are markets for pork belly futures, or oil futures, we now have markets that trade in human futures, at scale, and those markets have produced the trillions of dollars that have made the internet companies the richest companies in the history of humanity.”

-Shoshana Zuboff, PhD, Harvard Business School

Author of “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism”

“Any sufficiently advanced technology

is indistinguishable from magic.”

-Arthur C. Clarke

Getting Your Attention

Every company whose business model is to sustain itself through the selling of advertising is competing with other companies for your attention. Traditional media is competing with every social media company to get as much of your time and attention to their platform as they possibly can. Remember, when you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.

The advantage social media has over traditional media is their development of persuasive technology. It’s designed to intentionally apply to the extreme behavior modification in the user, and cause them to take a desired action. It does this through the use of positive intermittent reinforcement, just like a casino slot machine lures you into thinking the next pull of the handle will release its fortune. Social media works to create an unconscious habit, programming you for a deeper level of control than you even realize is happening.

Social media has learned how to exploit a vulnerability in human psychology, which even when you know how it works doesn’t inoculate you from its power to change you.

No longer is social media a tool we use, but is a tool that uses us, creating this technology based environment designed for mental addiction through psychological manipulation.

“There are only two industries that call their customers ‘users’:

illegal drugs and software.”

-Edward Tufte

Most concerning about this change is that it’s being driven by a technology that’s advancing exponentially. In contrast, our human brain has not really advanced at all over the same period of time. The rate of change is beyond our human comprehension, even for the very people who are designing and building these computer networks.

“The race to keep people’s attention by social media isn’t going away. Our technology is going to become more integrated into our lives, not less. The AI’s (artificial intelligence) are going to get better at predicting what keeps us on the screen.

How do you wake up from the matrix when you don’t know you’re in the matrix?”

-Tristan Harris, Center for Humane Technology Co-Founder

“Whether it is to be utopia or oblivion

will be a touch-and-go relay race

right up to the final moment…”

-Buckminster Fuller

Today, the internet is a more efficient way to sell our attention to advertisers.

Now you know why.

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I Want It Now

I want it nowGrowing up telling mom or dad that I wanted something now, got the usual response of “you will have to work for it” or “you’ll get it when it’s ready.” Learning that good things come to those who wait was part of my maturing process.

But not any longer.

Google

I remember when I wanted to know about something, I either had to spend some time going through our family’s World Book Encyclopedia or take a trip to the library. But not any longer, I just Google it.

Alexa

I’ve been able to stream radio around the world for years, but it never became easier than when Alexa entered my world. Now, anything I want to know or hear, I simply ask Alexa, and that little genie in my Echo serves it up. My wish is Alexa’s command.

FOX TV

Remember when we used to have television seasons? Every fall, I couldn’t wait for TV Guide to arrive to plan out my TV viewing strategy.  ABC, NBC and CBS would introduce lots of new shows every fall and it was a big deal.

Then FOX changed things up while working to become America’s fourth television network. FOX began introducing new shows during the summer, and winter break, while ABC, NBC and CBS were showing re-runs.

Now new television programs are a year-round affair. Gone are pilots, re-runs and the fall season being the only time networks introduce brand new shows.

Netflix

But the most dramatic change to the introduction of a new television series happened five years ago when Netflix started releasing an entire season’s worth of shows, all at the same time. Netflix now gave viewers a choice in how you could watch a new season. You could watch on a weekly basis, watch a new episode every night, or binge watch the entire season.

Binge watching became the preferred method.

Disney+

Which is why I was surprised to hear Disney+ announce that it would be releasing its new shows an episode a week. History has shown with many different products and services, that you can’t go back to the way things used to be. I wish the mouse house good luck.

Knowing Your Audience

Netflix spends a lot of time trying to understanding what their subscribers want and like. They’re adamant that releasing an entire season all at once won’t ever change. They cite two reasons for this:

  • TV viewers have moved away from appointment viewing in droves, preferring to watch shows ON DEMAND, often by binge watching, and
  • 2) Netflix has found that people tend to watch only one show at a time. In other words, once a Netflix viewer finds a television series they like, they will watch all the episodes of that program before moving on to another show.

Netflix knows a happy customer remains a paying customer.

Reflecting on my own Netflix viewing habits, I would have to agree that I’m hooked on the concept of ON DEMAND television viewing and when I start a Netflix TV series, I watch the entire series, usually several episodes a night, until I’ve finished it. I’ve watched Downtown Abbey that way twice now.

Radio vs Podcasting

GoldsteinIs there a lesson for radio broadcasters from what I just shared about television viewing habits? I think there is. Programmer Steve Goldstein puts it this way, “Traditional radio – by design – is a lean-back business. Podcasting is a lean-in business.” That perfectly describes the difference between Netflix (lean-in) and broadcast (lean-back) commercial television.

These changing media habits are not just a temporary thing.

These changes in how people want to access and use media are the future, and we can’t wish the past back, no matter how much we might want to.

Goldstein says a podcast needs to be “thumb stopping.” By that he means the listener doesn’t exit the program and move on to something else with a press of their thumb.

Because of push button pre-sets, radio stations know all too well how easy it is for car radio listeners to change stations when something they don’t want or like comes on. Today, it’s in the car where most broadcast radio listening takes place.

Sadly, radio operators aren’t acknowledging this reality in the digital world.

Mad Men

Matt Weiner, the creator of the Mad Men television series that played on A & E, said that if he ever approached Netflix to run one of his shows, he would try to convince them to release the episodes on a weekly basis.matt weiner

It’s the same kind of thinking old timers in radio might suggest when they talk about how to make radio great again.

What would Netflix tell Mr. Weiner if he pitched his idea of releasing his programs a week at a time?

“He would lose,” said Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s content chief.

Radio should think of this reality as its “canary in the coal shaft” moment.

 

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Our New Normal

Normal?We are living in a surreal time. The birds are singing, the trees and flowers are blooming and yet, life is anything but what we used to call normal.

Huge changes are in the wind, in ways that we hadn’t predicted as 2019 was coming to an end.

If You Had More Time, You Would…

Funny how we fool ourselves about the reasons we haven’t gotten around to doing some tasks.

Example: A person on Facebook wrote, “After years of wanting to thoroughly clean my house, but lacking the time, this week I learned that wasn’t the reason.”

I’m sure similar thoughts are conjured up in your mind.

Normal Routines

I’m retired but I still had a daily routine. I got up every weekday with my wife, had breakfast, saw her off to work and then poured myself another cup of coffee while watching a morning television news program.

Then I’d start my day.

The media I used consisted of streaming TV and streaming audio. Over-the-air radio was something I played in the car when I went shopping for food or supplies.

Then COVID-19 invaded everyone’s normal life.

Disrupted Routines

With my wife now out of work, we didn’t have a need to rise with an alarm. Watching the morning news with that second cup of coffee was now a memory. Going out for the daily food and supplies is now something done much less frequently. Streaming movies on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hoopla and YouTube now make up more of our day, as has Face-Timing with our kids and grandkids, as they too are all home now.

I can only imagine, how even more disrupted the lives of parents are, they now find themselves trying to work from home, plus home school their children.

New Normal

On average it takes a person over two months to form a new habit, 66-days to be exact. That’s the length of time, most of us, will be staying-at-home. What will we be like after that time?

Will we immediately make plans to dine out, go to shows, be in large crowds or will we cautiously proceed?

Will we maintain some of those new habits, never to fully return to the way things used to be?

Will we begin to maintain a basic stockpile of necessities, like toilet tissue, to be sure we never find ourselves looking at bare store shelves when we’ve run out?

Will we find that saving more money in our bank accounts is prudent for times when we may find ourselves out-of-work again?

Will the new media choices we’ve found during our time of forced hibernation become the ones we now depend on in our daily lives?

How Has Your Life Been Changed by COVID-19?

In the comments section of today’s blog, I hope you will share your COVID-19 stories about how your lives have been changed by this virus. How you are adapting and how you are surviving. Maybe there’s something you’re doing we might all enjoy doing as well.

We’re all in this together.

Stay safe, stay home.

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Streaming & Podcasting

computers streaming &amp; podcastingI’ve been thinking about these two forms of audio for some time now. With each new article published about streaming, we see how more and more people are listening to music in this way. The smart speaker has certainly contributed to the growth of music listening via streams, and the smart speaker growth is exploding.

I know with my own experience by getting my first smart speaker as a gift, to now owning three of them, how it’s totally changed how I listen to music.

And then there’s podcasting, a way for the spoken word to be communicated.

Radio versus Streaming & Podcasting

Radio for most of my life was a way to hear both music and the spoken word. It was curated and delivered in fresh and exciting ways by a variety of radio stations across the country.

Unfortunately, radio delivered programming on its timetable, not the listeners.

As VCRs came into the television world, I remember hearing, why isn’t there a device like that for radio? There actually was, I owned one, but it never really caught on like the video devices did.

The VCRs and DVRs changed how people consumed their television programs, and essentially did away with the concept of “Must See TV” turning it into “must record TV.”

Netflix

Then along comes Netflix, and the concept of On Demand TV viewing was born.

One might argue that Blockbuster started it with video rentals, but it still really didn’t impact American viewing habits like streaming video did.

Again, Netflix disrupted people’s viewing habits when it would release an entire season of a TV series all at once. Gone was the need to come back week-after-week to see a program. Now, a new type of TV consumption was created, the binge-watch.

Broadcast versus Streaming

What’s really changed in our consumption of TV and radio is our ability to control what we see and hear, and when we want to see and hear it. In other words, On Demand is the media consumption process of the 21st Century.

I stream 100% of my television viewing. I can watch a program live, or start the show from the beginning if I arrive late, or just view it whenever I want, at another time through On Demand viewing.

Streaming TV has trained us, and now the smart speaker is taking our new media consumption habit and making audio listening just as easy to consume in this manner.

Alexa is ready, willing and able to play any genre of music that I want to hear, on a moment’s notice. She has more song selections than my own personal CD library and it’s so much easier to ask Alexa to play a song for me than try and find the CD that a song is on, and then load it into my CD player.

Podcasts

Complete honesty here, I’m not a fan of podcasts. I don’t know why, I’m just not. The only one I ever listened to in its entirety was the first season of the podcast Serial, and that was mainly due to a long 13-hour car drive, and my ability to download all the episodes onto my iPod to play in my car.

However, I do know that younger folks are really getting into podcasts and this segment will only grow as the spoken word genre finds a way to promote its wares.

The Looming Audio Battle

What I do see on the horizon is radio being drawn and quartered by streaming audio for music, and podcast audio for the spoken word. Both types of audio programming are easily called up via smart speakers and available On Demand.

Curated programming, as has been the staple of broadcast radio, will be challenged to compete.

Professional Radio & Amateur Radio

Radio won’t die, it has a future, but I see it bifurcating in the following ways:

  • There will be professional broadcasters and amateur broadcasters.
  • I see the future of radio looking something like the difference between professional and amateur theater. For example, the difference between Broadway and community theater; where the former are professional paid actors, and the latter is made up of talented volunteer locals with an insatiable love of theater.
  • The advent of low power FM radio stations is the first toe-in-the-water that points in this direction for amateur radio personalities who volunteer their time and energy.
  • Some of these volunteers will come from the ranks of retired or “dislocated” professional radio personalities and some will be members of the community that always thought it would be fun to be on-the-air.
  • What seems to be disappearing are local radio stations in the middle, ones that used to be ad-supported by local businesses, who now find themselves displaced by big box stores and online shopping.
  • The newspaper industry is the canary in the coal shaft for ad-supported media. Berkshire Hathaway Vice Chairman Charles Munger points out that, “Technological change is destroying the daily newspapers in America. The revenue goes away and the expenses remain and they’re all dying.” However, Munger does feel that papers like The Wall Street Journal and New York Times will most likely survive.
  • Newspapers have been cutting staff like crazy but it’s done little to turn things around. Radio is following in print industry’s footsteps as “employee dislocations” are occurring at all the major broadcasting companies.

Does any of this make sense to you?

I’d love to hear what your thoughts are.

Please post your thoughts on comments section of this blog article, so that others may read them and hear different opinions.

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Choice Paralysis

57 channelsI sat in on Radio World’s presentation about “Digital Sunrise for AM Radio” hosted by editor-in-chief Paul McLane. The webcast lasted almost two hours and was technically informative.

The question Paul kept asking the presenters about going all digital on AM, was a question he hears numerous people asking him, “has the horse left the barn?” In other words, has the world moved on and does anyone really cares about AM radio anymore.

But that’s not the question that was running through my mind.

Too Many Choices

We live in a world with infinite choices when it comes to audio & video entertainment. Twenty-eight years ago, Bruce Springsteen released his song “57 Channels and Nothing’s On.” The lyrics are very telling of the condition we find ourselves in today.

I bought a bourgeois house in the Hollywood hills
With a truckload of hundred thousand dollar bills
Man came by to hook up my cable TV
We settled in for the night my baby and me
We switched ’round and ’round ’til half-past dawn
There was fifty-seven channels and nothin’ on
Well now home entertainment was my baby’s wish
So I hopped into town for a satellite dish
I tied it to the top of my Japanese car
I came home and I pointed it out into the stars
A message came back from the great beyond
There’s fifty-seven channels and nothin’ on
Well we might’a made some friends with some billionaires
We might’a got all nice and friendly if we’d made it upstairs
All I got was a note that said “bye-bye John
Our love is fifty-seven channels and nothin’ on”
So I bought a .44 magnum it was solid steel cast
And in the blessed name of Elvis well I just let it blast
‘Til my TV lay in pieces there at my feet
And they busted me for disturbing the almighty peace
Judge said “What you got in your defense son?”
“Fifty-seven channels and nothin’ on”
I can see by your eyes friend you’re just about gone
Fifty-seven channels and nothin’ on

It’s not unusual for people to spend an entire evening going through the program guide on Netflix only to finally retire for the evening having not watched a single program. We’ve all done that.

On just Netflix alone it was estimated in 2015 that it would take a person 34,739 hours to watch everything available on the streaming service. I’m sure that number has grown considerably when you consider in 2019 Netflix introduced 371 series and movies to view.

Add to Netflix more television streaming services like Amazon Prime, Hulu, Apple TV+, Disney+, YouTube and it means choice is not the TV viewer’s problem, it’s choice paralysis. (And maybe also how to pay for it all.)

ALL DIGITAL AM

The question running through my mind about investing in building out an all-digital AM radio service in America is, “why?” When I scan the AM band now, I can hear the same talk shows on station after station. The FM band is no different when it comes to everyone doing the same type of programming.

It has me humming Bruce Springsteen’s song in my head, only with a lot more channels of programming attached to the “nothing’s on” part.

Digital AM seems to be the answer to a question, that listeners aren’t asking.

Less is More

Many businesses fall into the trap of thinking that more products equal more sales and radio certainly can be accused of falling into that trap.

HD Radio was designed to offer a higher quality broadcast signal for AM and FM radio stations. FM station owners didn’t really get interested in HD Radio until they learned they could feed FM translators with HD2, HD3 signals and put more FM analog signals on-the-air in their market.

I learned that the all-digital AM service offers the opportunity for an HD2 signal that could feed another FM analog translator.

What Al and Laura Ries tell us from their research is how this strategy of adding more and more choice becomes a trap and can lead to negative consequences in the long term.

Just One Thing

In media sales, we try to have our clients identify what one thing makes them special and unique. What makes their business so different that consumers will want to come to them instead of their competitors. You may know this process as finding a business’s “unique selling proposition.”

One Good Reason

Back in the day, 66-WNBC put up a billboard that gave radio listeners one good reason to turn their radio dial to 660 AM. It simply said “If we weren’t so bad, we wouldn’t be so good.”

56

This one simple sentence captured the essence of both Don Imus and Howard Stern. It was this radio station’s one good reason to listen. It was this radio station’s one good reason to advertise on it.

And speaking of one, I was told by the WNBC Sales Manager that it only took one commercial on Howard Stern for an advertiser to see immediate sales results.

That’s the power of a unique brand.

Misplaced Priorities

Radio had a choice to make in the last decade, to either develop unique powerful brands localized to the marketplace the FCC licensed them to serve, or build out more signals with programming that was virtually hard to tell apart from one another. Unfortunately, the radio industry chose the latter and as a result has turned the business into a commodity.

Something for everyone equals nothing for nobody.

Economics defines a commodity as goods or services that have fungibility, or in other words something the marketplace treats as everything being nearly equivalent to each other, with little regard for who produces it.

This is why radio sales people will often hear advertisers says things like “all radio stations sound the same, now let’s talk about your spot price.”

Perception is reality.

Or should I say that the listener and advertiser’s perception is accurate with the reality today being all radio stations do sound the same.

Elections & Radio Listening

I read an article the other day that said what changes the outcome of any election is turnout. That the way someone wins an election is by getting people, who normally sit it out on the couch, engaged and out to the polls. It’s not getting people to switch party affiliations.

I think radio may have a similar problem.

For the radio industry to be growing again, what radio needs to be focused on, and investing in, are its people and programming, not putting more signals on the air with nothing to hear.

 

 

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