Sunday, May 31, 2009

Ford Improves Sync With Real Time Information

Engadget outlines how Ford ramps up the real-time information functionality of it's SYNC in-dash system.
We've finally got the details on that Ford SYNC refresh we recently warned you about. According to the company, current owners of 2010 vehicles with the device now can download and install the latest TDI (Traffic, Directions and Information) app for free. As mentioned before, the app connects a customer's Bluetooth-enabled cell phone to Ford's Service Delivery Network voice portal for turn-by-turn driving directions, real-time traffic, business searches, news, sports and weather. This bad boy will be available on all 2010 Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles equipped with SYNC, $395. The sale price includes service for the first three years. Ready to SYNC your ride? Do you find the phrase "SYNC my ride" as amusing as we do? Hit that read link. and business, sports, traffic, from "traditional" raido...hmmmmm.

It's a good thing radio offers more than just the boring basics....right? It may not be the most popular thing to write, but your [exceptional] talent IS your ticket to remaining relevant. Don't have exceptional talent? Better grow some or buy some very soon...and then give them the resources and time horizon to make it happen--and that's more than 6 months, folks.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend

Enjoy your Memorial Day Weekend!

Sometime over the long holiday take a moment to remember the service men and woman who gave their lives serving their country.

[pictured] The Tomb of the Unknown Solider at Arlington National Cemetery

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Volkswagen Working On In-Dash Internet

As part of a joint venture with Intel VW is working on a very cool system that will handle all media functions including AM/FM radio and always-on internet.

Here's the demo video to check out the test system in action

Bailout For Minority-Owned Broadcasters?

The Hill newspaper ran with the story this morning.

Whether the intent is noble or not is up to you, but one has to ask if the government extends credit [bailout] to commercial broadcasters; one also has to ask will the government then have a voice in that broadcasters content? If the car companies and banks are any indication--the answer is YES.

Next question: If the minority-owned broadcasters get a bailout, how long will it be before the rest of the broadcasters are asking for a bailout? Answer: Not very long.

If we continue down this road to its eventual end one has to ask how long will it be before the government has a say in the content for all commercial broadcaster's content? If the car companies and banks are any indication--the answer is YES.

I don't know if this will happen on any level, but, better we ask these questions now and think about what it would mean "if" it were to happen. It's a lot of "ifs," but given how poorly our industry is doing it wouldn't surprise me.

Here's the full story from The Hill
Democrats seek financial rescue of minority-owned broadcasters
Posted: 05/19/09 06:13 PM [ET]
High-ranking House Democrats are urging the Treasury Department to prop up minority-owned broadcasters suffering from a lack of capital and lost advertising revenue amid the economic slump.

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) is leading an effort to convince Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to take “decisive action” by extending credit to this sector of the broadcasting industry.

Clyburn and other senior members, including House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), argue that minority-owned broadcasters are sound businesses, but that the recession could undermine the government’s efforts to diversify the airwaves.

A number of members from the Congressional Black Caucus signed the letter, too.

“While many jobs are at stake, a more important principle — the government’s fundamental interest in promoting a diversity of voices, including service to underserved communities — is severely threatened,” the members write in a draft of a letter that was scheduled to be sent Tuesday.

The letter comes as some of the biggest recipients of government bailout money, including JPMorgan Chase & Co., Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, jockey to repay government bailout money. As banks seek a way out from the government’s restrictions, other industries struggle and seek government support. Some firms seeking to repay the government argue that the government’s restrictions have burdened their businesses.

The congressmen suggest the Treasury Department could provide access to capital to minority-owned broadcasters, which they say represent less than 7 percent of full-power radio stations and a “negligible” ownership of television stations.

“They are looking for continued access to capital to continue their otherwise fundamentally sound operations,” the members write.

The letter suggests Treasury could set up a credit facility specific to the industry, similar to the government’s efforts to support auto suppliers, or possibly set up a program for bridge financing and government-backed loans until the economy improves.

“In addition to the credit crisis, also weighing heavily on minority broadcasters is a significant decline in advertising revenues, particularly the loss of automobile advertising,” the congressmen write.

The members are asking for a meeting with the Treasury Department and minority-owned broadcast entities and representatives from the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters.

Other members signing the letter are Democratic Reps. Bobby Rush (Ill.), Edolphus Towns (N.Y.), Maurice Hinchey (N.Y.), Carolyn Maloney (N.Y.), Maxine Waters (Calif.), Gregory Meeks (N.Y.), G.K. Butterfield (N.C.), Barbara Lee (Calif.), Lynn Woolsey (Calif.) and Bennie Thompson (Miss.)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Retro Computing Fun

I love history--always have. For people like me, there is an endless archive to sift through on line. The history of computers is fascinating...massive mainframes...simple calculators which cost $500...80 meg hard drives...iPhones and lots of stuff in between.

So as we hit the middle of the week I bring you this history packed post. Check out some of that history on this cool website called Web Urbanist.

One more for doesn't have anything to do with tech, however. Explore NYC and surrounding areas at the amazing site Forgotten NY

Thoughtful commentary returns next post.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Creative Purpose

By the time some, if not most of you read this, you will already be at work plugging away at doing whatever you happen to do every day. Some of you might even be enjoying what you do. We can only hope.

Maybe today will be the day you get to do something extra fun, or maybe something different from other days. Maybe today your creative side will have a chance to emerge from the normal grind. Whatever you do today, if only for yourself, think about new creative ways to program, announce, sell, or produce. Give it a shot.

I thought I would share with you this video of MIT graduate, David Merrill. Now, his work life is centered around being creative. Among other things, he and his team have created these little cubes that are all interactive computing devices. They interact with each other [and the user] and can morph into whatever the programmer imagines them to be.

Nothing about radio here. Or is there? Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

New Design - New Life

Is there a lesson in this video for radio? I think there might be. You decide.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Think Japan, China or Europe have the edge on exclusive tech? Nope...we got 'em beat right here in the good ole USA! Gizmodo explores this very important topic with pictures!

Check out the story here.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

What Happens When the Cash Flow is Gone?

For an industry that has trumpeted the amount of cash it throws off; what happens when that cash flow evaporates? We are witnessing what happens--it's happening in the radio business right now. Forget about debt service...forget about stockholders...forget about EBITDA...simply look at the most basic of measures--a station's/cluster's the top line revenue minus the expense line and what we are beginning to see is red ink. As I talk with people around the country and hear stories of business, in some cases, declining 30 or 40 percent over last years weak performance something has to give.

Late Friday Radio and Records published a story outlining how Clear Channel has begun using centralized music logs and talent with local PD's adding weather, traffic, news, promos and other local content. Initially this has been rolled out on 17 stations around the country. Don't be surprised when that number grows to 170 stations before too long.

When the ink turns red, all bets are off.

Reading stories like this is very painful for radio pros and fans like us. But then, at least for me, I step back and think I am not surprised at all. In our quest to improve the product and maximize this or that we sucked the fun and creativity out of our product. It's like running an amusement park without the amusement.

"Shut up and play the music" was the order of the day. Did it work? Yup and still does. But the truth is, when you make the music the only star you don't need local people to pull that off. Sorry. Is it worth the cost of an entire staff to be able to play your locally focused music library that varies from other markets by maybe 10 or 15%? No.

The fact is that when the personality factor was factored out of local radio you might as well just put it up on the bird or have a centralized programmer handle your music. The fact is when your air talent talk for six seconds 3 or 4 times per hour and say nothing you might as well put it up on the bird or have a centralized air talent read your liners.

It's the perfect storm--negative cash flow and bland & sterile local radio stations.

Are you mad yet? I hope a little bit.

If a local radio station can't or is not allowed to produce a product that is unique and compelling, then it should simply pull back and play the music with little else. Is the current revenue situation, at least in part, equalizing to the quality of the product?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Traditional Media Mess

Paul Gillin is a journalist who also has a website called Newspaper Deathwatch. A short while ago he hosted a forum in San Francisco and gave the following presentation. A very good narrative on the realities of where traditional media stands and how we got where we are.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

NAB President/CEO David Rehr OUT!

That is what is being reported this afternoon.

My personal experience with him is nothing more than a convention handshake and he seemed like a perfectly affable person. But, as the man responsible for leading the radio industry's most prominent trade organization he missed the mark on so many levels.

The NAB has a tough job and needs a strong leader that understands our business and what our business needs to be in the years ahead--not an easy task.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Those Fickle 18-24's

Maybe not according to a new study by MTV Networks International:

  • 18-24s are much more concerned with a brand’s history and 51% say that, “knowing a brand has been good for a long time”, makes it desirable.
The study was conducted in the US, UK, Japan, Germany and India.

Read more of the highlights here.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Giving Back

Earlier this week I wrote about the latest round of personnel cuts at Clear Channel and offered to provide some free career counseling for anyone affected. As we head into the weekend I thought I would repeat the offer for anyone who has found themselves on the sidelines.

While the cuts at Clear Channel and everywhere else are very unpleasant, I am pleased to be able to give a little something back to an industry that has been good to me. If you are interested in a complementary phone session with me just shoot me an email ( and we will set it up.

Have a great weekend!