Tag Archives: WLW

It’s Wine Time

Wine GlassesThe headline read, “The Price of Wine is Dropping Fast.” Being a wine drinker, I wondered what was the reason for this downward price spiral and it turns out that it’s due to a surplus of California grapes. (Note: this story broke before the COVID-19 Pandemic. I’ll have an update on how that’s impacting wine sales at the end of this article.)

In this case, the law of supply and demand says when an oversupply of grapes exceeds demand., prices will fall.

From the moment they plant a new vineyard, vintners tell us it takes up to five years to bring wine to market. Only five years ago, demand greatly exceeded supply, causing vintners to begin planting a plethora of new fields. It seemed like a sure bet, because this growth in demand had been steady for the past two decades, until it vanished. The sudden slowdown caught the wine industry by complete surprise.

Supply & Demand

Any business that wants to see the price for its goods or services go up, knows that it benefits when demand exceeds supply.

For vintners, the first part of their problem was growing too many grapes, but the second part was seeing the consumption of wine drop for the first time in twenty-five years delivering a one-two punch to the wine grower’s gut.

Boomers

The generation that was fueling the growth in wine consumption were the Baby Boomers. And let’s face it, we Boomers aren’t going to live forever.

The problem the wine makers are having is best demonstrated by looking at two couples dining out. One couple is in their twenties and the other is in their sixties. If you were to ask a server to bet on which couple would be ordering wine, twenty years ago, they would have chosen the twenties couple, but today, they would bet on the older one.

Silicon Valley Bank’s wine division says it’s due to a failure of the wine industry to capture the attention of the millennials.

Does This Problem Sound Like Radio’s?

It’s no secret that the radio industry has been focused on increasing the number of signals it can put on the air in America. The FCC reports that as of December 31, 2019 there are 21,255 AM, FM, FM Educational, FM Translators & Boosters and Low Power FM radio signals on the air. Ten years earlier that number was 16,649, and twenty-five years earlier (the same amount of time that wine began its 25-year growth cycle) there were only 2,281 radio signals beating America’s airwaves.

So, like the growth in the number of grapes produced over the past twenty-five years, the number of radio signals grew almost ten times over that same period of time. Also, like wine, radio was dependent on Boomers to make their numbers. Younger generations are moving away from beer and wine for beverages, and away from broadcast radio for their audio consumption. Radio people and vintners have good reason to both want to drown their sorrows.

Former WLW programmer and air personality, Darryl Parks, tweeted the situation out this way:

More stations mean more avails to sell, which in turn means lower rates. Never understood how those running the big box broadcasters don’t understand the simple law of supply & demand. There’s no other way for this to turn out. Death by a thousand cuts.

Universal Laws

I believe that some laws are universal, in that they transcend all areas of life.

In the area of my college major, physics, Newton’s 2nd Law says, “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Zig Ziglar, the great salesman and motivationalist, put it this way, “you can get anything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” And the Bible says, “as you sow, so shall you reap.”

Botanists know that pruning plants causes new growth. Forest fires, while appearing destructive on the surface, actually are part of the natural cycle of woods’ growth and replenishment, clearing dead trees, leaves, and competing vegetation from the forest floor, so that new plants can grow.

For the radio industry to grow and prosper, it needs to stop choking off its own growth and prosperity by thinking more and more radio signals will be to its benefit.

To serve their communities of license, it’s time for less radio signals, that do more for the communities they are licensed to serve, while being economically viable.

Why not pour yourself a glass of wine and start working on meaningful solutions that don’t try to counter life’s universal laws.

COVID-19 UPDATE

Quarantinis are driving a spike in alcohol sales

US sales of beer, canned cocktails, wine and spirits have surged in recent days as people stocked up on drinks to see them through quarantine and pub closures. Experts predict the increase will be short-lived as many households will prioritize more pressing expenses if emergency measures remain in place. Some experts have raised concerns about the risks of increased alcohol consumption during the pandemic — a fear that has driven officials in several countries to ban the sale of alcoholic beverages entirely.

 

 

 

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AM Radio, Streaming Radio, FCC Spectrum Auction & the Future

6Every June, I set-off on a road trip back to New Jersey to speak at the annual New Jersey Broadcasters Convention and Gala in Atlantic City. The roundtrip spans 3-weeks and I drive over 3,000 miles.

This year on the drive up I listened to AM radio and on the drive back I listened to streaming radio. I’d like to share my thoughts with you about what I heard and observed, as well as ponder what the future of both might hold.

Small signal AM radio stations primarily identify themselves with their FM translator dial position (How’s that saving AM radio?). The “pups” are mostly syndicated, automated, religious, sports or Spanish. They aren’t very engaging, which is probably a good thing if you’re driving because you don’t care when you lose the signal. Oh, and just try to hear their translator FM signal; forgetaboutit.

The “big dawg” signals (Bill Bungeroth, former Cumulus Broadcasting president used the term “big dawgs” for those monster signal radio stations and “little pups” for everything else and that’s where I picked it up) on AM like WOWO in Ft Wayne, Indiana, WJR in Detroit, Michigan, WLW in Cincinnati, Ohio and KDKA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania are in another universe when it comes to radio programming.

While listening to WOWO, I heard a powerful morning show that was fun, engaging and tuned into the Ft Wayne area. WJR told me about Frankenmuth, Michigan while their midday show was broadcasting live from this unique resort town on the great lakes. WLW was talking about how the Cincinnati police were getting body cameras and how they were loaning them to the news folks in Cincinnati to wear and learn how they work. It was fascinating radio. And KDKA was a potpourri of information about all things Pittsburgh; thoroughly engaging and very enjoyable.

I rode each of these big dawg stations for hundreds of miles and enjoyed listening to them every minute. Each was different, unique, fun, engaging and LOCAL.

The observation I made was that maybe the AM band should be reserved for these high power AM signals that have the bench strength to do great radio.

My drive home started in Albany, New York. I drove back to my hometown in Western Massachusetts following the NJBA Convention and Gala to visit a close family member that had suffered a significant stroke. Thankfully, that situation is improving daily.

I decided my drive back to Kentucky would focus on the other kind of radio available these days; streaming radio. My streaming provider of choice is called Radio Tunes. I like this service because their music formats are curated by people who know and love their genres. Jimi King out of London, England curates the Smooth Jazz channels. Smooth Jazz is a format that has almost completely disappeared from America’s airwaves.

Side Note: WNUA in Chicago, Illinois was a top five radio station playing the Smooth Jazz format. That is until the PPM became the listener measurement currency in Chicago and the other top 48 American metros chasing this format off FM radio. Is Smooth Jazz a PPM unfriendly format for PPM encoding? Might a Voltaire have helped Smooth Jazz? Just asking.

My first day of my 15-hour drive back home allowed me to listen to this streaming radio station through my iPhone4S fed into my car’s audio system with no dropout, no buffering, no disruption of any kind. The audio fidelity beats anything coming out of AM or FM terrestrial radio or SiriusXM too.

On day two of my drive home, I again put on Radio Tunes’ Smooth Jazz channel knowing that Jimi King and Stephanie Sales would be hosting a LIVE 3-hour Smooth Jazz show (they do this every Sunday). This makes Radio Tunes into a real radio station, though I will admit that I love the channel mainly because of all the things it doesn’t do the other 165 hours a week. However, for three of the 7-hours of my second day’s drive, the companionship was really nice.

Again, I experienced no disruption to my listening as I proceeded from Maryland and through the state of West Virginia and into Kentucky. I carried Radio Tunes all the way into Lexington, Kentucky where I stopped to have some lunch.

While eating lunch it occurred to me how well my reception to streaming radio through my smartphone was. It’s scary good when you think about it. Excellent fidelity, no dropout, buffering or other disruptions.

Brian Solis recently spoke at the PromaxBDA Station Summit and told attendees:

“Disruption happens because someone innovated and innovation changes behavior. A good place to start is thinking about a mobile experience. 74% of businesses have no plans to optimize their sites for mobile viewing meaning they don’t have a plan to stay competitive in the increasingly mobile world. If most content experiences are starting here, then that experience needs to be reimagined.”

It wasn’t until I left Lexington that I found gaps in the cell service and finally gave up my experiment of listening to streaming radio through my smartphone in my car.

My observations were cell service is becoming ubiquitous. There are times when having the companionship of LIVE personalities are appreciated versus just streaming music without any talk. Your smartphone gets really hot when you stream on it continuously for a lot of hours. The data use for streaming audio is not huge, like streaming videos or downloading pictures and if all the cell companies make streaming audio free from a person’s data usage plan, it would provide a serious threat to over-the-air radio. Just as Netflix, HBO, Showtime and other OTT (over-the-top) TV services are proving a challenge to cable companies, OTT radio services could be just as challenging to the radio industry.

Then I read this article “Could LTE Broadcast Technology Supersede Over-The-Air Broadcasting?” Listen to what this technology can do:

“LTE Broadcast is based on the eMBMS (Evolved Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service) point-to-multipoint interface specification developed for delivery of any content received by multiple viewers at the same time, including files and emergency alerts as well as broadcast video. The motive in all cases was to avoid consuming large amounts of bandwidth through transmission of the same data over multiple unicast sessions, which is particularly expensive in the case of HD video.”

Does that get your attention? Then read this second article “Further Consideration of LTE Broadcast”:

“LTE Broadcast is the most efficient mechanism to distribute the same content to many users, and is an important solution to address the 1000x data challenge. Initially focusing on venue-casting, LTE Broadcast can address many other media distribution such as software updates and breaking news. The evolution of LTE Broadcast makes it dynamic and more scalable, and in the long term, takes it even beyond mobile as a solution for next generation terrestrial TV.”

And anything done for TV is even simpler to do for radio.

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner has been reported saying:

“There is a widening skills gap where the existing workforce has been educated and trained to obtain jobs of yesterday and not the jobs of today and tomorrow.”

The broadcast game is rapidly moving to the cellular platform. If you’re wondering why Tim Cook is jazzed about Apple Music it’s because he understands broadcasting is entering a new era. The future belongs to those who can deliver superior content to the global village known as planet Earth.

Now which company do you think has a better chance of winning this race? Apple with $178 billion cash in the bank or, I don’t know, say iHeartMedia with $20.7 billion in debt?

The FCC’s spectrum auction is all about creating more spectrum for the mobile communication platform.

Now do you understand why spectrum is being reallocated?

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