Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Year Was 1969...

And some futurist came up with this--computers in 1999. Found it on You Tube:

Remarkable how close they came--at least conceptually. They missed the mark on the interface, but hit the bulls eye when it came to many of the computer functions we now take for granted.

I'm not sure of the origin of this film, but in this clip the focus was on functionality and it got me wondering if there was a "part II" that focused on entertainment.

One can imagine what things will be like 40 years from now. Maybe I should make a film?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Pandora's Box Opened

Let's assume for a moment that Pandora survives its current troubles with Sound Exchange and let's take a look at what's behind this phenomenon. Whether royalty costs sink this NEW RADIO COMPANY it will be and is one of the programming models of the future we all should be paying attention to.

Let's start with their journey along the superhighway over the last 12 months:
Pandora is a unique concept--let's call it customized push based on a specific user input that induces a well received pull. In plain English it essentially reads your mind based on your musical desires when you choose to tap into to it. Along your journey with Pandora you can fine tune the nav system if you feel like it's veering off course.

Up until recently the Pandora experience has been one of laptop and desktop computers. Now with the release of the latest iPhone that has changed with the addition of what might be the hottest app to date-Pandora for iPhone. You can bet the ranch that iPhone will not be the last mobile device to allow Pandora access.

It's pretty clear how this is all starting to unfold. Please do not put your head in the sand. I am not ready to throw in the towel for music radio. I am prepared to change music radio to better compete with what's next. Mass appeal is not guaranteed any longer! If we think we are going to retain any sizable music audience by simply stringing a lot of songs back to back followed by a string of commercials and very little talk music radio is doomed. There isn't a single solution but there ARE solutions. The current tactics will eventually lead us off a cliff.

You have heard this before but it is worth repeating again and again and again. We are no longer in control. "They" are in control. They are the people who listen to our radio stations. They are in control of the music they listen to. They are in control of the personalities they choose to listen to and associate with. They will judge the authenticity of the product and products we push out of our transmitters, streams, podcasts and decide if it fills a need or not.

Of course listeners have always been in control...they could choose to turn of the radio or change stations. 8 tracks, albums, and CD's, certainly allowed for user control, however, it would be naive to not recognize the portability and richness that technology has achieved over the last decade.

Take a few minutes and watch this video from Phil Leigh's Inside Digital Media Blog and see for yourself what a Pandora principle has to say.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Generation Happy

If GenXrs were labeled slackers and the generation of teen angst we might have to start calling Millennials "Generation Happy." That appears to be the finding from a brand new study commissioned by MTV called Happiness.

There is a lot of interesting information; useful in my never ending quest to enrich my knowledge of the most challenging group ever to entice into the radio listening fold. Hopefully you will find it useful too. Understanding "happy" could help.

There are 13 attributes that define what happiness is and what it means to them. (click on image for larger view)You can read the full study here. [pdf reader needed-get it here]

Friday, August 22, 2008

News and Talk on FM: Pt. 3

And now in what appears to be the final chapter of Ratings Providence Style...

As reported on competitor WHJJ's website:

WPRO Comes Clean in Ratings Scandal

In a shocking turn of events, WPRO blames their morning host's wife for trying to "fix" the ratings.
The TV stations in town were all over this as well.

And long time Providence morning guys Paul and Al over at WHJY doing what they do best...listen in right here:

And that appears to be that. Scandal revealed, mystery solved, and everyone lived to tell about it. We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

It's Not Just Radio

As our business has been confronted with declining revenues, a slowed economy, greater competition, and a younger generation that is far less passionate about radio we have witnessed some very significant belt tightening around the industry. Jobs have been eliminated, combined, or reconfigured to save money.

It's not just been on the creative side of the hall either. Traffic, sales, support, and programming alike have all been affected. It's not a good thing. Seems like radio has been in a constant state of downsizing since 2000. While it's fair to argue the cuts and rightsizing were, have been, and are necessary it's also fair to argue that while things continue to function and stations stay on the air the product in many cases has been harmed. Some of the harm temporary, but some long lasting and permanent

Recently the Wall Street Journal's Career Journal featured this story: Help Wanted: Senior-Level Job, Junior Title, Pay. The title speaks for itself.

I'm not sure if this will make you feel better or worse but here are some highlights:

"They're looking for people to wear multiple hats but only pay one salary," says John Robeda, a 30-year-old product manager for an agribusiness company in Colorado Springs, Colo., who has noticed the trend since he began searching for management and marketing positions in January.

The trend has also affected financial-services firms, which are increasingly combining information-technology jobs to cut costs, says Katy Winter, a permanent placement coordinator at Sapphire Technologies Inc., a global staffing firm. Many of Sapphire's clients are seeking IT developers skilled in fixed income as well as derivatives and equity-trading platforms, whereas in the past they sought candidates experienced in each of these areas for three different jobs, she says.

He applied for a position labeled "systems administrator 1," a title that's equivalent to his current position. But once he viewed the tasks of the job, it was clear that it required someone with the skills of a mid- to senior-level administrator.

"On the listings there's a page and a half of qualifications and responsibilities for a job, and then you get to the pay and it's $28,000 to $32,000, and you're like, 'Are you kidding me?'" says Mr. Beaver. He says the job should have commanded a salary $10,000 higher.

...he has also seen a trend in the past few months of executives being hired for a high-level job with a big title but then being told they can't hire a team to work for them, leaving the new executive to also handle lower-level tasks once performed by assistants and junior managers.

When jobs are poorly combined, the strategy can also be bad for the firm, warns Amy Armitage, a partner at Capital H Group, a human-resources consulting firm based in Chicago. "You've got to look very closely at what jobs are being cut and ensure you don't cut into the bone, into the things that are really adding value to your customers and to what's really creating the growth engine of your company," she says.

At least we are not alone. Most industries seem to be experiencing the pain of downsizing with some exceptions such as one particular tech company whose name and logo sound and look like a piece of fruit. Hmmmm, what company is that?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

From The Archives

Larry King was the king of late night radio for many years--even after he began doing his nightly CNN TV show. It made for a very long night. Gawker unearthed a classic piece of audio in which Larry was either uber tired or as some have suggested, drunk. The specific date is unknown, but it probably dates from the late 80's.

The folks at The Huffington Post were so enthralled with the audio they transcribed it.


Caller: I'm a student of print journalism, and I just wanted to know: what advice do you have for young people coming up into the field? Like, a lot of our professors are telling us how hard it is to get into the field at first. I'd just like to know, since you're in the field, if you have any advice on that.


Caller: For instance, experience: is that important?
Larry King: Uh huh, sure.
Caller: Is that probably the most important?
Larry King: Well, it's way up there.
Caller: It's way up there...anything else?
Larry King: Pressure under fire, done this before, I don't want this to be his first surgery.
Caller: Okay...
Larry King: Applied himself well. These are the things that I'd have confidence in a young M.D.
Caller: Okay...I'm talking about the journalism field.
Larry King: I'm lost, what do you mean?
Caller: Journalism...I'm a student of journalism at a college and I was just wondering the most important aspect of getting into journalism. Not the medical field. I think you're exhausted from 30 nights.
Larry King: I am exhausted from 30 nights. No person, even those of us who are superhuman, those of us with Herculean appetites for the diverse and the bizarre, even those of us who have shown an aptitude to fight the good fight and stay the good long battle...even those of us can get tired. And your boy is tired after 30 consecutive nights. I have a half hour to go and I'm gonna do that half hour because I'm a pro, and that's what pros do. I'm a pro-fessional. Look it up in the book.
Caller: Okay...
Larry King: That's what we do, we're pros. We're never rude and we don't cop out. We don't tell you that we're ill or that we're looking for the farmhouse in the middle of the desert. Or that we're parched. We don't tell you that maybe the check didn't come through this month, and where the hell does it go anyway if you're a guy who's left 16 forwarding addresses?
Caller: Okay...
Larry King: So what do you do? What is the answer? Yeah, you're a little perturbed now. Kinda worried about the club.
Caller: The club?
Larry King: Don't worry about the club. Worry about, maybe, Jackie, my...haha, nah, don't worry. Okay, just cool it. Life is a breeze. Of course, some breezes as you know at 110 mph and get promoted up to hurricanes...I just thought I'd pass that along. Speaking of pass along, we're gonna pass along now to the newsroom, the Mutual Newsroom high atop the overlooking downtown, beautiful downtown studios of Roslyn, Virginia, Washington DC. The Mutual Newsroom will get us up to date on the news headlines and we'll come back with more Open Phone America and we'll have our salute to my man Duke Zeibert by taking him to one of his favorite places, one of mine too: the town of Cooperstown, New York. This is the Larry King Show in Washington, and we'll be right back.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Maybe We Should Befriend PANDORA?

Yes, our music discovery, internet radio competitor Pandora. As this article on ReadWriteWeb explains Pandora is in a fight to the finish with the RIAA and Sound Exchange just like "regular" radio is. Now some will argue, let 'em go belly-up; one less competitor we have to contend with. The truth is--their problem is our problem and maybe we, Pandora and us (stick and transmitter radio), should work together and figure it out. Put up a united front and take on music industry cartel. In the end, their royalty issues are our royalty issues.

Doesn't Pandora surviving this challenge ultimately help us?

What am I missing here?

Pandora On the Verge of Closing Shop
Written by Corvida / August 16, 2008 5:34 PM

Pandora is an internet radio service that allows you to create your own radio station based on songs and artists that you like. While you can't necessarily pick and choose what you'll hear on the service, you can fine-tune your radio station's tastes by giving the songs that Pandora recommends a thumbs up or a thumbs down. Pandora on the iPhone is one of the best applications for streaming music and finding new tunes. So, what will the service's 1 million plus users do if Pandora pulls its own plug?

The Battle of Music

Founder Tim Westergren has stated that the service is approaching a "pull-the-plug kind of decision" for the service. Why is this happening? Last year, web radio giants were hit with outrageously ridiculous fees by a federal panel for every song that would be played on their stations. This caused a lot of services to either shutdown, or go through what Pandora has been experiencing for the past year. In doing so, it seems the financial problems the music industry has set out to create in order to win the constant battle between rights, piracy, and copyrighted music, are working.

Last Stand, Last Chance

Pandora's founder is waiting for a ray of light in a fight being led by Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Calif.). Berman is attempting to arrange a few last-minute deals between web radio stations and SoundExchange, the organization that represents artists and record companies that would reduce the the recent fees. However, Westergren isn't going to hold his breath for too long, stating that, "The moment we think this problem in Washington is not going to get solved, we have to pull the plug because all we're doing is wasting money." We don't blame you Tim.

What Will You Do?

There are plenty of petitions floating around the web to help the cause, but the law is the law and petitions may not help matters in this situation. We'd be saddened to see Pandora close its doors. While services like Last.FM aren't showing any of the same signs, we wonder if the same fate may be in the not-so-distant future for our other favorite music services. If it is, what will you do?

Join The Conversation

Do you truly understanding how social media can really help over-the-air RADIO?

Old school thinking suggests that sending people away from your "main" product is a bad thing. Remember we used to tell listeners to, "lock it in and rip the knob off". Today we know enriching peoples experiences with related experiences--podcasts, video, enhanced features ONLY bring them back to the main channel for MORE. Just ask NBC as it relates to their multi-platform Olympic coverage.

I think 2008 has been the year in which radio folks have finally begun to get it--some anyway. At least we as an industry are starting to talk a good, errr, better game. And that's a start. Some might say it's too've heard about Pandora, right? I don't think it's too late. That's the beauty of the time we are living in. Today's internet is not going to look like tomorrows internet. So we still have time to develop a vision for radio for tomorrow. A radio industry that is a two-way street of entertainment and information. This version of radio will be new and will know no generational boundaries. How's that for a Utopian dream?

With that dream in mind and my quest to occasionally use this blog as a learning tool I want to share with you a presentation I ran across this weekend.

Radio today:
Radio from now on:
Something positive to build on:

And now, the full's a little in your face...but spot on...filled with good information...and a quick and informative read.

Friday, August 15, 2008

What's Next: Tweens

Move over Millennials--if we thought Gen Y was the tech generation just wait until today's Tweens graduate into young adults.

Time Spent with Select Media by US Tween Internet Users, May 2008 (% of respondents)

41% of Tween internet users listen to the radio less than 1 hour per week--that according to a survey conducted by DoubleClick Performics and ROI Research. Let me repeat that - less than one hour per WEEK.

83% of 10-14 year old Tweens use the internet at least an 1 hour per day. The recent survey concluded that young US consumers spent more time on the Internet than with any other type of media.

According to Arbitron's 10 year TSL trend trend, through spring '07, among teens (12-17) there has been a 20% decline in weekly TSL. For the purpose of comparison I have taken the data an converted it into average daily TSL.

As of the Spring '07 the average teen uses the radio about 1 hour and 42 minutes a day down from 2 hours and 8 minutes in fall '98. Spring '07 cume was 90.6% compared with 95.6 back in fall '98.

So if we were to correlate the two studies--not so easy to do since they are apples and oranges in terms of demographics and sample--one thing the recent survey does convey is potentially a pretty grim picture of what radio usage is like/will be like with the next generation. Maybe we should call them Gen T for Tech.

I hate being doom and gloom, but it is hard to paint a positive picture of the future when survey after survey tells a different tale. If we take the recent survey at face value, only 29% of today's Tweens use the radio an hour or more a day. And that can't be good for our future.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Content Is What Content Does

The Olympics have turned into a valuable research project for NBC Universal; examining the impact and effect that new media is having on old media. And the NBCU research department has discovered a number of key findings--some of which are educational and actionable for the radio industry.

The 2008 Summer Games have been the poster child for cross-platform distribution. These summer Olympics have combined traditional TV coverage, multiple cable channels, web, video downloads, VOD, and mobile.

As you have read, watched or heard these games are a big winner in terms of delivery of audience. Even Olympic content requested on peoples cell phones is coming close to breaking through half million mark daily.

Read on and you will see how something counter intuitive like encouraging viewers to use other delivery systems actually drive larger audiences and success on the main channel. Of course the added byproduct is the development and growth on new distribution channels which naturally will continue to mature and grow with time.

Source: AP Television Writer DAVID BAUDER

NEW YORK (AP)—About half of the people who are using mobile phones to pull down video or information about the Olympics have been trying out that technology for the first time, NBC said Wednesday.

NBC Universal has been using the Olympics as something of a research lab to track the adoption of new media technology. Since the opening ceremony last Friday, the company has made content available online, through video on demand and via cell phones along with traditional TV.

The number of people requesting Olympic content over their phones is still relatively small—494,506 on Sunday and 476,062 on Monday—but NBC executives say they’re stunned at how many of those never used the phones for this purpose before.

“To some extent, the Olympics are beginning to influence how people use new technology,” said Alan Wurtzel, research president for NBC Universal.

By far, however, television is still the preferred format. Of the estimated 107 million people to experience at least a few minutes of the Olympics on Sunday, 95 percent watched it on TV, NBC said.

Given the choice between a high-definition TV placed before a couch or a small, grainy picture on a computer screen, it’s still a pretty obvious call, Wurtzel said.

NBC’s prime-time ratings are running well ahead of the Athens games in 2004. Through five days, the average prime-time viewership for NBC is 31.3 million, the network said. Interest in Athens started slowly but heated up with gymnastics, while the Beijing games have been a draw from the start.

It has become a communal event that the country has enjoyed sharing, Wurtzel said, a rarity in the day of media fractionalization.

“I don’t think you’re going to see too much of this in the future,” he said.

Americans downloaded some 1.7 million video streams of Monday’s stunning swimming relay where the American team came from behind to beat France and keep Michael Phelps’ gold medal streak alive. An estimated 1.5 million video streams were e-mailed from one person to another, Wurtzel said.

NBC Universal worried in past Olympics years that its decision to air much of the Olympics on cable outlets like CNBC, MSNBC and USA would siphon interest from prime-time, which is still where the network earns the bulk of its advertising revenue.

But the opposite proved to be true and, this year, the same thing has happened with the digital content, said Gary Zenkel, president of NBC Olympics.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Maybe the 10 Commandments Would Help

That would be the 10 Commandments for Business Failure. A book written by Don Keough, a former President of the Coca-Cola Company. He's a colorful guy who has a wonderful history and experiences to share. He has kept and keeps good company including smart folks like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, and early in his work life he and Johnny Carson hosted adjacent television shows.

Aside from all that this quote from the book really sums it all up:
"You will fail if you quit taking risks, are inflexible, isolated, assume infallibility, play the game close to the line, don’t take time to think, put all your faith in outside experts, love your bureaucracy, send mixed messages, and fear the future."
For a very mature business such as radio I think there is a lot to learn from the man who was part of the executive team that brought us New Coke.

Here's a short soundbite from the audio book that features part of the introduction.

If you would like to read additional reviews or buy the book click the Amazon link below.

News and Talk on FM: An Update

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about how news/talk stations would continue their successful migration to FM and highlighted WPRO's (Providence) spring ratings success as a shining example. Then the news came out regarding 6 questionable diaries that Arbitron was looking into.

Despite the fact that the premise of the post remains strong and intact, I was concerned that I still might have an erroneous post on my hands. I decided I would wait until Arbitron reissued the Providence ratings before I would change or amend my original post. If you missed it you can read the original here.

According to Radio and Records, Arbitron has re-issued the spring book and here are the detail of the adjustments:
Spring Revised: Arbitron released revised spring numbers for Providence after discovering six diaries from "media-affiliated households." Citadel talk WPRO-AM goes from third to tied for second 12+, not to first as originally shown. The revised numbers heavily affected WPRO's morning show in adults 25-54 but didn't stop the show from going 6.4-7.4 ranking No. 1 12+, says PD Paul Giammarco. The show fell from fourth to ninth place among adults 25-54. Adults 35-64 showed no change in the reissue.
While embarrassing for the station; still a decent book overall as well as for the morning show.

What's still unknown--or not reported thus far-- what was the origin of those 6 renegade diaries. [Arbitron is so hungry for willing participants, this type of "error" does not surprise me. Not to mention stations equally hungry for higher ratings. I may have to write about that at another time.]

As anyone who deals with Arbitron ratings knows, the impact that 6 diaries can have on a ratings period is mind-numbing--even though Providence is a decent sized market with a metro population of 1,376,500 (ranked #39th) and presumably an adequate number of diaries to appropriately measure the market. Imagine the impact in a smaller market!

Based on today's re-issue I will let the original post stand. Like it or not, spoken word formats are FM's future. Got something interesting to say?

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Puppy Love

Social Networking for everyone...or so it seems these days. How about for dogs? You betcha!! Check out DoggySpace.

Now mans best friend can connect and network with other like minded pooches. I not making this up. The sites own description says, "to give their dogs their own cyber place." OK, so maybe it's really social networking for dog owners and their beloved pets.

Then again, I watched this very entertaining video on the site of a very talented canine skateboarding. Check it out.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

X and Y Tech Differences Simplified

It's not as if X'ers are not into technology but as Charles Golvin, principal analyst at Forrester Research explained in Business Week magazine, "the key distinction between Generation X and Y is that Generation X uses technology when it supports a "lifestyle need" whereas tech is "embedded into everything Gen Yers do" making them the first "native online population".

Among Millennials there is a strong chance that tech usage will continue to edge higher given the DNA of the group. Here are a few current stats:
  • More than 80%: mobile phone usage
  • Online time: more hours than it spends watching TV
  • Text messaging: 72% by mobile phone owners
  • About 20% access the mobile Internet at least monthly

Forrester Research's Golvin also said "Generation Y is the audience companies are most struggling to understand—a key issue due to their importance for future revenue growth". Clearly a huge challenge facing all industries, not just radio and media.

Let me suggest that applying shades of gray changes to how we program our content--on-air, on-line, and mobile will most likely not yield the results we are hoping for. Simply transferring the same old-same old to mobile apps will not only disappoint the end users but will disappoint those who care about the revenue figures.

The hit's will still be the hits. How they are presented is what needs to change. It is my opinion that we as an industry need to lose the "more music-less talk" mantra. If we have any hope of capturing the hearts and minds of Millennials we are going to have to employ people who can effectively TALK with and to this very influential group.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

2 Things...

First...I want to share with you an interview I watched last night on Charlie Rose. It's with Peter Chernin, COO of News Corp. He is a very bright person and has some very engaging and interesting things to say. He talks about the value of content and how important it is to have the creative people in important positions within a company. He goes on to say if the creative is right the money portion of the business will ultimately be good. He talks about the most expensive studio green-lighted movie of all time--Titanic and how it cost double by the time they were done. He talks about the TV shows the Simpsons and 24. He talks about technology platforms and distribution channels including My Space and Let me boil it down to this: beware of the accountants and content content content. Highly recommended.

Now, #2: In past posts in which I was recommending a piece of video I would have gone to Red Lasso and edited a clip of what I thought was the most important part of the piece. Then I would have simply linked to the entire piece for those who were interested and wanted more. As of a couple of weeks ago Red Lasso ceased their video clipping service for the blogs and the web. Oddly enough it was News Corp that was one of the companies behind the C&D. The disagreement comes down to who's going to control content--the originators or an aggregator like Red Lasso. This is a tricky situation. According to Red Lasso they are trying to come to some agreement with the providers so they can resume their service. Time will tell.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Having Fun!

I really enjoy launching new radio stations--and that's exactly what I got to do this week in Alexandria, LA. RED 104.3 was born yesterday at around 3PM central time. Having launched a lot of radio stations I can tell you this one was a little different.

We not only needed to worry about the normal "old skool" stuff like music, jocks, clocks, production, and spots but it was imperative that our on-line launch would coincide with on-air. While the homepage is a temporary one, it includes links to our stream, our myspace, facebook, and twitter pages. Listeners can also email us. Wow, that is starting to sound archaic--emailing.

I also thought it was important to launch with jocks. After all, we are a radio station and not a jukebox, right? Yes, the research will always tell you to shut up and play the music. I've never seen a study that didn't. [I bet you could ask a talk audience that question and they too would want to hear music! Just kidding.] I say, so what! Go against the research. Fight the temptation to put on a non-stop music machine. Use the music format you choose to play as a catalyst to entertain people. Who owns the storyteller position in your market?

There's still fun, a lot of fun, to be had in this business if we would just allow ourselves the freedom to have that fun. I hope you had some fun this week too.

Thanks to Sean Ross at Edison Media Research, who writes the Infinite Dial blog, for the nice write up today:

First Listen: Red 104.3

Written Aug. 1, 2008

Got a chance to listen to an early stretch of Harve Alan's new project, Opus Media's KEZP Alexandria, La., which just flipped from Classic Rock to a very hit-driven Alternative as Red 104.3 -- a good name for a radio station even outside the state of Louisiana. Besides doing a good job of cherry-picking the poppiest of today's modern rock, Red also gets liner of the week awards for this end-of-the-stopset sweeper: "Going back to the music beats going back to jail!"

Here's Red 104.3 at 10:45 this morning:

Muse, "Starlight"
Ludo, "Love Me Dead"
Shinedown, "Save Me"
Beck, "Where It's At"
Beastie Boys, "Sabotage"
Carolina Liar, "I'm Not Over"
Nirvana, "Dumb"
Trapt, "Who's Going Home With You Tonight"
Three Days Grace, "Never Too Late"
311, "Come Original"
Foo Fighters, "Let It Die"
Linkin Park, "What I've Become"
Staind, "Right Here"