Tag Archives: Transistor Radio

Radio’s Moment in Time

Fleming

Sir Alexander Fleming

Like it or not, we’re making history. 2020 will be a year studied by future generations when it comes to, what to do and what not to do, when faced with a global pandemic.

History only gives us two prior events that don’t even come close to what we’re going through today, the 1918-1919 flu pandemic and the 2008 financial crisis. COVID-19 is so much more than either one of those for a multitude of reasons.

1920 Commercial Radio is Born

Following the two-year 1918 flu pandemic, commercial radio would be born in November 1920 with the licensing of Westinghouse’s KDKA in Pittsburgh.

Beside radio, the list of inventions that would shape America in the 1920s were the automobile, the airplane, the washing machine, assembly lines, refrigerators, electric razors, instant cameras, jukeboxes and television.

TV wouldn’t really take hold until after the end of World War II.

Transistor Radio

In the 1950s when TV invaded American homes, and pushed the radio out of the living room, there were many who prophesied about radio’s demise. What would give radio new life was the invention of the transistor radio and the placement of radios in the dashboard of automobiles.

One of the songs of my youth was by Edwin Starr, a song called “War.”

War, huh, yeah
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
War, huh, yeah
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Say it again, why’all

War, huh, good god
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing, listen to me

While I can’t say I disagree with the inhumanity of war, saying it was good for “absolutely nothing,” is to not acknowledge the volume of technology we enjoy today that was developed as a direct result or evolved from military conflict.

War accelerates technological developments on a global scale.

Penicillin

One of the most important inventions of the 1920s was the development of penicillin by Sir Alexander Fleming, a Professor of Bacteriology at St. Mary’s Hospital in London. Sir Fleming’s studies of bacteria led to the creation of an antibiotic that kills bacteria and prevents them from growing and multiplying.

Because Sir Fleming wished to get penicillin into the hands of as many of the sick who desperately needed this antibiotic, Fleming never applied for a patent.

One sometimes finds, what one is not looking for. When I woke up just after dawn on September 28, 1928, I certainly didn’t plan to revolutionize all medicine by discovering the world’s first antibiotic, or bacteria killer. But I suppose that was exactly what I did.

— Alexander Fleming

Ironically, it wasn’t until after the bombing of Pearl Harbor that mass production of penicillin would occur. By D-Day in 1944, penicillin production had been ramped up to produce enough of the antibiotic to treat all the wounded in the Allied forces.

Prioritizing People

If history teaches us anything, it’s that Americans win when policy makers prioritize people. The GI Bill for example, gave returning veterans a chance to acquire skills, and seize educational opportunities that would have been difficult for them to pursue on their own.

Herb Kelleher, co-founder of Southwest Airlines and its first CEO, built his airline on the principle of prioritizing people. Forbes wrote:

For almost 30 years we’ve been asking, “What if you could build a company that is as human as the human beings in it? What if you could create a culture that inspires passionate people to come to work fully awake, fully engaged, firing on all cylinders because they know they are doing epic work?” 

What if you could create a culture that inspires people to come to work, fully engaged, firing on all cylinders?

Herb did it.

Kelleher said, “I’d rather have a company bound by love than a company bound by fear,” and for 46 consecutive years Southwest Airlines growth and profitability showed what that can produce. Sadly, Herb Kelleher passed away at age 87 in 2019.

If there’s any industry that’s been hard hit by COVID-19, it’s the travel and leisure industry. So, how is the current management of Southwest handling this business crisis? On July 26, 2020 Southwest management announced it will not furlough or lay off any workers on Oct. 1, the first day it is allowed to, per its CARES Act terms saying, “We have no intention of seeking furloughs, layoffs, pay rate cuts or benefits cuts through at least the end of the year.”

Where Are We Headed?

No matter what business or industry you’re in, we’ve reached that moment in history where it’s time to focus on where we want to go and not where we’ve been.

The COVID-19 global pandemic is a war on our health. Like military conflicts, it is causing the world to change at an accelerated pace.

The challenge for all of us is to seize the moment and not be afraid to reimagine every aspect of our lives. How and where we live, how we educate the next generation, what our business models should look like, and how we embrace diversity and talent on a global scale. It’s our moment in history to let go of the past.

100 Years of Commercial Radio in America

2020 marks the 100th Anniversary of America’s Radio Broadcasting Industry. In the 1950s, television forced radio to re-invent itself and become the industry that many people, like myself, grew up with and made our career.

I’m sure the radio people of the Golden Age looked down their noses at how radio was changed by my generation, but we created a communications  product that reached virtually every American.

COVID-19 and the internet are forcing radio to do that once again.

As Walt Disney famously said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”

What’s your dream for this moment in time for radio?

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July 5th – Today in History

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

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

July 5, 1951

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

July 5, 1956

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

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

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

July 5, 1963

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

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

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

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

July 5, 1971

fightvote

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

July 5, 1989

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

July 5, 1994

amazon

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

July 5, 2003

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

Transistor & Shockley

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

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

1980s to Today

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

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

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

Let’s hope it’s not too late.

“You have to change with the times

or

the times will change you.”

-Marv Levy, Buffalo Bills Coach

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When TV Disrupted Radio

97I grew up with TV.

Essentially, we were “born” in the same year.

I don’t remember a time when TV didn’t exist.

TV was supposed to put radio out-of-business. It was the “great disruptor.”

Why TV Didn’t Put Radio Out-Of-Business

While I loved my TV shows and even remember planning my life around TV GUIDE and the new fall shows, I still fell in love with radio and wanted to be a radio personality since elementary school and my first Zenith transistor radio.

Radio for me was never about Jack Benny or Groucho Marx or Amos & Andy or radio dramas like Orson Welles “War of the Worlds.”

Radio was exciting execution, engaging personalities and the best of new music from all genres.

Radio was addictive because it was so engaging.

Disruption Knows No Loyalties

It’s reported that as this decade began only 67 of the original Fortune 500 companies were still in business. Welcome to the 21st Century of Disruption.

The reality in today’s world of accelerating change is that the very success that rockets a company to raving success usually becomes the dagger that runs through its heart when the market environment shifts. Then new firms take over and former leaders fade into the history books.

The business truth is eventually every business sees its model fail.

Radio’s New Business Model after TV

Can you imagine a more difficult time than when TV swooped in and stole all of radio’s programs and talent? It was a time when people said things like “The last person to leave, please turn off the lights on your way out.”

It was a dark time for radio.

But not for all.

Only those who couldn’t see their way past the way it had been.

New broadcasters were quick to develop new formats.

1965 saw the birth of BOSS RADIO in Los Angeles with Bill Drake & Ron Jacob’s 93-KHJ.

At the same time 1010-WINS in New York would pioneer the all news format and everyone would know the phrase “You give us 21-minutes and we’ll give you the world.”

These new broadcasters would be the ones that inspired me to want to be a radio guy.

The Transistor Radio

Radio took advantage of the transistor radio. The youth of my day would all want a transistor radio of their very own and radio owned the youth generation.

The Car Radio

As we grew older and bought our first car, the car radio was a MUST HAVE accessory.

Movies like American Graffiti would romance the glory of the young and their radio.

The Internet of Things (IoT)

Today’s 21st Century finds radio with a new disruptor, the internet. It’s not a new product but an ecosystem.

Amazon and Walmart sell many of the same products and are quite competitive on price. The big difference is Walmart is a brick and mortar ecosystem and Amazon is internet based.

For radio to compete the industry needs to have a vision for how its product fits into a complex network of components, systems and user experience.

That’s the 21st Century radio challenge. (TV faces the same challenge.)

Today’s radio must seamlessly fit into a listener’s life on any platform the listener uses.

Disruption will crash and burn any business model that wants to hold onto the past.

Disruption will clear a path for those who are innovative, nimble and responsive to a changing marketplace.

For those broadcasters, the opportunities are limitless.

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History’s Technology Rhyme

Transistor Radio, Car Radio and Rock & Roll

Transistor Radio, Cars & Rock ‘n Roll

I’ve written before how history never repeats itself, but usually rhymes. So when I was reading an article in the NY Times about “Tech’s ‘Frightful 5’ Will Dominate Digital Life for Foreseeable Future” it hit me. Here was how history was rhyming when it came to communications. Fasten your seat-belt, this will get bumpy.

What this article’s author Farhad Manjoo wrote was how Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft (others include Netflix in this mix) came along at a perfect time to roll up their user base. They were in the right place, at the right time in other words.

Geoffrey G. Parker, a business professor at Tulane University has co-authored a book called “Platform Revolution” where he explains how these tech companies were able to ride the perfect wave of technology change – that being a decrease in the cost of IT, an increase in connectivity and the introduction/fast adoption of mobile phones.

And when it comes to advertising, these companies are in the right place to leverage digital marketing and enjoy most of the benefits of this growth area as well. In fact, since there is a sense that these major digital companies will receive most of the online advertising monies, traditional media – like radio & TV – could see advertising monies return to them.  Let’s hope that happens.

So, where’s the rhyme in this story? Well consider this other time in communications history when television burst onto the scene after the end of World War Two in the 1950s. Radio, a lot of people thought, would cease to exist. Radio’s stars, programs and advertisers, to a large measure, jumped into television. Radio had to find a new act.

Radio was in the right place, at the right time for the birth of three things when TV came along; the transistor radio and the car radio. Both of these technology advancements would be the savior of radio along with one other important development; rock ‘n roll.

Radio was in the perfect place to ride the baby boomer youth wave of rock music, cars and transistor radios. Television grew in large measure by scarcity, only two or three television networks and few TV stations.

When broadband came along, that scarcity factor went poof. Radio now sees its dominance in the car being challenged by a digital dashboard.

The newest radio format to have come into existence – all sports/talk – is now 29 years old. Clearly, innovation in the radio world has stalled.

The good news is radio in America has more reach than any other form of mass media. The bad news is it sees annual erosion of its TSL (time spent listening). This can be fixed. To do this, radio needs to address the very factors that are causing its TSL to erode.

The thing most often heard from consumers about what they dislike about radio are its commercials. Yet, commercials don’t have to be a tune-out factor. No one tunes out the Super Bowl when it’s a blowout because they want to see what other clever commercials might still be coming on their television.

Most radio stations long ago did away with their copywriters. These masters of the spoken word who can craft a story about businesses need to be enticed back into the radio business at every radio station.

The number of commercials in a break needs to be reassessed by the radio industry as well. You can’t kill the goose that lays your gold revenue egg and expect it to continue to lay you golden eggs.

Bring back personalities. They not only sell the music (the record companies need you!); they sell your station and through live reads, your advertisers’ products and services.

Those who remember Paul Harvey News & Commentary will tell you that page two (his first live read commercial) was always something you turned up the radio for. I remember reading Paul Harvey brought in more money for the ABC Radio Network than everything else they did. And everyone loved Paul Harvey’s commercials and bought the products he talked about.

I think retired CBS Radio President Dan Mason said it best when he said this about radio:

“Without community and companionship, we have nothing.”

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Radio – America’s #1 Mass Reach Medium

radio-reaches-245-million-americans-2015-2This was certainly true in the first golden age of radio, that period of time from its birth in 1920 through the mass takeover of television in the 1950s. Once TV came along, radio had to reinvent itself.

 

That reinvention came in the form of Rock ‘N’ Roll, the transistor radio and the car radio. Radio was portable, TV was not. TV took over the living room, but radio took over every other place.

 

In my life, I’ve lived through every new form of technology that was going to be the death of radio. The 8-track tape, the cassette tape, the CB radio, the CD player, the CD changer, the cell phone, the MP3 player, and most recently, the World Wide Web, Internet streaming and wireless broadband.

 

So you might be surprised to learn that at the 2015 annual meeting of the Association of National Advertisers Masters of Marketing Conference in Orlando, Florida attendees learned that when it comes to adults 18+, RADIO reaches 93% of them every week. That’s more than TV, more than smart phones, more than PCs and more than tablets.

8

I remember when I got my first GM position. It was a daytime radio station that featured Al Ham’s “Music of YOUR Life” format, big band music for those not familiar with the programming. Yes, my audience was old. But only according to the calendar, but not the way they thought about themselves. Nampa and his corvette

It was always a tough putt with new advertisers, getting across this concept that you are as young as you think. So I wasn’t surprised to learn that one of the sessions talked about “APT.” APT was all about the “Age People Think” not demographics.

 

I’m not sure that lumping people by demographics was ever a sound marketing idea, but like a lot of bad ideas (buying radio on a Cost Per Point basis) in advertising, people do what’s always been done and ignore if it’s a sound way to place advertising.

 

A lot of my radio stations over my career have focused on an older demo. When Ken Dychtwald’s book “Age Wave” came out in 1990, I read it with enthusiasm. Dychtwald told of the massive population and cultural shifts that would be taking place because of the Baby Boom Generation. He put forward how the boomers would shift the epicenter of consumer activity from a focus on youth to the needs, challenges, and aspirations of maturing consumers. Those predictions are playing out today.

 

So again, I wasn’t surprised to read that at the ANA gathering attendees were told that old people were a growth market. In light of the trillion dollars in student loan debt, the millennials are cash challenged in a way that the Boomers are not.

 

I grew up in a Chevy family. Remember those days of yore? Chevy families and Ford families competing for bragging rights as to which drove the better cars?

 

Many marketers would have you believe that we are now stuck in a rut with our product choices and only the young are pliable enough to be swayed to try or change brands. So let’s see how that plays out in my family. I have two older brothers; one drives a Honda and the other a Toyota. How about our kids? Well we have a BMW, Mercedes Benz, Hyundai and Honda. In my case, I drove a Hyundai for the past eight years before switching to a Honda Accord; so much for that concept that once you are stuck in a brand, you stay there for life. Even my toothpaste is not the brand I grew up using.

 

Everything has changed about the world with the exception the way marketing is created and advertising is bought.

 

One of the big changes is that RADIO is back! It’s the massive reach medium that advertisers seek to expose their products and services on, except that they don’t know it.

 

Radio needs to use some frequency and repetition to get the word out.

 

Willie Sutton said he robbed banks because that’s where the money was.

 

If you’re an advertiser, you need to advertise where the people are and that’s today’s RADIO.

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Are We Losing the Next Generations?

Growing up in western New England, the transistor radio would impact my life and career. Radio has been in my blood as long as I can remember, but it would be my Zenith transistor radio that would first allow me to explore new stations, new music, new personalities and new ways of delivering content without the supervision of my parents. My transistor radio and ear piece would make me the master of my own radio dial.

Growing up, it seemed like most radio markets had two radio stations battling for the teenage ear. WPTR and WTRY out of Albany, New York’s capital district would be mine. Each of those radio stations would bring their mobile studios to our county shopping center and broadcast LIVE. It was such a thrill.

Hartford had WDRC and WPOP. Boston had WMEX and WRKO. Philadelphia had WIBG and WFIL. Chicago had WLS and WCFL.

New York City would finally be a battle between WMCA and WABC for the Top40 crown in the Big Apple.

What made traveling around in my folk’s car so exciting was that each of these radio markets and radio stations were special and different. The personalities, the promotions, the station jingles and yes, even some of the music was unique to each station and market. Local and regional bands could be heard hoping to be discovered and go national with their music.

Radio stations all did music research back then and printed weekly surveys charting how the hits were doing from week to week with local listeners.

That was then, this is now. Larry Rosin at Edison Research says that today “virtually no radio stations perform formal research for music among teens nor target teens directly in their marketing strategy.”

I’ve sold “old people radio formats” where the presentation was quick to point out that what advertisers should be focused on is not the age of the audience but the amount of money they control and have as discretionary to spend as they wish.

I’ve also sold “young people radio formats” where we pointed out that kids are the masters of convincing their parents and grandparents to get them anything they wanted, so please don’t focus on how young they are. I mean once my boys were out of the house, I no longer went to Mickey D’s and ordered “Happy Meals.” (That made me very happy!)

Radio has always focused on the “family reunion demo” aka 25-54 adults; though that demo is shifting upwards with the aging baby boomers to 35-64 adults.

When Radio Disney was born and focused on little tykes, it appeared there was now a radio operator ready to pick up the torch for young people listening to radio. But then radio was shocked the day Disney announced it was selling all but one of its owned and operated Radio Disney stations. Radio Disney basically operated on AM radio. AM radio is no longer used for music listening by the public and so was Disney just abandoning AM radio for FM radio? No. Radio Disney had established a strong beach front on two audio delivery mediums; SiriusXM and online listening. (It also benefits from the Disney TV Channel on cable, satellite and streaming via the Net.)

It should also be noted that around the time Radio Disney was coming into existence that the radio ratings company known at that time as Arbitron began to measure listening audiences down to age 6+ with their new PPM device where as the diary previously only measured “adults 12+.” When Nielsen bought Arbitron and rebranded the radio ratings service Nielsen Audio it kept the 6+ listening metric. Nielsen also now is trying to establish a listening service that will measure all audio listening consumption across all platforms. Can you see where this is going?

Radio listening is a habit. My father never acquired it. I was raised on it. My sons were raised on it. But I see my grandchildren are holding iPad-like devices and easily navigate their parents’ iPhones.

You would have thought that with more radio stations on-the-air in America than at any time in history there would be more variety than at any time in our history, but that’s not the case. There’s actually less variety.

After launching two Smooth Jazz formatted radio stations and falling in love with the artists and their music I now can only hear this music streamed online. So like my grandchildren, I’m forming a listening habit that doesn’t require a radio; just my iPad or iPhone.

I believe the future is going to be all about being the best at something, not necessarily garnering the most people. Radio was always about getting the most ears. Everything was based on CPP (cost per point), but in a world of infinite choice, the best will dominate.

Radio can play in this world if programming is turned back over to people who program their passions to others just like themselves.

Steve Jobs made Apple into the world’s most valuable company by focusing on design (in radio, that’s programming) and making products that he and his team wanted to have for themselves (building a radio station that you not only own, but love to listen to yourself).

Radio is either going seize the day or have a seizure.

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