Friday, January 30, 2009

Interesting Blog

Like you don't have enough to do (or read)...

I came across this blog Content Matters and found some interesting posts. Here's the bio of the author.

Barry Graubart has spent the past 20 years applying technology to content to develop high value business-to-business information products.

Barry today serves as Vice President, Product Strategy & Business Development for Alacra, a leading content technology company, where his focus is on eCommerce and social media applications.

Previously, he served as EVP & Chief Marketing Officer for Leadership Directories, a content provider of biographical and organizational data.

Prior to Leadership Directories he spent four years in various roles with ClearForest, an emerging leader in the text analytics market. At ClearForest, he helped open the publishing and federal intelligence markets.

Previously, he held general management, product development and marketing roles with b2b content businesses including divisions of Primedia, Nelson Information (now Thomson Financial), Kaplan/Washington Post and McClatchy Newspapers.

Barry holds a B.A. in Political Science from the State University of New York at Albany.

Barry sits on the Board of Directors of the Content Division of the Software and Information Industry Association and serves as chair of SMAC, its Social Media Action Committee

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Traditional Media Stabilizing?

This morning eMarketer published a survey illustrating media usage among U.S. internet users. Traditional media appears to have stabilized and even grown some while on-line continues to show impressive growth. You can read the entire article here.

Note the growth of social networking. Think your adult targeted radio station can't benefit from mass appeal social networking sites like Facebook? I believe that thinking is grossly underestimating how these FREE tools can aid in connecting with listeners.

Likewise, blogs are growing at an equally impressive rate.

And lastly, let me point out one other tool that most people have yet to discover but I believe holds great promise--RSS. Almost any content you make available on line can be made available via "really simple syndication" or RSS. RSS can be added to and seen in home pages such as Yahoo! and also in RSS readers like the one I use, Attensa. Yet another easy way to distribute things like station videos or morning show podcasts.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Seeing Red

An idea for [alternative] rock radio...

CURRENTS and lots of them.

Am I crazy? I don't think so. [You, of course, are free to think what you want.]

How many currents? How does 70% of the clock sound? WHAT?!? Yup, 70% current/recurrent. Why not? It's way more than most than most Alternative stations play but still less than a typical CHR would offer. This station is all about today's alternative music. Don't like today's music, that's OK, but this station is probably not for you.

And the Gold? Nothing older than 1992-1993 and usually no more than 4 titles per hour.

This is an idea I have been talking about for quite a while, but as you might imagine it is not an easy sell. No need to go through all of the reasons--you already know what they are.

Last spring I was having a conversation with a friend and client about this very subject. I laid out my vision
for the format and outlined why I thought it could work. To my [pleasant] surprise, we started really talking about it. By the beginning of August we were on the air.

The market is an unlikely place--Alexandria, LA. A market of around 162,000 people and devoid of rock currents.

Nearly everything about the way this station was put together challenges convention. Starting with the logo--it's hard to read, there's no positioning statement, and one could argue it doesn't really look like a radio station logo. Exactly! Kudo's to the local station folks for creating such a distinctive non-traditional look. We tested this logo with the locals and the response was off the map. I came up with the name "RED" and it does have a local connection--the Red River runs through the city. But ultimately we believed it spoke to the hip and cool image we were trying to create.

What else did we do to prepare for launch? Sure, we did the normal music scheduling set up, prepared an imaging package, and lined up LOCAL air talent (that's an entire post for another time). While those are vital pieces of the puzzle there were two other elements that I felt were mission critical: 1. We had to stream on day one. 2. We had to be connected to our potential listeners on multiple social network sites on day one. The station is active on My Space, Twitter, and Facebook.

The social networking strategy has been a big success. Despite the fact that this is a very small market the station has amassed over 900 friends with more than 21,000 page views in a very short time on My Space alone.

The station launched with a simple splash page website that included the logo, an email address, streaming link, and links to the aforementioned social networking sites. Today, the stations full website is up and running...see it here.

By now you are probably asking yourself...this sounds kinda interesting but how's it doing? Glad you asked. The fall ratings were released the other day and Red 104.3 is off to a tremendous start. Here you can see some of the highlights compared to the last book of the previous format (classic rock):
Source: Arbitron Maximiser sp08/fa08

Needless to say everyone involved is quite pleased with the results of the stations first book. Now the hard part begins...continuing to grow the stations fan base and build a local franchise.

Formats like this take courage and guts--largely missing from most "conference room" format discussions today. It's not easy to test. It will most likely never show up as a "most desirable" format. Heck, many format finder studies are designed with the format left out completely.

As radio struggles on so many levels today, the timing is right to rethink everything. It might be time to at least consider the concept that there might be a market for newer rock music played without the older rock safety shield.

Friday, January 23, 2009

When Thinking About Tomorrow...Forget About Today

Today is so yesterday...really. Tomorrow, in fact, might already be yesterday.

If you had your doubts that wireless and mobile devices (among other things) are the future check out the work being done at the Georgia Institute of Technology:
[from electronista] The Georgia Electronic Design Center (GEDC) at the Georgia Institute of Technology has announced a CMOS chip that is capable of transmitting 60GHz RF signals. The technology is claimed to be capable of wireless data-transfer speeds in the multi-gigabit range. Potential applications include high-speed short-range communication between desktop computers, data centers, wireless home audio or video systems, or moving gigabytes of photos and video to and from mobile devices. The single-chip component integrates a low-power radio with an embedded antenna, while drawing only 100 milliwatts of power. GEDC researchers have experimented with a variety of configurations, reaching speeds up to 15 Gbps at one meter, 10 Gbps at two meters, and 5 Gbps at five meters. Tests also successfully streamed uncompressed 720p or 1080i video.
Low power requirements, lightning fast speeds, and if HD video can be streamed there's no audio content it won't be able to handle with ease.

Any plan for tomorrow must factor in and try to anticipate the (completely) unexpected.

I believe conventional wisdom in the radio industry today still believes in-car internet is still a long way off. Don't believe it! We (radio) were slow to recognize and participate in the tech revolution--even though it was already moving at warp speed.

High computing coming sooner than we all think.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

What Selective "Free Speech" Looks Like

I found this account interesting. Makes me appreciate even more the freedoms we have here in the USA.

This was posted on gizmodo and youtube:

How Illegal Satellite Combated the Censorship of Obama's Speech in China
While Americans had millions of ways to watch Obama's inauguration speech, here in China, I'm giving thanks for my one: gray-market Filipino satellite. Without it, I would've missed anything past where Obama muttered "communists."

Right now, satellite television is still technically illegal in China, thanks to a 1993 regulation that said only hotels, media outlets and apartment buildings that are specifically for foreigners are allowed to use satellite dishes. Because of that, there's no China-branded satellite company and most TVs come with just the smattering of local regional Chinese channels and, of course, the CCTV.

There's a way around it though. A gray market has popped up in most cities to provide satellite cable services – including cable boxes and regularly updated encryption cards – for anyone willing to pay. Roughly $300 a year will get you channels like BBC World and CNN, HBO and (my personal favorite) the Discovery Channel.

The cards catch satellite signals from the Philippines, which are usually good at not crapping out and give you the added bonus of occasionally glimpsing a crazy mirror world of good ol' American pop culture. Did you know the Philippines had a Project Runway of their own called... Project Runway Philippines?

But I digress. Illegal Filipino satellite equipment saved me from what local Chinese had to watch: The CCTV's live (up until a certain moment) broadcast of the President's inauguration address.

Oh crap! Did he just say “fascism and communism”?! CUT CUT CUT. Um... so, person translating the broadcast... uh... what kind of problems do you think Obama will be facing with regards to the U.S. economy?

The rest of the address was only broadcast later in government-approved snippets.

I suppose I should also take time to be thankful that I speak English, since translations of his speech also had offending parts edited out.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Day That Was...

Democracy in action in Washington, DC. And at Clear Channel the unfortunate news of being fired was delivered to more than 1800 already nervous employees hoping it wouldn't be them called into conference rooms across the country.

These are challenging times. Tough decisions are being made everywhere. Tough decisions are being made at broadcasting companies. Understood.

Radio is at a crossroads, so, even without the current economic situation we would be facing significant adversity. How we handle it and react to it now will dictate our future. With that in mind I offer you a thoughtful presentation about people, passion, and changing the game. Excellent.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Radio Kills The mp3 Star

Radio of the Last.FM, Slacker, and Pandora variety that is.

Or so says WIRED's Blog Network:

"With smartphones becoming commoditized -- and with so many excellent music apps being designed for them -- it's becoming viable to leave your MP3 player at home and tune into the cloud."

"the next great thing in music technology will be smartphone applications that replicate the experience of listening to interactive, customized radio stations at a computer."

But, for terrestrial radio there is hope and while the article didn't speak of "old time radio" they did say this:

"...after ten or so years of moving away from programmed music, people are happy to let someone else do the work for a change. We could be moving towards a future when finding music in an online music store or file sharing network, downloading it, then sideloading it onto a portable will be come to seen as a waste of time."

Now, this should be good news, right? I could be, but not so fast. There's still that pesky issue of their content vs. ours. Let's assume that our music content stacks up to theirs, we will still need to address our commercial policies and the tedium of liner card DJ's. Will people consider coming back who largely gave up on FM radio? What would we have to do?

If we believe this article the era of DIY Radio Programming may be taking a breather. That would be a fortuitous event for an industry looking greener pastures and a way to climb out of the current doldrums (or worse).

You can read the full article here

My own personal experience:

I downloaded the Slacker app for my Blackberry Curve and it works very well--both at home using WiFi AND to my great surprise in the car on the Edge network (2G and slower than 3G). Still no easy way to get it to play through my car audio system, however.

Addtionally, the pre-programmed format channels I sampled are quite good. The free version features one spot per half hour and I even heard a jock on one of the top 40 channels. The custom stations, in which you select an artist and the system selects a library based on your selection, are also a good listen.

Take a listen for yourself and see what you think.

There's STILL no delivery system that's more convienient or easier than over the air radio--not to mention it is free (minus the spots, of course). But let's not forget convenient and easy are fleeting when you consider how fast tech moves and our competitors are already free or close to it.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Courage Or Crazy

Probably a little bit of both. It's -20 degrees here this morning before factoring in the wind chill and here's a guy riding his bicycle.

It got me thinking that this guy should be the poster child for the radio industry. As we face financial and programming challenges, we need to get on our bikes and ride.

We need to muster the courage and try some "crazy" things--you know what they say: it's so crazy it just might work. Let the creative folks in our industry get to work.

Conventional thought and traditional strategies and tactics may (will) not get it done this time. If the guy on the bike doesn't inspire you, let's try this audio clip from JFK talking about going to the moon. Shaping a positive future for the radio business shouldn't be harder than going to the moon, right?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

I'm Sorry This Is Funny

The analog to digital TV conversion is supposed to be just a few weeks away and now there is chatter about delaying it. There will never be a good time even if it's delayed for another few years. Some percentage of the population will always be ill prepared. Let's get on with it.

That said, the coupon program has been a mess, shuffling channels in some markets are sure to confuse, and the tech challenged and elderly may experience some extra angst. So while all that is true, there's no reason to lose our sense of humor:

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Gen C?

Gen C? Yup. The C stands from CREATORS. The age of Gen C? Get up to age 35. 35? Yup. Unlike Gen Y, this classification is not about birth year. It's about belief system, behavior, lifestyle, and activities.

Here in January 2009 we edge closer to a generation gap like no other in history. The connected and unconnected. Sure there are 50, 60 and 70 year old tech consumers, but the skills and interest have been learned. Gen C comes with connectivity as standard equipment, not as an user installed option.

If the Gen C thesis holds up (and I think it does), radio's desire for 25-34 demos is now officially in peril. Last year I wrote about how with each passing year Millennials move closer and closer to the demos radio cares about. With the Gen C concept we are already there. Talking with, connecting to, and being relevant with this important group requires different strategies and mindset.

I was introduced to the Gen C concept through these two presentations. Take a look and consider the probable impact on your station(s) if the author has gotten it right.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Virtual Sound Generation

Plug it in to the headphone jack of your mobile it on any surface...turn that surface into a plat panel speaker. The company is touting this product as a way to maintain portability while at the same time getting the ear buds out of your ears. For bikers (motorized and otherwise), skateboarders, and anyone else who wears a helmet for safety...this is a Tunebug that turns the entire helmet into a speaker.
More alternative ways to generate sound for nearly any audio-making device...maybe even a radio tuner.

Yes, there used to be these devices that were small and could go anywhere and had a speaker built in...they called them portable radios. Of course, that time has passed.

Frankly, all most 18 year-olds know about AM radio is that they might have to turn it on if they want to hear a baseball game. And FM, well, this is not the post to rehash some of those issues. Suffice to say, if radio offers content that would be of interest to younger demographics, these mobile speaker innovations could be of interest.

It's hard to know whether there is a market for this type of device in the mass market or niche market for that matter. It is kinda cool that you could turn a helmet, coffee table, or desk into a speaker. If it does catch on you can bet that those who use it will be no less discriminating about what they listen to.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Lemonade Anyone?

The unfortunate reality of radio layoffs continue. Recently, some of CBS Radio's big signaled AM stations, WBZ Boston, WCCO Minneapolis, and KDKA Pittsburgh lost their overnight talents. As difficult as it is for those affected, I have to commend CBS for attempting to make lemonade out of lemons.

Instead of simply running a delayed or repeat broadcast of some daytime talk show they chose to launch a brand new live overnight show. For most stations today the idea of a live overnight show is pure fantasy, so the fact that these stations had local shows in the first place is almost unbelievable. And then to replace the departed talent with internally produced live content is nothing short of a pleasant surprise.

Jon Grayson, originating from KMOX in St. Louis, is the host of the new show, "Overnight America." I had a chance to sample the show on WCCO Monday night and on first listen I thought it was pretty good--a mix of pop culture, politics, and conversation. The producer did a good job ensuring that there were phone calls from all four of the cities in which the show was airing.

The point of this post is not to critique the new show, but instead to point out that simply making the necessary cuts is not enough. We can't forget we are in the entertainment business--even in these cruddy economic times. What's the plan? How will these cuts and changes effect our listeners? When things improve (and they will) will our programming lineup be strong enough to take advantage of the inevitable upturn? Or will our product be a watered-down repeat broadcast or worse yet a indistinguishable jukebox?

As hard as it is, now is the time to be at our creative best. Sure, it would be better if we weren't in this mess, but we are. Those who step up and figure out how to design radio programming 3.0 will be the ones who have the best opportunity to prosper during the next wave of prosperity.

First it was live orchestras, 15 minute programs and the Lone Ranger and then it was DJ's, records, and breakfast clubs.


Sunday, January 4, 2009

A New Year's Resolution

No, this isn't about exercising more or cleaning out your overstuffed closet.

As the first workweek of 2009 gets underway I'd like to offer one:
Learn something new about/from your listeners and advertisers everyday and use that knowledge to be a better provider of entertainment and marketing solutions.

Sounds simple, I know, but it's easy to become distracted.

Hint: use social networking sites, station and personality blogs, your station database, and for the sales team--set up a marketing solution blog or Facebook group for the exclusive use of your clients.

Oh, and don't forget traditional research options as well as actually talking with people--face-to-face.

As we navigate through challenging circumstances a little extra knowledge can go a long way.