Tag Archives: Smartphone

What Can Radio Do That Other Media Can’t?

87I’m writing the follow-up to last week’s blog article while comments are still flowing in but I sense I have enough of a cross-section of comments to draw some conclusions; over fifteen type-written pages of comments to date. Not all commenters actually post their thoughts on my blog, but instead post them on the various social media platforms where they came in contact with my article. I try to monitor as many of those as possible to gauge the feedback on any week’s article.

Theater of the Mind

Quite a few people wrote that radio’s big advantage is that it’s “Theater of the Mind.” Unfortunately, so would streaming radio and podcasts if they so chose to utilize it. Podcasting does this quite effectively with shows like Radio Lab, Serial, Revisionist History and others. In fact NPR takes all of their segments from their highly rated programs like Morning Edition and All Things Considered and makes them available as podcasts. They are very fast at getting these segments posted online too. Lightning fast.

A lot of retired broadcasters seized on the “Theater of the Mind” advantage not realizing the extent that podcasting is doing this and how fast the podcast world is growing in audience and revenues.

Besides, truthfully, how many commercial radio stations these days do you know actually employ any “Theater of the Mind” these days. That whole concept was born from the days when radio did live dramas and that was last heard with the CBS Radio Mystery Theater that I remember running as a young lad back in the 70s.

Radio is everywhere, wireless and free

This might have been an advantage a couple of years ago, but is it still? Streaming audio is wireless, is pretty ubiquitous and now with many carriers free. T-Mobile has no data usage for quite a few streams. Plus audio streaming doesn’t use all that much data.

I’m on Verizon and gave up my unlimited data plan when the bill was climbing north of $100 per month. I switched to a plan that gives me unlimited talk and texting with one gigabyte of data per month for $50 per month. I was told by Verizon that based on my current usage that I wasn’t even using a quarter of a gigabyte per month. As I thought about it, my phone is either on my home WiFi or the university WiFi most of the time and operating very little off of cell towers for data.

However to test out how much data I’d use on a 15 hour drive from New England back to Kentucky I decided to stream radio through my iPhone4S to my car’s sound system. What I would learn was surprising in many ways.

First, I still used very little of my one gigabyte data plan. Second, I heard seamless audio with virtually no buffering and third, the audio fidelity was fabulous. The one thing I did find was how HOT my iPhone got continuously streaming like that.

Now remember, I started out in Massachusetts and drove through New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and West Virginia to get back to Bowling Green, Kentucky. That’s quite a drive and going through Maryland and West Virginia I went over lots of mountainous terrain. I did lose the signal going through tunnels, but that was about it (I also lose radio signals in those same tunnels).

So again, this is no longer radio’s advantage over other options. The people who wrote this was radio’s advantage maybe are not aware of how much things have changed. I know I was.

Radio allows you to multi-task

One respondent actually wrote his response as his own blog article on his site. In it he wrote that

“with today’s tech, radio and television can each DO almost everything the other can do, and they (do) more than the rest of the media types. The division between radio and TV is blurring…both can be just as fast, just as inexpensive. Periscope anyone? You, too, can be a serious broadcaster.

They could be the same except for ONE thing – audio-only format supports productive multiplexing. Doing two things at once. Listening, perhaps LEARNING, maybe just being entertained, WHILE doing some mindless-but-necessary task at the same time.

I cannot watch TV and hammer a nail.

I cannot read the newspaper while mowing the lawn, can’t look at photos or TV while driving a car, can’t appreciate that profit curve while taking a shower.

I CAN “get things done” and, simultaneously, listen to the radio or a podcast. I can, for all practical purposes, MULTIPLY myself. Literally, accomplish more in the same amount of time and with the same “effort.”” (Note: bolding and emphasis were the respondent’s)

That person was on a role until he got to the last paragraph. It was here that he wrote “or podcast.” I would add “or streaming” as well. Heck, I’m listening to my favorite Smooth Jazz streaming station while writing this article. Smooth Jazz helps me to think while I’m writing.

So while radio has always been the multi-tasking medium it no longer holds that as singular medium that can deliver that advantage.

Provides Information during Emergencies

Several writers said that cell phones are useless when the battery dies and that battery powered radios can run for a long time. I would agree. But I see a couple of problems here. How many people still own a battery powered radio and use it often enough to make sure the batteries are fresh?

Plus from the radio operator’s point of view, they can’t stay in business if the public only tunes to them during an emergency. I ran a news and information radio station and we did a study to find out why our ratings weren’t better than they were. We found that people depended on us only in times of emergencies or breaking news. Otherwise, they went to their favorite FM music station and not our AM information station. The format was changed to something else after we read the report in search for something that could sustain itself.

Worse, since many stations are syndicated, voice-tracked or automated in some other way, they often aren’t as quick to the draw in fast arising emergency situations.

My Verizon connected iPhone goes off no matter where I am with emergency information based on where I’m located.

Plus when it comes to things like weather alerts, school delays or closings, those messages quickly come into my iPhone to alert me. My university police department often sends out emergency messages about an active situation on campus.

So this is yet one more area that radio finds it has some strong competition.

What Can Radio Do that My Smartphone Can’t?

One reader thought the better question would be “What can radio do that my smartphone can’t.” Another phrased the question this way “What can radio do that other media won’t?”

Then maybe this person’s observation was most poignant:

“They all properly answered your question by stating what radio CAN do. But it should be noted that radio, as an industry is dismally failing to do the very things it is capable of doing.”

Why is that?

Many pointed out how our country’s largest radio companies are mired in huge debt and that prevents them from doing the very things that could take radio into the future.

While Nielsen says 93% of Americans over the age of 12 listen to radio every week, others were quick to point out that one only needed to listen 5-minutes to any radio station during the course of the week to be counted.

So what’s the answer?

Live & Local

This was mentioned by many. Then quickly followed up with, but my stations aren’t.

While the industry is quick to make this claim, the number of signals broadcasting today that are doing just that are appreciably much less.

Community & Companionship

Dan Mason said at a radio talent institute that the power of radio was community and companionship and that without both, it wasn’t really radio.

When I got into radio, owners were proud of their radio stations and took excellent care of them. They lived in the communities they were licensed to serve and that made all the difference.

My family for many years celebrated special occasions at Howard Johnson’s. People are always amazed when I tell them that. But, as Paul Harvey used to say, the rest of the story is that this Howard Johnson’s in Williamstown, Massachusetts was owned by the Brundage brothers. And they would both be in that restaurant every hour it was open. The parking lot was always full and you waited in line for a table. Everyone knew that the only similarity this place had to any other Howard Johnson’s was its orange roof. The Brundage family was proud of their restaurant.

Friendly Ice Cream used to make its store managers part owners of their restaurants and Friendly’s were always well run no matter where you happened to visit one in New England. That all changed when the company was bought by Hershey and they replaced owner/managers with salaried ones. It’s a scene all too familiar to many radio people I’m sure as the Telcom Act of 1996 changed the ownership landscape of the radio industry.

Now I don’t’ want you to get the idea that all of radio was perfect back then, the industry had its share of rotten apples to be sure, but you’ll find them in any enterprise.

WKDZ, Cadiz, Kentucky

I was in Nashville in September 2016 with some of my students for The Radio Show. The big dinner featured many station and personality awards. One that was justly deserved went to WKDZ in Cadiz, Kentucky. WKDZ won “Small Market Radio Station of the Year 2016.” Beth Mann is the owner/GM of WKDZ. All Beth wanted to do since the time she started working at that radio station as a child was own it. When the owners decided to retire, they sold it to their general manager at that time, Beth Mann. 88

Now winning such a prestigious award from the National Association of Broadcasters is a pretty awesome thing. But WKDZ has won Small Market Radio Station of the Year more than once. They won in 2002, 2013 and 2016. I fully expect them to win it again and again.

If you want to know what radio can do that other media can’t or won’t, then you need to take a car ride to Cadiz, Kentucky and visit this radio station. If you want to know more right away, then visit their station’s website: www.wkdzradio.com

WKDZ has that HERE and NOW energy many readers of this blog say they miss in radio. WKDZ has that audience engagement. WKDZ is LIVE & LOCAL & COMMUNITY & COMPANIONSHIP and so much more.

In fact, in a state like Kentucky where we are blessed with a plethora of local radio operators that are engaged, live, local, community and companions to their service area for Beth Mann and her radio family to rise above the rest makes her story all that more amazing.

After living in the Blue Grass State these past seven years I can also attest to how outstanding the state’s broadcast association is too. The Kentucky Broadcasters Association (KBA) is the gold standard for state broadcast associations.

Relevant

Summing it all up, radio needs to have a heartbeat. It needs to be LIVE & LOCAL & COMMUNITY & a COMPANION to the listener. But most of all, it needs to be RELEVANT.

Define who your audience is and then super-serve them 24/7, 365.

We know what to do.

Now we just need to do it.

 

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Tall Towers in Big Fields

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

Introducing the iPhone7

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

PPM & the iPhone7

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

Change is the Only Constant

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

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

What Should Radio Be Focused On?

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

The Future of Big Radio

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

The Future of Local Radio

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

Radio Goes Digital

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

Convergence of Media

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

NAB, NAA and IAB et al.

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

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

Radio’s Opportunity

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

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

No One Goes Backward

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

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

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

 

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Jacobs’ Four Questions

15Fred and Paul Jacobs are prolific bloggers; they blog five days a week. Recently, their blog asked four questions about the future of radio. I found them interesting and thought I’d give you my answers to their questions. I’ve provided a link to their original blog post here.

  1. What is radio? I guess I’d have to say my earliest exposure to radio was of the amplitude modulation kind; AM radio. My first radio was a Zenith transistor AM radio with a single earphone. In junior high school, I would build an AM & FM radio station in the basement of my parent’s home and broadcast to my neighborhood. When I went to the FCC field office in Boston to take my FCC license exam when I was in high school the license I would receive said “Radio Telephone Third Class Operator Permit (Restricted Radiotelephone Certificate).” I remember thinking the day I received it, “Why does it say telephone on it?” Nathan Stubblefield, a Kentucky melon farmer and inventor, invented the first radio (many would say). Nathan invented it because he wanted to be able to talk to his wife at home while driving his car. Maybe Nathan and the FCC were just ahead of their time, for today RF goes through the air to our smartphones giving us the ability to send and receive voice, pictures, and data. Today’s pocket computers – smartphones – have synthesized every form of mass communication into a single device. When Apple was putting together the launch of their Beats 1 stream, Zane Low said they spent three months trying to come up with a name to call what they were about to launch. They couldn’t come up with a better name than radio. And that’s what I find teaching at the university. My students basically call everything audio sourced “radio.” Every semester when I poll my students as to what media device they would keep, if they could only keep one, the overwhelming winner is their smartphone. The reason is simple; it allows them to do everything while every other media devices can only do a single application or two. The History Channel did a program on the 100 Best Inventions of all time. Radio was number two. The smartphone was number one. Today’s smartphone is the “transistor radio” of my youth.
  2. What are ratings? I’m a graduate of the Roy H. Williams Wizard Academy and Roy believes that any radio station with about thirty thousand listeners has more than enough to drive business for any advertiser. So what’s the defining measure of a radio station? The quality of the content of its advertising. Ratings were only created for one purpose, to sell advertising. Initially a concept called “applause cards” was used by radio operators. These were simple post cards that could be picked up by consumers at local retailers, filled out, and mailed in. The Association of National Advertisers would hire Archibald Crossley to create a way to discern what people were actually listening to on the radio. Crossley would produce reports from his Cooperative Analysis of Broadcasting (CAB) system. CAB used telephone recall much like Tom Birch did with his Birch Ratings reports. Today, everyone’s hung up on the measurement systems of clicks and clacks of the Internet. Ad Blocking is going to put a real dent into this system that really doesn’t tell advertisers what they wanted to know anyway. The simple fact is no one is measuring what counts. Great creative content gets results and radio needs to invest in employing dedicated copywriters once again.
  3. What is content? I wrote a whole blog post on content that went viral. I won’t re-plow that ground again in this post. If you’d like to read what I wrote, go here.
  4. What is in-car entertainment? I remember when buying a car, one of the options was adding a rear speaker to your AM radio for passengers riding in the back seat. Those were simpler times. I’ve lived through every new device that was going to be the death of radio in the car: 8-track tapes, cassette tapes, CB radios, CDs, CD changers, MP3 players, smartphones, streaming audio. Nothing has. However, the new digital dashboards appear to be so complicated, I fear for the folks who could never stop the blinking 12:00 on their VCRs. The new learning curve to find the radio on new cars might be a problem. My Honda Accord has lots of digital components to my entertainment system, but what I love most is Honda left the volume control knob I can turn. Rick Dees loves rotary pots on his control consoles and will not work a board that has slider pots. 19Crank it up means turning a knob. Radio people are going to have to make sure their car dealers demonstrate, or even set-up for their new car customers, how to find and lock in their local radio stations on these new digital dashboards. If the radio listener can easily find their favorite hometown companion, then they will default to what they know and love best. The reason radio has retained over 92% of its listeners is because all those new media devices mostly took out the new media device that came before it. Free over-the-air radio is unique and special. Let’s all work to keep it that way.

And so that’s my take on Fred and Paul Jacobs “Four Questions for Radio.” What are yours? Please share them with me by writing them into the comment section of this blog. I can wait to read what you have to say.

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Radio’s Challenge

David Goldberg pa1ssed away on Friday, May 1st at the age of 47; too soon to be sure. He was an Internet radio pioneer having created LAUNCHcast in 1999 which evolved into Yahoo! Music Radio. Until his passing he was CEO of SurveyMonkey and he was married to the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook. He was very savy about our Internet connected world.

Brad Hill in RAIN wrote that in 2005, Goldberg was the RAIN keynote speaker. To put his words into perspective, you should know he spoke just before the iPhone was first launched. For it was the iPhone that really launched what we now refer to as the smartphone and mobile music revolutions, that would provide Pandora with its launchpad. Hill wrote that Goldberg said:

“We hope that 10 years from now almost no one is accessing Yahoo services on a PC. It needs to be in my living room, in my car, on my cellphone. This will affect the change in replacing the CD, as well as moving music off of broadcast radio which is also what we believe will happen.”

Fast-forward to Pandora’s latest earnings call and Hill reports that Pandora execs said:

“We really want to replace broadcast radio for music discovery. We believe music will migrate off of terrestrial radio to the services we are offering because we can deliver the music consumers want, when they want it, where they want it. CDs will be replaced by on-demand subscription services. ‘Personalization’ and ‘community’ features will be key ways we’ll be able to deliver the right music to people at the right time, on devices, on a global basis.”

And Pandora is not alone in this quest. Spotify recently reported a market cap more than twice that of Pandora’s in the neighborhood of $8 billion to pursue their quest of being the world’s music provider. (Contrast that to America’s largest radio group iHeartMedia $20+ billion in debt.)

The world is also watching Apple. It made a $3 billion acquisition of Beats and is working on its iTunes streaming audio product. More about Apple in a moment.

Then Fred Jacobs authors a column talking about “Moodstates.” Jacobs’ latest Techsurvey continues to find how much emotion plays a role in broadcast radio listening. Jacobs writes:

“While consumers enjoy hearing their favorite songs, personalities, and information, mood plays a role why they continue to come back to AM/FM radio stations. In our research, it is often in the form of companionship, mood elevation, and escape.”

I’m a big fan of Rewound Radio and their weekly Saturday feature “The DJ Hall of Fame.” What I’ve personally found is that I’m not so enamored with just listening to old tapes of radio broadcasts from the 60s & 70s – I can hear this music anywhere, including my own CD library – but hearing the air personalities that provided me with hours of companionship, mood elevation and escape. And I’m not alone in feeling this way. I’m a member of a couple of DJ groups on Facebook and we all experience these same emotions.

This fact evidently hasn’t been lost on Apple. Apple has been raiding the talent at the BBC. Zane Lowe was their first hire. Lowe is known as a trend-spotter. He’s also a presenter (they don’t call them disc jockey’s in jolly old England) that builds a strong rapport with his listeners. At least three more folks from this BBC talent tank have announced they are joining Lowe at Apple.

Unlike Pandora or Spotify, it appears that Apple plans to put the personality into their streaming. Could Apple be the first to do for today’s generation what Dan Ingram, The Real Don Steele, John Records Landecker, Bob Dearborn, Ron Lundy etc did for my generation? Put the personality front and center in music presentation?

Horizon Media undertook a comprehensive study on the impact mood plays in effective audio advertising. As the results of what they’ve learned are implemented, the placement of those advertising dollars under Horizon’s control will be affected.

Back to Goldberg’s 2005 RAIN Keynote, he predicted that over-the-air radio would be reduced to a mostly-talk medium.

            “We don’t believe music will continue to be broadcast on analog radio,” Goldberg said.

A survey that I conducted with the 300 radio stations in Kentucky showed that local radio stations planned to take their talk programming more locally originated and less national syndicated talk. It also showed that no local music research was being done, but that national charts were being relied upon along with consultants and music programming service providers.

All of this comes at a time when the CEO’s of public radio companies report they’re facing strong headwinds on their advertising revenues. Radio is being attacked from all angles.

Not since the introduction of television back in the 50s has the radio industry faced such a big challenge. We are living in revolutionary times in the communications industry.

Commercial radio is 95 years old. When television presented its challenge it was only in its 40s. Still a young medium with lots of new blood entering its doors with a vision for a new kind of radio.

Boss Radio was born on 930AM-KHJ in Los Angeles and News Radio was born on 1010AM-WINS in New York City both in 1965. But even the new radio formats that were born in that era are now 50 years old.

I challenge my broadcast students to create the radio that will be meaningful for them and their generation. But for those students to have that chance, the owners of radio stations will need to open their doors and let them innovate.

Will radio pick up the challenge?

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The Problem with Digital Radio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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