Sunday, March 29, 2009

Quietly Becoming Ubiquitous

Internet radio already readily available to anyone with a computer and internet connection, more and more on mobile devices, and the battle for the dashboard is just beginning to include internet audio.

In the mix of all this is a growing selection of tabletop internet enabled wifi/ethernet radios. I'm not sure how big the market is for these clock/radios but the number of models seems to be growing. Just released, is a unit from Acoustic Research. Engadget just did a post detailing the radio that you can read here.

It's one of the most "normal" looking internet radios I have seen. You know what I mean...some of the earlier models kinda looked like a science project with fancy knobs. This one blends right in.

No HD Radio here. Why would they. Why are we? I predict it will happen on its own, but now is the time to abandon HD Radio. So much time and MONEY...lots of money has been wasted on what might best be called a transitional product that now after all this time might be politely called stillborn.

I welcome someone to challenge my belief. If someone can provide me with a HD Radio unit sales figure I will happily publish it.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Early FM All Over Again

In the early days of FM many license holders saw so little value in those licenses they turned them in or sold them for next to nothing. It took a long time but eventually FM surpassed AM in terms of overall listenership and revenue. Conventional wisdom suggested that AM, as the dominant radio band, was so strong nothing would take it out. We know how that story ended. [yes, of course there are still strong AM stations with big audiences]

Fast forward to the recent news of stations suspending their streaming efforts for reasons of royalty rate protest, and, today we read of saving part-timers from layoffs. I too think the royalty issue is a big one and I am happy to see fellow radio folks stay employed, but, in the end these actions are not much different than those early FM license holders turning in their licenses.

I think everyone realizes streaming audio is not going to go away. How to make money with these streams is still elusive for most and will most likely remain elusive for some time to come. Innovation comes at a price and most times requires a long time horizon.

Check out this story in the New York Times about Twitter--lots of buzz, massive consumer acceptance, but no revenue.

How this chicken and egg scenario plays out is still unknown, but as an old radio commercial once said, "you gotta be in it to win in it."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

What Kind of Tech User Are You?

I write quite a bit about technology and the relationship of technology and the radio business. Today, I ran across a Pew survey asking, "what kind of tech user are you?"

Of course, I had to take the survey.

Find out where you stand. You can take the survey right here

And me? Here's the result I got when I took the survey.

You are an Digital Collaborator

If you are a Digital Collaborator, you use information technology to work with and share your creations with others. You are enthusiastic about how ICTs help you connect with others and confident in how to manage digital devices and information. For you, the digital commons can be a camp, a lab, or a theater group – places to gather with others to develop something new.

If you take the survey be sure to share YOUR results the all of the readers here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Free Press Or A Saved Press?

We are all keenly aware the challenges the newspaper industry is facing. There appears to be no end in sight...or is there?

There was a bill introduced on Tuesday in the US Senate, so far with no co-sponsorship, that would in effect bail out newspapers that needed and wanted help. Essentially transforming any paper accepting assistance into a non-profit entity. I guess that's OK. Reading deeper into the Reuters article I was astounded to read the following:

Cardin's Newspaper Revitalization Act would allow newspapers to operate as nonprofits for educational purposes under the U.S. tax code, giving them a similar status to public broadcasting companies.

Under this arrangement, newspapers would still be free to report on all issues, including political campaigns. But they would be prohibited from making political endorsements.

"This may not be the optimal choice for some major newspapers or corporate media chains but it should be an option for many newspapers that are struggling to stay afloat," said Senator Benjamin Cardin.


No more editorial board, no more op-ed page...say bye bye!

The message: we will help you and you will stay out of the fray of politics. Yes, they said endorsements but you have to believe the net will be cast wider than that. It puts spirited reporting at risk. No different than play-by-play announcers employed by the teams for which they broadcast games--if you see what I mean.

Remember the need for news hasn't died; the delivery and monetization model system has changed. Those who figure it out will survive and those who don't will fade away.

This is probably a long way from becoming reality, but chilling none the less. The Senator admits in may not be an optimal choice--so why make it a requirement? Does it matter the size of the paper? What paper would accept these terms?

Which is it? A free press--one free to endorse, report and investigate stories or a bailed out press tethered to government dictates, rules, and prohibitions?

Free speech shouldn't have a price tag.

You can read the entire article here.

Excellent Article

SXSW Interactive conference in Austin, TX wrapped up last week after noted participants contributed their thoughts on what lies ahead and how to best navigate. AdAge did a terriffic article recapping what was presented. All of the comments not only apply to the digital world, but the terrestrial [radio] world as well.

Seven Unthinkable Ideas From SXSW Interactive 2009

Savvy Marketers, Pay Attention to These Visions That Could Soon Be Trends

Patricia Martin
Patricia Martin

SXSW Interactive wrapped up last week, leaving the new-media mavens who attended a little more sober about the future despite the usual whirlwind of events and parties. Often dubbed the Sundance of new media, SXSWi is the bellwether for what lies ahead for digital culture.

Here are seven unthinkable ideas from SXSWi 2009. Savvy marketers should consider these the tremors that lead to trends.

1. Vision delivers ROI.
Among battle-hardened executives, the "vision" thing may feel more like a frill than a competitive strategy. But Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh proves that having a higher purpose is more than a good idea, it creates a striving culture that delivers to the bottom line. Mr. Hsieh spoke eloquently about the true mission at Zappos: to create happiness. Out of context it may sound soft, absurd even, for an online shoe outlet. But consider that he has had to double his offer to $2,000 to pay trainees to quit because too few were taking him up on it. With revenues in excess of $800 million in 2007, Zappos was projected to earn over $1 billion in 2008. Compassion for the customer and commitment to the culture have made Zappos a success. Pricing, distribution and many other standard operations are just details.

2. Marketing and customer experience are the same thing.
In the past, customer service was considered a way to fulfill on the brand promise. Witness the rise of customer service as the chief marketing tool. Here again, Mr. Hsieh made the case for redirecting what he might have spent on marketing and instead aiming those resources at an intensely customer-centric business with a 24/7 call center and operators who double as shoe therapists. In an age when reputation and word of mouth can quickly swell from ripple to tsunami, marketers cannot afford to overlook the cycle of reciprocity that good service delivers.

3. Avoid stupid, stupid.
Make the consumer brilliant. "Don't bother trying to get them to think you're brilliant," said Kathy Sierra, cognition expert and game developer, whose keynote was one of the most heavily blogged and Twittered events of the conference. According to Sierra, in a knowledge economy people hate feeling like they suck at something. Consumers like to master cognitive tasks. If your product has too many features, said Ms. Sierra, or is anything so high-concept as to be unmanageable, it will fail to find an audience.

4. You can make money from 'free' stuff.
So says Chris Anderson, author of the forthcoming book, "Free: The Future of a Radical Price," (Hyperion, July 2009). Mr. Anderson deserves credit for advancing the most unthinkable idea at SXSWi -- that businesses can make money by giving things away. His point is salient, that like it or lump it, the internet has made "free" a disruptive force -- deal with it or die. When I caught up with Mr. Anderson in Austin, he was earnest in his desire to provide a useful guide for businesses to navigate free vs. paying customers. Marketers coping with a phenomenon that is crushing many established businesses, especially those where intellectual property is what's for sale, will find insights in his rigorously researched and sharply written book.

5. Participation will be ubiquitous.
Allowing customers to voluntarily market your brand is one thing, but consumer participation will hack its way into other operations, including rarefied arenas such as research and development. A representative from Kraft Foods told me that the package-goods giant is moving toward a "participatory way for customers to share in the innovation process."

6. Dad is the new Mom.
And personal storytelling is no longer a "chick thing." In the "Dad Is the New Mom" panel, dad bloggers talked about the need to get real and personal to win audiences and advertisers. PepsiCo, a prominent presence at SXSWi, has begun working with the dad bloggers to win share of wallet as men take on household tasks including shopping.

7. Low overhead is the new currency. Especially for start-ups.
It may be very old school, but bootstrapping is back. With cash scarce and venture capital in hiding, Guy Kawasaki, author of "Reality Check" (Portfolio, October 2008), described how exploiting cost-saving web services will keep early-stage expenses very low. "A couple of talented people, time and energy are the critical resources now. So much of the costs of hardware have been converted into services." Kawasaki explained as we chatted in a hotel lobby. "The toughest part of bootstrapping in this environment is scaling up," he said.

Despite the economic climate, SXSWi is still a place where people put forth ambitious ideas. Some SXSWi veterans remarked that the tone this year was subdued. Perhaps that's what made the unthinkable ideas resound. Any one of these ideas is enough to make a marketer see how deep the change is we're experiencing. But they also point the way to many greener fields of opportunity.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Twitter My Weekend

Some weekend entertainment...poking fun at Twitter!

Friday, March 20, 2009

How Long Will This Last?

Funny or stupid?

I saw a Vietnamese restaurant yesterday. Not only was its name iPho, which would be bad enough by itself, but its "o" was replaced with an Apple. Yeah.

Any points docked for lack of imagination are immediately returned for ballsiness. I wish you good luck against Apple's inevitable legal bombardment. [Photo Credit BeerNotBombs, because I forgot to take a pic.]

Feed Title: Gizmodo, The Gadget Blog
Feed URL:

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Traffic Is Heavy

Internet traffic that is. eMarketer provides these data.

The latest statistics released by the Pew Institute illustrates that the internet has not just reached critical mass with the youngest among us, but with older Americans too. And still growing.

US Internet Users, by Age, 2005 & 2008 (% of respondents in each group)

No matter ones age, using the internet today is almost unavoidable. So it makes sense that 27% of those over 75 are on line.

Nielsen Online contributed these stats:

Average Web Usage Among US Active Internet Users, by Age, November 2008

Is there any other medium that averages such high daily use levels? Between home and work use of the internet, for many people, is the epicenter of people lives. I can't think of any other tool, appliance, or entertainment device that commands such use.

Stats like this should be a strong reminder to everyone in radio just how important your digital strategy is. It needs to be deeper than a home page and a stream--rich content that enables interactivity, entertains, and informs is a must.

Are we there yet? I would say yes and no depending on the station or company one is talking about. Where does your station stand?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Mobile Internet On Fire!

According to a new report released today from comScore the number of people accessing news and information using their mobile device has more than DOUBLED in the last year. That puts the number of users at more than 63 million. Of those people, some 35% (22 million) do so daily.
“Over the course of the past year, we have seen use of mobile Internet evolve from an occasional activity to being a daily part of people’s lives,” observed Mark Donovan, senior vice president, mobile, comScore. “This underscores the growing importance of the mobile medium as consumers become more reliant on their mobile devices to access time-sensitive and utilitarian information.”
When it gets broken down to sub-categories, what segment has grown the most? Social Networking and blogs--up a whopping 427%.

“Social networking and blogging have emerged as very popular daily uses of the mobile Web and these activities are growing at a torrid pace,” observed Donovan. “We also note that much of the growth in news and information usage is driven by the increased popularity of downloaded applications, such as those offered for the iPhone, and by text-based searches. While smartphones and high-end feature phones, like the Samsung Instinct and LG Dare comprise the Top 10 devices used for news and information access, 70 percent of those accessing mobile Internet content are using feature phones.”
Ready for a shocker? comScore states that young males are the most avid users of mobile news and information, with half of 18-34-year-old males engaging in the activity. Additionally, it's also quite popular with 18-24 females--amassing 40% usage with this group.

There's no question that all of the improved devices from Apple, Blackberry, and a number of others have made these activities "almost" easy. As our industry is wrestling with creating better websites and considering on-demand content, the rest of the world has moved on to the newest frontier in the wild west of tech--mobile.

What does your website look like on a smartphone? How much of your content can be accessed on a smart phone? What percentage of your content is WORTH accessing on a smartphone? Are you Tweeting? When did your blog get updated last? I could go on, but the questions are endless.

This web thing isn't what we signed up for. We are radio people. But it is reality. We have audiences, large audiences, and these are the people who are using the mobile web--we have to be there. With what and how good are up to you.

Mobile interest today is where text messaging was just a few short years ago. As apps get better and easier this mobile internet train will be moving a bullet train speeds. All aboard!!

Friday, March 13, 2009

A Step Closer

"...everything that you can do from your home Internet connection, you can now do remotely"

At $599 for the box plus the monthly wireless charge ($59) it's not cheap, But according to the manufacturer it's, "engineered to maintain a broadband Internet connection while in a moving vehicle. The AirBox CM3 provides a connection similar to cable or DSL and allows multiple devices such as PDAs, laptops, and gaming consoles to be connected online simultaneously".

We all know that technology pricing starts in the clouds and very quickly comes down to earth. Just stop by Walmart or Target and see how cheap Blu Ray players are now.

The company has real time GPS components and signal extending antennas for problem areas. Now before you have a gotcha moment, check out the coverage area here in the Twin Cities with the $59 digital service from Sprint.
The dark gold represents full digital coverage...the cities and the far flung burbs are well covered. Not having tried it, I can't confirm this and being a long time cell user I retain a certain level of skepticism when it comes to wireless coverage maps. But that's not the point. Even if its not perfect today, next year at this time it will be that much closer and will only continue to improve.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Do You Remember Laughter?

Easy to forget these days.

I was watching Dana Carvey's stand up act tonight on TV and it was laugh out loud funny.

Got me thinking it wouldn't be a bad idea to post a reminder about how good it feels to laugh and how good it is for you.

Here's a deck filled with people laughing, most of whom you will recognize, and some reasons to be cheerful.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Little Creativity

Fun video to watch and one that should remind all of us that a little creativity can be quite entertaining.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Interesting and Anecdotal

Being a native New Yorker (once a New Yorker, always a New Yorker) I enjoy reading the New York Radio Message Board. Today, someone started this thread:
In an MSNBC "Morning Joe" discussion focusing on Rush Limbaugh, NBC White House political director Chuck Todd yesterday dismissed the radio industry as a "dying medium." Noted Todd: "But, it’s that idea that Limbaugh... even the venue that he’s on, radio, not the internet - you know, it’s very ‘90s. It’s very backwards...[radio] is a dying medium and a backward-looking technology.
That prompted many responses including this one:'re right about teens not wanting to hear the announcer after the music stops... that's if they even listen to radio in the car. My teenage daughter constantly asks me to turn the radio off so she can better hear her iPod and concentrate on sending text messages over the cellphone. On one occasion, she heard some music on Radio 1045 out of Philly, and was surprised that they were playing music she liked. So now, she listens to both the iPod and the radio in the car.
I won't spend a great deal of time on Mr. Todd's comments regarding Rush. It seems he knows little about Limbaugh's performance and apparently doesn't realize that Rush is available two ways on-line--station streams and through his pay webcam service. Nuff said.

More interesting to me is the second comment--especially this: "...surprised that they were playing music she liked...she listens to both the iPod and the radio in the car". If there is one teen who thinks this there must be many more. To me this smells like a marketing and imaging issue. Duh! Among many other things, what has the radio industry virtually eliminated over the last decade? Image marketing!

I am not downplaying the seismic changes that have occurred; to the contrary, anyone who has read this blog knows how many posts I have written on the subject. Our young listener recruitment program has been abysmal and it is likely we have lost an entire generation of potential radio fans to alternative audio platforms. Is their any hope of capturing their attention?

As we quickly approach the end of the first decade of the 21st. century, if we want to attempt to change hearts and minds of those 15 to almost 30 years of age let's start with eliminating music recorded in the 70's, 80's, and the early 90's. They may like some of this music when playing Guitar Hero and in small doses at other times, but let's face the fact that this is NOT their music. We must better understand what they like and develop different ways to entertain them in between the songs.

We can't change what has already taken place, but I think it IS possible to generate some more passion for the medium. The music is just the beginning.

Do you have a strategy?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Break A Rule Today....Will Ya?

In 1985 when I arrived at WCCC in Hartford, CT [ a rock station ] and tuned in at around 8:30 in the morning I thought I had dialed in the wrong station. Instead of John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) or Paul Rodgers (Bad Company) coming through my speakers it was Paul Harvey.

I thought to myself, what is this doing here and when can we take it off? Of course, taking it off was not an option...mostly because the clearance (a big 50kW FM station) made the station nice money. Running PHN&C was considered stodgy even back in the mid 80's, but on many levels it worked so well. A few that come to mind are ratings--a nice 8am hour pop; revenue--the aforementioned network comp.; and of course that stodgy but camptivating, booming voiced-story telling broadcaster that made WCCC sound different than every other station in town.

In today's world running something so escew from the "center lane" is verboten--imagine Kanye West playing on a classic rock station. Even back then airing Paul Harvey was a bit extreme, but it does help showcase the idea that things that are a few steps from the center can add something special and memorable to a station.

At a time when most everyone is trying just to hang on it seems likely that anything that might arouse questions from someone on high will be left on the sidelines for another time. Consider this, maybe the things that would arouse questions are the very things that might help add a special spark to your programming and arouse interest and delight among the very people who you are trying to entertain...your listeners.

Procede at your own risk.