Thursday, January 31, 2008
"The exodus of stations from the DAB platform is starting to look like a stampede"
"DAB is the Betamax of radio."
"By the end of 2007, it was evident that the 'masterplan' for DAB which the radio industry had clung to since the mid-1990s was simply not going to work."
Read the full story
What happens across the pond isn't necessary indicative of what will happen here. But one has to think, based on how things have gone thus far, the future of HD Radio remains a big question mark. As the belt-tightening increases across our industry, let's be honest, the last place limited resources will be deployed is in an area in which at this point there will be little to no return.
From this afternoons Inside Radio Update:
HD Radio sales jump 725% in '07. In what iBiquity terms a "breakthrough year," listeners bought 330,000 HD Radio receivers last year, a jump from 40,000 in 2006. iBiquity released the sales data to the NAB Radio Board during its Winter meeting this week in Washington.
An area that receives scant attention accounts for 20-30% of our hourly airtime and largely goes unchecked. With most, not all, stations airing 12-18 minutes of commercials every hour the time has come to rethink our commercial content.
“Less Is More” was heralded as “how commercials will be done,” but it failed. Shorter spots are welcome but not when they are clustered in stop sets with as many or more units as before. Today less is more is largely a memory and we still have the issue simmering on the back burner.
We can debate the ideal length that a commercial should be, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Have you listened to the commercials that are running on most stations today? How many are poorly written, carelessly slapped together, and for advertisers that don’t mesh with a particular stations audience? It’s not just the locally produced spots, either many of the agency spots are the worst offenders!
This has always been a contentious issue at most every radio station. Programming wants to protect the product, sales needs to make the sale, and the client needs to get that spot on this afternoon. Sounds all too familiar and given today’s economic realities ill suited commercials frequently make it on the air.
You wouldn’t play a song that didn’t fit your station, and in an ideal world spots should be held to a similar standard—of course removing a spot that doesn’t fit is not quite as easy. I challenge everyone reading this to do an audit on your own station(s). Pick a few random hours and categorize each spot into some simple categories—writing, production, message, fit and rate each like your listeners would score a song in a music test. If you use a five-point scale: 1-very poor, 2- poor, 3-average, 4-very good, 5-excellent. Average the scores and see how your spots and stop sets stack up. You know what’s good.
Effecting change in this area is not going to be easy. But, learning where your spots stand is a good start and a conversation starter that might spur improvements. Stating the obvious—better quality spots helps everyone. It might even be catalyst for increasing business if your findings and conversations turn into actions.
As you watch the Super Bowl commercials this weekend you will be reminded just how important the “creative” is.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Sunday, January 27, 2008
My wife and I got a babysitter so we could go out for an evening. The day before, my wife text messaged our babysitter some detail for the following day. He shows up and we are going through some instructions, contact information, etc and he says how surprised he was that he got a text message from us-he didn't think we would know how to text. We laughed, but I must admit it was the first time in my life I felt old. I guess if you are a college age babysitter we're pretty old. And so it goes.
OK with that little tidbit out of the way... You can imagine how excited I was when I found this test that identifies what generation one is in based on the media they use rather than the year they were born. I was born in 1963, by-the-way. I may be in Gen Jones but I sure don't act like it. Phew!
This test was written by Penelope Trunk on her blog. According to her site: Penelope Trunk is a career columnist at the Boston Globe. Her syndicated column has run in more than 200 publications. Earlier, she was a software executive, and then she founded two companies. She has been through an IPO, an acquisition and a bankruptcy. Before that she played professional beach volleyball. Her book is Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success (Warner, May 2007).
Take the test and see where you stand. I will disclose my score at the end of the post. Her original post and quiz follows:
If you want to know how old you really are, look at the media you use rather than the generation you were born into.
Generational labels are important in the discussion of the changing workforce. For example, we need to understand who is pushing for change and who is criticizing change in order to understand how to create workplace bridges. And increasingly, young people are calling for baby boomers to get out of the way.
However I get a lot of email from people at the later end of the baby boom who do not identify with baby boomers. To some extent researchers have dealt with this issue by categorizing the latter section of the baby boom separately, as Generation Jones (born between 1954 and 1965). This category will make some people feel better, but there still will be baby boomers who are indignant at being lumped with the delusional, self-centered, money-hungry baby boomers.
But hold it. Maybe you are not really part of the generation your birthday falls under.
Here’s an idea: We should determine our generation not by our age but by how we use media. This comes from Margaret Weigel, who has worked at Harvard and MIT doing research on digital media engagement:* “We should not judge people rigidly by the years they were born,” she says, “If we want to define people by categories, it should be by behaviors because this is something each of us chooses.”
Another reason to use media engagement to peg someone’s age is that the media we use reflects both the space we live in and the circle of friends we run with. For example, you probably won’t find the Wii at a senior center, and you do what your friends do or you’re out of the loop.
So here is a test I put together with the help of an interview with Weigel and an evening reading her blog. Add up your points to figure out what generation you’re really a part of:
Do you have your own web page? (1 point)
Have you made a web page for someone else? (2 points)
Do you IM your friends? (1 point)
Do you text your friends? (2 points)
Do you watch videos on YouTube? (1 point)
Do you remix video files from the Internet? (2 points)
Have you paid for and downloaded music from the Internet? (1 point)
Do you know where to download free (illegal) music from the Internet? (2 points)
Do you blog for professional reasons? (1 point)
Do you blog as a way to keep an online diary? (2 points)
Have you visited MySpace at least five times? (1 point)
Do you communicate with friends on Facebook? (2 points)
Do you use email to communicate with your parents? (1 point)
Did you text to communicate with your parents? (2 points)
Do you take photos with your phone? (1 point)
Do you share your photos from your phone with your friends? (2 points)
0-1 point - Baby Boomer
2-6 points - Generation Jones
6- 12 points - Generation X
12 or over - Generation Y
So, how did you do? This Gen Jones blogger scored a 14! Now I'm wondering when I am going to start acting my age!
Friday, January 25, 2008
A lot of what gets discussed on this blog and numerous others tend to highlight the ills of our industry and what we need to do better. I thought as the week comes to a close it would be nice to highlight a guy who is successfully doing what we all talk about-creating great and compelling content.
Let me also take this opportunity to recommend Al Peterson's Talk Media Conference, Feb. 20-22, in Phoenix. The lineup is excellent and I am looking forward to attending. If you are going to be there let's be sure to get together.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Social networking's next obvious step-mobile!
- Connect with friends and get alerted when they are nearby
- Share your location, status and photos with a few or all friends
- Explore places and events recommended by friends
- Control your experience anytime, anywhere
Radio groups must find an expedient way to tap into the youth culture every day because that's how fast it's moving. Someone in your IT department? A college age intern? Listener panels? On-line surveys? Someone scouring the web for trends (I'll have some good tips on how to do that in a future post). If you are running a station that cares about 12-34 (or any subset of that broad demo) it behooves you to make this a priority.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
The World Association of Newspapers (WAN) created an informational presentation for its' constituents outlining what's happening and how they ought to deal with it. This report was chock full of interesting stuff; much of it 100% applicable for radio.
Here's a sampling:
While the competitors used to be easily identifiable, almost any company can be a future competitor when newspapers have TV channels, broadcasters offer news web sites, cell phone operators have news and mobile tv, and Internet companies offer searchable media.
From channel to content
The content becomes more important than the channel. Instead, the best suited channels will be used in clever combinations to convey the content.
Local newspapers are becoming even more local.
From being in control to being in touch
Customers of today (especially young ones) don’t want to be told what to buy, but instead they want to be invited to a dialog and interact.
The first two items are nothing new-we have been talking about these things for years. However, the third item is interesting because they highlight the necessity to be hyperlocal. This is dead on. For now, until everyone can be hyperlocal, it's something we can own and I believe can pay dividends for radio. Have you given your market a bear-hug today?
Lastly, I found this item the most interesting. What if their assertion is true, that [younger] consumers don't want to be told what to buy but instead engage in dialog and interaction? Is there an opportunity here to assess the purpose of our on-air commercials? Could the future of our on-air spots be to direct listeners to our social networking sites where they can interact with the advertisers and the products being sold? Sales and programming driving traffic to our sites? How about that!
Read the complete presentation here:
And click here peruse the World Association of Newspapers website
Monday, January 21, 2008
"the elimination of an intermediary in a transaction between two parties"
Will our radio stations hold their value with listeners? Or will we, "the middlemen of content delivery," be left out in the cold barren tundra? The answer to these questions has already begun to be answered.
Our content has always been the vehicle to deliver listeners to our commercials. Without valuable content our commercials will be without value.
I remember many a conversation that went something like this:
"Listeners understand that we are giving them free music or information and they also understand that they need to put up with the commercials because that's how we continue to give them what they want for free".
Our model of spots for songs, or spots for news/information can continue to work as long as our content continues to entice listeners to our space. [more on commercials-length, content, volume, and interactivity in a later post] If listeners give us the privilege of choosing what they will hear we better not let them down or they can very easily go back to listening to what they want when they want.
For more check out this video-it illustrates exactly what took place to get us where we are today.
Friday, January 18, 2008
He is a talk radio pioneer with a storied career that dates back many, many decades. And yes, controversial words have come out of his mouth over the years. And yes, he was fired from WABC for comments made in 1996. Should that be his legacy? I think not. Bob, will get his award from WABC (his second stint) and Michael Harrison’s Talkers Magazine—at that publications conference later this year. In the meanwhile, he has gotten a boatload of free advertising and largely this has been a PR bonanza for Mr. Grant.
What’s most interesting and odd about this entire episode is that the award was announced and then taken away. These types of things are subjective pronouncements to begin with and if R&R had never made the announcement in the first place, life would have gone on and no one would have been any the wiser. Some other deserving person would have gotten the spotlight and that would have been it.
Who’s it gonna be? What broadcaster will receive the award this year? How uncomfortable! Maybe a posthumous award might be best.
One of my favorite radio boards, The NY Radio Message Board, where this story was buzzing big, posted Bob Grant’s interview on the Opie and Anthony Show. It’s edgy, fun, and a bit uncomfortable in a couple of spots. Check it out:
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
He also carved out some time to sit down and talk with CNBC's Jim Goldman. Jobs was asked about the company's stock price (it was down a lot today as was nearly every other stock) and his reply could only be described as a radio persons dream.
I've posted the audio here.
Also check out the CNBC link to watch the highlights of the interview:
Steve Jobs Video on CNBC
Monday, January 14, 2008
No surprise to anyone who has ever followed this stuff-slower growth leads to lesser valuation. So costs are cut in order to preserve profits. Slowdowns are inevitable in every industry, but the hope is that within a period of time conditions will improve and expansion will return. Will that be the case with radio? I'd like to think things will turn around, but will it be enough to arrest the trend of cuts and stagnation we have been witnessing for last few years? I have my hunches.
Many a company or industry has been left for dead only to surprise everyone with a monumental return to prominence. One obvious example is Apple which had declining sales and products appealing to a narrow segment of consumers. We know what happened next: refreshed leadership, innovation, and a little bit good luck.
Getting lucky is nice, but should not be counted on. Refreshed leadership coupled with innovation; now were talkin'!
What will be next? That's the 15x multiple question. I can tell you this, we can continue to do things as we have been doing them for decades and hang on for dear life as things move past us at warp speed or we can learn some things from those meteors passing us by.
This is hard. Our natural inclination is to do what we know to be right. But the definition of right has and will continue to change. There are still people who believe that talk radio belongs only on AM because FM is for music. You see what I mean.
What if talk and music radio were to come together? What if you couldn't research such a hybrid? And most likely you can't. There's no bigger supporter of audience research than me, however, traditional research is not likely to be sending a station down this path anytime soon. In the past (and present) we test our hypothesis and formulate a plan based on the results of the survey. But, what if?
Who has the courage to call or write me for more information on this harebrained (read: innovative) idea?
Bottom line: we can play "all the hits" and be "the classic rock station" for many years to come. The tried and true will still do OK and we as an industry do a pretty good job of programming traditional radio formats. But we would like to be a growth industry again and that is going to require some innovation.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Friday, January 11, 2008
I am going to keep this short, because quite honestly the excitement factor wore off pretty quickly.
I loved the hype of the Sync and was excited to play around with it. Of course, to be successful it really needs to just work—and so far the voice command element, to me, was not ready for prime time. The system reminds me of the voice programs one can use to “type” a document. Let me just say this…I’m typing this with my hands.
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
As I write this I am returning from a road trip, and like most trips my plane ride includes a cover-to-cover reading of USA Today. Today was no different. Usually I find great tidbits to share—sometimes it’s a great human interest story, other times it's some obscure sports stat, or maybe something in the Life section; as was the case today.
The latest from the Pew Internet and American Life Project reported that 48% of all adult internet users have visited a home made video-sharing site such as You Tube. That’s a 45% increase in just the last year and no doubt will continue to grow at breakneck pace. More men vs. women, higher percentage of younger people vs. older…that’s normal, no surprise there. Perhaps somewhat of a surprise was that Latinos had a much higher viewing level at 55% compared with whites and blacks 45% and 46% respectively. No Asian data was made available. More than 2000 adults 18+ participated in the survey in fourth quarter 2007.
I see opportunity! A major opportunity. And from multiple angles—listener produced content, station produced content, and event content. Many are already doing different things that include video and that’s great! There is so much more that can be done that will pay dividends in the form of listener interest, ratings, and revenue. Get creative! How can we capture our listener’s interest? Turn that interest into a better relationship with your listeners and viewers.
Sell your concepts to your best clients who might be interested in being a part of the fun. How about product placement in a station produced piece? What about a campy, not so subtle walk-on appearance by a famous spokesman well known in the marketplace? Hey, I am not a salesperson, but I do know we have to better monetize our new media endeavors sooner rather than later, so let’s get moving on that too. Nothing like being at 37,000 feet and getting fired up about this stuff.
Go where your listeners go, do what your listeners do, and most importantly try to anticipate what they might be doing next and get there with them. What do we like to say in radio—this ain’t rocket science, right? Right now homemade on-line video continues to blow up and with the ease of creating these imaginative masterpieces they won’t be going away anytime soon.
Monday, January 7, 2008
According to the following article from Fortune Small Business it's a somewhat slower year at the CES-the Consumer Electronic Show, which is going on now in Las Vegas, and this is the year radio once again becomes a hot gadget.
The crux of the story is more about new easy-to-use home networking devices rather than radios. Supporting the well worn thought that people don't buy radios, they buy things that have radios. And that's OK.
We'll have to track the success of these new radios and see how they do.
Radio is the hot tech frontier
FSB's tech trendspotter checks in from the CES frontlines with a surprising take on the next wave of hot gadgets: radios.
By Jonathan Blum
January 7 2008: 1:57 PM EST
LAS VEGAS (FORTUNE Small Business) -- Get ready for what has got to be the all-time greatest sleeper of a tech trend: Radios, I kid you not, are making a comeback in 2008.
And we're not talking iPod-like portable thingies, but big, expensive desktop radios. Mark my words, they'll be downright cool in the coming year. Best of all, charting this new radio frontier is a fleet of innovative small businesses.
Radio has been rocked in recent years by a digital twister. The sector has faced down not one, but two competing satellite radio services, XM Satellite Radio (XMSR) and Sirius Satellite Radio (SIRI). It is also grappling with the rollout of new HD Digital Radio technologies, as well as the explosion of radio content on the Web.
But this new generation of desktop radios, taking its introductory bow here at the 2008 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), is making great hay out of an odd confluence of factors.
The consumer electronics landscape is suddenly - yes, we can say it - rather bland. There is no major new platform like, say, a Sony PlayStation 4 or a Microsoft Xbox 720 to dominate the discussion. Instead, this CES is all about the details: which configuration of liquid crystal displays will sell next holiday season, or what will be the bit rate for the rumored broadband iPhone? So in the absence of big news, the healthy niche of quality radios created by Bose Corp., Cambridge Sound Works, Tivoli Audio and many others is suddenly important.
The timing is perfect. Radios have wound up in the slip-stream of the ever-popular iPod. iPod buyers are an anomaly in the consumer tech world: They only start to spend money when they buy the thing. Parrot Inc., the Austin, Texas, consumer electronics maker, says each iPod purchase results in roughly $200 in additional spending on cases, earphones, docking stations and more. Consequently, just about every traditional gadget maker, from Denon to Altec Lansing, is building in features that essentially turn its units into peripherals for the portable player.
Big new table radios also benefit from a new generation of ubiquitous, low-cost home wireless standards. Until recently, wireless audio in the home was strictly limited to pricey, high-end systems such as the Sonos - but that's changing. Apple's new Leopard operating system supports the Bluetooth streaming media format, which allows for transmission of content over any enabled device. Meanwhile, everyone from Intel to the USB consortia is expecting the new Windows Home Server to create a new generation of wirelessly enabled - so-called "casually connected" - audio devices for the home.
"The desktop radio is being seen as an early beachhead in the home networking wars," says Edward Valdez, president of Parrot, which is showing a new Bluetooth-enabled wireless radio, the DS 3120 (suggested retail price $250), here at CES. "Home networking has been difficult to explain to the market. So the radio is seen as a form factor that the market can understand. "
Radios are feeling a strange brand of love radiated by the public's growing hatred for complex electronics. Innovative new models take full note of consumer distaste for too many features and difficult-to-operate equipment. Most new desktop systems, like the new line from Sonoro Audio ($289), sport ultra-simple designs with a half-dozen controls and few functions. It doesn't hurt that the device, which the Koln, Germany-based 25-employee firm is launching in the United States this week, looks like something you would buy at a better furniture store.
But my pick of the new radio litter comes from tiny Somerville, Mass.-based Cue Acoustics. This three-person, self-financed startup is betting its entire future on a radio: the Cue R1 Radio ($399). The R1 is the brainchild of Cue's president, industrial designer Samuel L. Millen. It takes great advantage of the latest in miniaturization of audio components to deliver a radio of utmost quality and good looks. Millen has built the Cue with four - count 'em, four - independently amped channels at 25 watts each. That's a borderline ludicrous 100 watts of power for a radio the size of a small shoe box.
There is no denying the results. The unit uses advanced tuner technology that makes it easy to control the high-quality Philips radio within. The whole package is wrapped in an attractive black enclosure that supports an iPod dock on top.
"We are betting that a beautiful looking, beautifully sounding radio will be a rifle shot in the market," Millen said. "Even better, it only has three buttons. Anybody can run it."
The units being shown this week aren't the only radios making news. National Public Radio and Harris Electronics announced a new standard for radios for the hearing impaired starting in 2008. That's right, a radio for the deaf. And Grundig (Eton) is shipping a new radio be to used in emergencies, the FR 1000 Voicelink.
At this rate, what's next? The return of horse-drawn carriages?
Sunday, January 6, 2008
Despite the fact that I am a self-proclaimed techno-geek, the system was not quite as easy to use as I expected. There was a lot of set up and a healthy learning curve. I can only imagine how the non-technically inclined would fare with this system. That said, this is an early version of wireless connectivity that is only going to get better and presumably much easier.
More details on how the system made my life easier and more fulfilled upon the trips conclusion later this week.
Friday, January 4, 2008
What’s Important? Greater Media’s Peter Smyth begins with the economy.
"Over the past several weeks, we moved into much more treacherous waters with the housing and credit crunch, but I do believe that the Fed will do all it can to keep us growing, even if it’s into the headwind. The specifics of the radio economy have the added challenge of stabilizing and trying to grow our advertiser list and our share of advertising dollars. We need to redefine who our competition is and what our business is. We get sidetracked thinking that the station down the dial is taking ‘our fair share’ when it’s really the new-media operators like Google, Facebook and YouTube who are siphoning millions of ad dollars into their new universes. In the big picture, radio is in the relationship and communication business. That means that anyone who can create a compelling reason to listen, watch or click on their offering is competing with us for our listeners’ time and attention. Success in the future will not be defined by the share of the radio listening. We have to work more diligently on deepening and broadening our relationships with our audiences and invite our advertisers into that relationship - not just to pitch, but to expand their relationship with our listeners. That’s a big, woolly goal that has to be honed through a lot of trial and error and learning from experience. If we don’t take these steps, we risk being identified as a one-way medium in a land of two-way dialogue, greater choice, and almost infinite variety."
Thursday, January 3, 2008
This morning I started my day reading about HD radio--the trades, the blogs, the opponents, the supporters, and the appeasers. You name it, seems like everyone is writing about it. Ugh!
I wish as much time and energy was put forth writing about how this general manager in city X just hired this new programmer who is playing this and that and is making some noise. But no, that might be productive. Maybe that story would have to be made up because there's really nothing like that happening at this moment in time. Too bad.
I'm not going to call anyone out on this blog for the fandango that HD Radio has become.
Instead, I'm going to try to forget about HD Radio for a while and finish this post with a recommendation to check out a relatively new social networking/music site called iLike.com. As you can see on this chart from Alexa.com a few people have latched on to it over the last year.
It's a very simple concept:
1. Connect your music from iTunes or Windows Media Player
2. Add friends, get music
3. Compare tastes
4. Free MP3s by new artists
So far, according to a story I saw on CNBC, this site has amassed 15 million users in about a year and a half. Not bad. When you go to the site you can easily check out whats hot and get this radio friends--"most added."
Add this site to all the others doing similar things and at the very least one has to realize that any radio station that is in the business of playing CHR, Active Rock, Alternative, Hip Hop, or any other genre of music that appeals to under 35's these sites are:
1. Great resources to better understand what's hot and what's not.
2. They are our competitors when it comes to music discovery--an area that radio has traditionally been the leader (and still was based on research conducted 2 years ago).
iLike is also doing a couple of other things that radio has always done well: concert listings for the US and Canada and the iLike challenge--a game where you have to name the artist and song.
Here you can check out their own description of what they do and the people (you will see some familiar names) behind the company http://ilike.com/about.
Now, I am off to discover a new song or two.
Tuesday, January 1, 2008