Written Mar. 2, 2011 in Content + Internet Radio + Technology + Terrestrial Radio with 0 Comments
So whose time, if anybody's, is Pandora beating?
One talking point that often seems to emerge in any discussion of radio's future on new platforms and its future viability is that Pandora is merely the most recent delivery system for people to listen to their own music. It's the argument of those who, nearly a decade ago, would have told you, "We survived the 8-Track and the cassette deck and we'll survive the iPod, too."
But even as somebody who loves the "real radio" experience that I grew up with, I've never been able to break it down that neatly. My first iPod in 2002 certainly replaced dubbing mix CDs for a CD Walkman, itself a successor to cassette mixes. But building and maintaining my iTunes library certainly cut into desk time that might have been otherwise accompanied by Internet or FM radio. When I got a car with an iPod plug, it certainly replaced radio listening--or more precisely, it replaced a half hour of punching among stations looking for music in the morning. When I got my iPhone, streaming radio replaced listening to the iPod. But recently, my attempts to stream in the car have been so erratic that I've been returning to the iPod and even CDs.
If that distinction is fluid to somebody who grew up with the shared radio experience and plans to do everything in his power to help carry it forward on any platform necessary, how much more specious must it seem to a 16-year-old. And more important, if radio's TSL among today's 16 year olds is not what it was a decade ago, it doesn't do much good to argue that a new platform is biting into somebody else's time, because something is still cutting into AM/FM's time.
So with yesterday's announced purchase of Thumbplay, you have to respect Clear Channel for taking a logical step in being able to offer both "our music" and "your music," just as CBS Radio did with Last.fm. That makes a lot more sense than trying to teach that distinction to a new generation. Or waiting around arguing about who the competition is.
Written Sep. 1, 2010 in Music Industry + Technology with 6 Comments
Today's Apple event introduced us all to iTunes 10 and its central new feature: "Ping." Ping is a social network for music - essentially, a Facebook or Twitter for what your friends are listening to, not what they are doing (or tweeting.) This is not a new gadget or a high-end phone - this the the default music player for hundreds of millions of people.
I don't have to tell you that Ping is going to change the face of music discovery forever - and I don't think that's hyperbole, given both the installed base for iTunes AND the fact that over half of online Americans are already on social networking sites. Using Ping for shared music discovery, playlist sharing, "top tens" and more will be the mixtape for a generation.
You'll see a lot of posts on this over the coming days from a lot of folks covering the radio industry, expressing varying degrees of concern over this - but really, it's an amazing time to be a fan and consumer of music. We've always learned about new music from our friends; what Ping gives us is the ability to also learn from our "friends," our expanded network of social connections.
It is more important than ever to establish a credible image for curation, which means hiring great jocks and empowering them to express their love for music. Following PPM's received wisdom to just "shut up and play the music" will win short term ratings battles, but potentially lose the long term "war" for the hearts and minds of today's 12-34 music listeners and beyond.
We'll have more to say about this later this month, when we premiere the results of our groundbreaking American Youth 2010 Study at the NAB Radio Show. You can Ping me there. :)
Written Aug. 24, 2010 in Advertising + HD Radio + Mobile Media + Technology + Terrestrial Radio with 1 Comment
One of the ironies of the consumer electronics industry's attack on radio--specifically any attempt to mandate an FM in cellphones--is that it's taking place during a back-to-school shopping week. On the station I listened to for two hours the other night, I heard multiple consumer electronics retailers and wireless providers advertising PCs, notebooks, and, yes, cellphones. This week, in particular, radio is a particularly relevant technology to the electronics industry.
While I believe in the inclusion of an FM tuner in mobile phones, the notion of bartering it with Congress for a performance royalty is risky and easily attacked -- as the CEA's Gary Shapiro did -- in almost the same language with which broadcasters assailed the music industry in the first place. From the legislative approval of radio's consolidation to restrictions against LPFM, owners of an FM license have been the beneficiaries of much Congressional protectionism already. And 80% of our own talk hosts would be on the air already mocking any other industry that asked for this sort of intervention or any Congress that gave it to them.
Perhaps what radio should do instead is further demonstrate its own effectiveness. In my fantasy, broadcasters team up and create their own mobile phone. Of course, I'm still waiting for them to create a direct competitor to Pandora or take a stronger hand in designing the Infinite DIal of the future, rather than leaving the directory function of tomorrow's IP radio in the hands of people who make the CEA look like radio boosters.
But would it be crazy to suggest that the free advertising time that radio has given HD Radio for the last few years be redeployed to support those mobile devices that do contain an FM radio? There are, of course, challenges. Broadcasters are asserting that the low sales of existing devices are due to the products themselves and aren't a referendum on consumer interest. And the entire HD campaign proves that you have to pick your causes carefully. The campaign that sells an FM-compatible-smartphone will probably be focused on the phone itself, which would need many attractive features, not just FM.
And, of course, broadcasters have to be prepared to take advantage of actually being on mobile devices. But we know that radio can sell electronics. And this week is one of several each year that proves it. So why not make that industry feel the collective sting of our buggy whip?
Written Aug. 23, 2010 in Technology with 0 Comments
I am surprised to say I missed this commercial, which has apparently been running since at least May. And I haven't seen this picked up by the radio industry trades either.
I have thought for years this was maybe the easiest technological advance possible for radio -- in fact I wrote about it last summer and got a lot of response as you can read here.
It is essential that the hardware people play their part in making radio relevant as things go forward. This is a great small step.
Written Aug. 23, 2010 in Technology + Terrestrial Radio with 2 Comments
There has been an awful lot of digital ink spilled in the last several weeks about the issue of radios on cell phones. Part of the proposed NAB agreement with the labels on a performance royalty be to force an FM receiver into every cell phone.
And while forcing FM onto phones seems extreme and borderline anti-competitive, I wanted to weigh in with this thought: It really would be a good thing if more mobile devices also included radio receivers, and I think those receivers would get a lot of use.
What do I base this opinion on? Several factors:
1) Go to Europe and take a look. Lots of people are listening to FM Radio on their phones. I simply don't buy the argument that some are making that "no one" wants or would listen to FM (or AM for that matter) on their phones.
2) The announcement by AT&T that they will no longer be offering unlimited data plans is a potential game-changer. A lot of people will become much more concious of their usage and perhaps think to use their radios more as a result.
3) Assuming it doesn't add unwanted cost or weight to a phone (which I don't think it would, but I'm no engineer), who wouldn't want another option from their phone? How is more extra stuff a bad thing?
I don't buy the argument that since the few phones that have radios haven't sold well, this proves there is no desire or market for radios. Of course the existence of a radio is not the 'make or break' feature for a new phone. This doesn't mean no one wants one.
Much has been made of the fact that this crusade is a distraction, or that putting FM tuners on phones won't "save" radio. But that turns the issue into a straw man, really - the issue isn't whether or not FM tuners on phones will catapult the industry to double-digit growth, it's whether or not it would be good for radio. It would be good for radio.
So again, I don't see how forcing radios onto phones is a good thing. But I do think the radio industry should do all it can to encourage, cajole, or wheedle the phone companies to add radios. Giving people the option can't subtract from radio listening. If we should "be where people are" by offering apps, what is an FM tuner but a really great app itself?
Written Aug. 10, 2010 in Internet Radio + Mobile Media + Technology with 2 Comments
I don't claim to hear radio station processing like a Chief Engineer, but as the former PD of an R&B Oldies station in the mid-'90s, it was usually easy to tell when something was wrong. Our Motown hits, cut in the era of hard stereo separation, usually had something missing. On the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back," the "all I want/all I need" bridge would be missing half of its call-and-response. Or Junior Walker would ask "what does it take?" and get a barely audible answer. Even if the Motown hits had been engineered for a mid-'60s AM transistor radio, everybody knew what those songs were supposed to sound like and they weren't supposed to feature The Jackson 3, The Two Tops, and Jr. Walker and the All-Star.
Fifteen years later, I'm hearing a lot of processing issues on radio station streams. I hear stations where the jock or stagers are at dramatically different levels from the music. Or where mid-'60s songs often lose half their content. If you have ever listened to a station at your desk at an office-appropriate level and not known that station was playing "My Girl" by the Temptations until the vocals came in, you know what I'm talking about.
Radio stations, of course, have other issues with their streaming. If your station is not subjecting me to 13 minutes of hardsell PSAs in the second half of the hour, and the otherwise-very-good radio station that prompted this post was not, then what's a few bars of intro between friends? (Even if it is one of the greatest intros of all time.) And we've only recently made the transition as an industry from barely allowing our PDs enough time to hear what goes out over their air to now holding them responsible for what's on the stream.
Listeners are not themselves audiophiles these days. They listen to MP3s through earbuds and hear your station stream through tiny speakers. It doesn't mean that something doesn't register as "wrong" to them when things are out of kilter. I also hear station streams with a lot of oomph, even under less-than-ideal circumstances. Part of the genius of the original Motown records is the famous quality control process that made them sound great on a '60s transistor radio. And part of the quality control process for radio today is making a station sound great on the transistor radio's 2010 equivalent.
Written Jun. 18, 2010 in Content + HD Radio + Mobile Media + Technology with 1 Comment
First of all, don't get too excited about the press reports that Apple has applied for a patent to include HD radio technology in future iPods and iPhones. As iN3 Partners' Robert Unmacht points out, "This in no way means they will do it. Tech companies file for many things to protect themselves and never use it. There are power issues (the chip is a bit of a hog), space issues, and always cost issues."
But do ask yourself, what would broadcasters do if HD radio were available on the iPhone (or iPod or iPad)?
Many broadcasters think that being on the iPhone (or any smart phone) will automatically bring them greater engagement from younger listeners, simply by being on their platform of choice. But are broadcasters willing or prepared to engage with younger listeners? Are they going to offer them a second format choice for current music? Or will they continue to hope that 12-24s make do with two Top 40s and other formats (particularly Rock and Country) that play youth-oriented music sparingly?
Are broadcasters' HD multicast channels going to be ready for their close-up? It makes sense that we've moved from throwaway locally programmed channels to national ones. But many of those national stations are repurposed content and very few truly take advantage of the "WLS/CKLW national radio station for our times" potential of having a national radio station. So far, the only way to get a broadcaster to show a lot of interest in their multicast channel is to give them a translator (and thus a new FM frequency in the market) to relay it to.
Can multicast channels be rethought to provide the sort of services that smart phone users are looking for? Some have long thought that HD radio's ultimate function would be as a data provider. Can multicast channels, if available on a smart phone, be used to protect radio's current traffic and weather franchises?
Finally, are broadcasters going to take any more advantage of being on an iPhone (or any other phone) than they do of being available on the iPod Nano? Radio was very excited about being allowed a place on an iPod of any sort. But it was hard, at least at the outset, to find broadcasters who had engaged with radio on the Nano in any way (including using it much themselves). And have you heard anything about the Nano or song tagging in the last six months?
Written Jun. 1, 2010 in Content + Podcasting + Technology + Terrestrial Radio with 1 Comment
Over the past few months I've seen many novel ventures by radio stations to grow their "non-traditional revenue" (or, as I like to call it, "revenue.") Most of these efforts have centered around the creation of local web portals for a variety of verticals (auto dealers, restaurants, lawyers, etc.) The fundamental premise behind these efforts is that the radio station will build/host some kind of web property either for a client or for their own vertical local advertising model, and use their airwaves to drive people to those web properties. This, apparently, is the future of radio, or so I'm told.
The thing is, all of the innovation behind these new revenue-generating models is centered around the web - banners, online video, online promotions, etc. That's all well and good, if we stipulate that radio's skills in these areas are at least on par with what various pure-play ventures are bringing to local markets (and for the purposes of this argument, let's say they are).
All of these efforts to build sites for car dealers and doctors and local restaurants are all predicated around the assumption that radio will use the "power of the tower" as a force multiplier to drive traffic to those web properties. No matter what grand designs your station may have upon local search and local advertising dollars, it's audio that forms the base of this model, and it's audio that will differentiate radio from a hundred other local web plays. Yes, that audio will increasingly be delivered via the web, but distribution alone cannot be the focus of our innovation. Distribution will be table stakes to the game (as Jennifer Lane recently put it, if a station’s listener wants to listen online, and that station is not offering its programming online, they will find another station online to listen to.)
As I've noted several times in this space, the value we assign to those towers is based upon scarcity. When ubiquitous distribution of audio content renders those towers valueless, it will be the audio content itself that elevates your radio station and maintains its local audience. With all of the innovation radio is pouring into videos for local businesses and websites for car dealers, we must never forget that radio's strongest competitors online have done none of these things. Some of them are built so that you never have to go to a website at all. The focus of their innovation was audio. Though the business model has changed, and listener expectations of "spotload" have calibrated our expectations of revenue, audio and advertising around audio still work just fine, as long as the audio content is compelling.
I'm truly excited about the future of audio on the web, and radio's potential ability to assume the role of local media powerhouse with an innovative blend of live programming, on-demand programming and podcasts. On-demand audio opens up enormous opportunities to serve multiple niche audiences by addressing local news, issues, tastes and even local music styles and bands in ways that didn't make sense with a singular tower. All of this, however, requires us to continue to innovate around radio's core strength - the creation of compelling audio entertainment.
Written May. 28, 2010 in Content + Mobile Media + Technology + Terrestrial Radio with 0 Comments
Even though I'd already paid for Shazam and the similarly intended MusicID, I've just downloaded SoundHound, another "name that tune" app, which differs from Shazam in the ability (it says) to identify a hummed song as well as by offering a chart of songs that are "underplayed" in proportion to their IDs.
The "underplayed" chart isn't perfect--the top two are Usher's "O.M.G." abd Taio Cruz's "Break Your Heart," both of which are receiving heavy airplay now. But there are a few potential secret weapons like the Heavy's "How You Like Me Now" and Melanie Fiona's "Monday Morning" further down.
What was ultimately more interesting was the list of recently requested song IDs. In between all the exotica, and there was plenty, were such obscurities as "Smells Like Teen Spirit," "You Shook Me All Night Long," "Since U Been Gone," and "In the Air Tonight." There were also a lot of recent requests for Country radio staples, such as Kenny Chesney's "Living In Fast Forward," Montgomery Gentry's "Gone," Sugarland's "It Happens," and Reba McEntire's recent No. 1, "Consider Me Gone."
Then there's the most-searched chart which, of course, is topped by recurrents and today's powers: Rihanna's "Rude Boy," B.O.B.'s "Nothing On You," Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now," Train's "Hey Soul Sister," Lady Gaga's "Telephone," etc.
Even if you just think "Smells Like Teen Spirit" must have been somebody testing their humming skills, taken together, it's all a reminder that song ID is still an issue for listeners. And that as much as we'd like them to go to the Website to see every artist and title, they don't really need to. There's an app for that. And people are shelling out at least a few bucks for apps like these because they don't think radio will tell 'em for free.
For many AC stations, pre-recorded song tags have addressed listeners' issues with back-selling. My only issue, if any, is that it's one more piece of business that ought to be handled by the announcers instead of being turned over to the imaging director. Also, if a relatively familiar Mainstream AC station profits by song tags, then imagine what it says for other, more current-driven formats.
One also wonders if Country, in particular, would benefit from song tags--it's always attracting new listeners, particularly young ones, and, of course, they don't all know who sings "Gone," it's six years old. For that matter, given the number of current artists who remain relatively anonymous after a half-dozen airplay hits, song tags might also help build some artist equity. Recent Country launch KJKE (Jake FM) Oklahoma City uses song tags and they have been helpful--even for currents I'd already heard a few times.
Finally, I heard a radio station run a 30-second promo for its Website song ID feature this morning. And you can just imagine the conversation that must have taken place: "If you're going to run a 30-second promo, why not just ID the songs on the air?" "Because that will wreck the flow."
Written May. 25, 2010 in Content + Internet Radio + Mobile Media + Technology + Terrestrial Radio with 0 Comments
It was once a cliché, but it's rare to hear stations asking listeners to set a button for their station anymore. Perhaps some broadcasters (wrongly) consider it irrelevant in PPM world. Perhaps the constant crossplugs for their Web content, or encouragement to connect via Facebook and Twitter, is taking up all that on-air real estate.
But it can never be wrong to ask listeners for the order. (Or, for that matter, to thank them for their existing business.) Or to try and set or reinforce in-car radio listening as its challengers gear up against it. And one also can't help noting that one of the much-cited revelations of PPM is that people who were thought to listen to an average of three stations instead consume an average of six. In other words, about as many stations as they have on their top suite of punch buttons. So why not make sure you're one of those buttons?
When the Infinite Dial does come to every car radio, of course, how stations are found is going to be crucial. I've said for several years that unless broadcasters show some interest in helping design the directory, radio's future is in the hands of a relatively small number of aggregators whose personal taste in station recommendation clearly runs to pureplays, foreign stations, and exotica. Mobile listeners' current choices for streaming existing over-the-air brands are relatively involved directories or single-station apps. And one reason for Pandora's success must be that it offers both the multiple-station choice of the former and the ease-of-use of the latter.
So it's worth checking out Livio Radio's effort to bring the six-button model to mobile streaming with its new Car Internet Radio app. Much of it will look familiar if you've been using a stream aggregator app such as WonderRadio (my radio dial of choice for the last six months), but Livio's app is built to replicate the six button ergonomics of a car radio, as well as containing the rough equivalent of a scan button that gets you similar stations to what you're listening to.
You can see my full review of the Car Internet Radio app here. There were still a lot of early bugs, and I'm not ready to abandon my other apps until I have at least the two or three suites of buttons that I have on an existing car radio. But as an attempt to give radio the mobile ease of use of Pandora, it moves things in the right direction.
And, of course, it makes asking for the order that much more important, particularly for any listeners who are choosing not 18 stations from a market's available 40 or so, but six stations from an Infinite Dial. And it once again forces stations to offer something that will set them apart from scores of other jockless Bob- and Jack-FMs or from hundreds of Kiss FMs.
Written May. 3, 2010 in Music Industry + Technology with 0 Comments
With the news that Apple is shutting down Lala.com, perhaps in anticipation of some sort of cloud-based iTunes, there is no reason not to go public anymore with the reasons I liked Lala.
I'm still from the generation that wants to own hard copies of music, even if that hard copy is merely my purchased MP3 burned to a CD-R. So the music-in-a-cloud thing was not their killer ap, for me. But . . .
Lala was cheaper than the iTunes Music Store, not enough to bother with when the difference was 89-cents vs. 99-cents, but definitely when it was 89-cents vs. $1.29.
And it allowed me, in at least one instance, to buy a soundtrack song without forcing me to buy the entire rest of the album.
As somebody who uses iTMS mostly for catalog -- and not the kind of catalog that a lot of people are so anxious to own -- I've been surprised recently by how many songs have gone up to $1.29 and how few obscurities have gone down to 59-cents.
Why shouldn't somebody pay more for an in-demand hit song, labels asked? Fine. So why should I pay as much as a current hit for the 1967 obscurity "You Can Bring Me All Your Heartaches" by Lou Rawls? Now, if this was a merit-based system...
Fortunately, there's still Amazon.com when you disagree with iTMS pricing. At least today.
Written Mar. 30, 2010 in Podcasting + Technology with 0 Comments
There's no better predictor of behavior than behavior. Yesterday's nugget from our upcoming Infinite Dial 2010 study reported that one in four Americans had ever hooked their iPod/MP3 player up to their car stereo. This number, to use the parlance of a statistician, is frickin' huge. It's huge because one in four cars are not equipped with simple iPod interfaces or docks. Instead, nearly 25% of Americans 12+ (or, more than half of Americans who own an MP3 player) have weathered considerable friction to listen to their devices in their cars. Tens of millions of us have used cassette adapters, crappy FM transmitters and other Rube Goldberg-ian contraptions to hear our own music on our car radios.
What this means, of course, is that far more than one in four of us want to listen to iPods in our cars, and when that process is frictionless and seamless for all of us, that number will explode.
Written Mar. 7, 2010 in Technology with 1 Comment
Netscape founder Marc Andreesen recently reminded me of the legend of Cortes, who upon arriving in Mexico, ordered his men to burn the boats so they would be forced to embrace the New World. With no possible way home (and having "escape" removed as an option) his men would be forced to find a way to live off the land and commit to the mission wholeheartedly.
Andreesen's advice (given here as part of an interview in Techcrunch) was more intended towards print media, but the lessons absolutely apply to radio. His point was that as long as old media continues to look for ways to lock audience in to apps, or behind paywalls, they will never fully embrace the New World and will be swamped by those who will. New World explorers aren't building subscriptions, they are focused on the bigger market--the open Web. As Andreesen puts it, ”All the new companies are not spending a nanosecond on the iPad or thinking of ways to charge for content. The older companies, that is all they are thinking about.” If you don't cannibalize yourself, someone else will be glad to do it.
His "burning boats" analogy suggests an interesting thought experiment (and Larry loves my thought experiments) that I'd like you to try. And don't just try this alone--bring it to your team and get the whole staff involved. Make a day of it. It might be the most powerful advice I could ever give you. Really. Do this.
Your "boat" is your tower--the terrestrial stick that blasts your signal into cars and homes in your coverage area. For the sake of this exercise, burn it. Imagine it was irrevocably destroyed.
Do you have a business?
If the answer is no, lock everyone in that room until you come up with a way to make the answer yes. But make no mistake--the boats are burning. If you are a local repeater of nationally syndicated content, your boat is burning. If you are the 2nd AC station in a market, your boat is burning. If your a non-personalized jukebox (and blaming PPM for the reasons why you have become a non-personalized jukebox) your boat is burning. Almost all of you reading this, in fact, should smell the smoke right now.
When the boats stop burning, there will be remarkably fewer terrestrial radio stations in each market than there are today. If you can genuinely answer yes to the question I posed above, you'll be one of them.
Written Feb. 2, 2010 in Podcasting + Technology with 1 Comment
I know I spend a lot of time extolling the latest advancement in digital radio initiatives from the UK's Absolute Radio, but at the same time, they keep doing things that I haven't seen from anyone else.
Watch the video, and see how they have quickly responded to the opening up of the Kindle platform to make their podcasts available. The Kindle is a lot newer in the UK than in the US, and I'm not aware of an American station that has gone this way, even with the longer lead time.
Absolute is showing a commitment to being available to anyone on any platform. Of course the podcasts are sponsored - Absolute is not giving away their content; they are finding new ways to make money off of it.
If you are interested in learning how Absolute is putting their podcasts on the Kindle, or how it is going for them, shoot me an email.
Written Jan. 27, 2010 in Technology with 7 Comments
People who know me, know that I'm one of the biggest Apple fan boys ever, so it might surprise them to learn that I'm going to take a pass on Apple's new iPad. Your mileage may vary, but I have two particular use cases for such a device: First, I'm a road warrior--an inveterate frequent-flier--and I'm on the road for at least half the year. So, I'm looking for something lightweight, powerful and travel-friendly that I can work on. The second use-case I have is for something I can work on in coffee shops/restaurants or anywhere else I can snag Wi-Fi, since I don't work in a traditional office setting. For those scenarios, again what I need is something I can type on that has significant battery life, in case I need to be away from a power strip for a prolonged period of time.
Yes, the iPad is thin and light, and yes, it does purport to have up to 10 hours of battery life (which, using the MacBook Air Battery Distortion Calculator I'll take to mean 6 hours.) But--and this is a very big but--did you watch Steve Jobs try to type on that keyboard during his live demonstration? Did that look comfortable to you? I haven't seen a device so tailor-made to produce an ergonomic injury since Steve Martin invented the "OptiGrab" in The Jerk. You already know how the touchscreen keyboard is going to feel if you have an iPhone, and just because your typing surface is larger doesn't mean it's going to feel natural or comfortable. Without the haptic feedback of a physical key, the "give" that prevents fatigue from settling in as I type, there is just no way I am going to want to write on that thing for more than 10 minutes (go try it on your window for 5 minutes and tell me how it felt.) The promo video for the iPad trumpets its ability to adapt to how you want to work, but that is only a meaningful distinction if your greatest usability concern is whether to work in portrait or landscape.
If you are a knowledge worker, you already know you can't work on this thing for long. If you are a traveling knowledge worker like me, that means that you'd have to pack the iPad AND a laptop (and an iPhone). In other words, a third device. Jobs claims that the iPad is in fact a third category between the iPhone and the MacBook, but as a consumer I didn't ask for a third device to carry. Apple's marketing team would tell me that it isn't meant to replace the laptop, but if it can't at least stand in for one, it's too big to cart around in addition. The iPad implementation of iWork is pretty, but "I Work" with a keyboard. Even a stylus and some Newton-era handwriting recognition would have been a welcome addition.
This leaves the iPad as media player, and surely it is a beautiful one. Blows my Kindle away for eBooks (though the screen glare might prove fatiguing), and presents a superior experience for movies. Again, however, for my personal needs I am looking for things that travel light, and the single greatest feature of the iPhone is that it gives me the iPad experience in my shirt pocket. Had Apple started with the iPad and then come out with the iPhone a few years later, I might view the iPad differently. Instead, they made the iPhone bigger, which--again--I didn't ask for.
For my criteria as a hard-working, well-traveled knowledge worker, this is not a transformative device like the iPhone was. And yet it was built up to be just that--Apple fostered the hype prior to the event, and then pitched it like it was Moses' third tablet, not a computer. The icing on the cake was Jobs's positioning of the iPad's price point as some kind of boon to humanity. Maybe if it dispensed clean water, or cured TB he'd be doing the world so great a favor. But in the end, it's a big iPhone. Too big for my front pocket, too poorly suited as a writing tool, it is relegated to a coffee table curiosity, something cool to have laying around when your Windows-using friends drop by for drinks. My coffee table books are rarely read.
Written Jan. 27, 2010 in Technology with 0 Comments
As most readers of the Infinite Dial know, our business, Edison Research, has concentrations both in political research and media research.
Later today, two highly anticipated speeches will be delivered. First up, Steve Jobs will finally debut the iPad and then tonight President Obama will deliver his "State of the Union" address.
Which will we remember better five years from now?
I'm reminded of a fascinating poll taken in 1999, at the height of the internet boom. A legitimate pollster asked: "Who is more responsible for the current economy, Bill Clinton or Bill Gates?" Gates won by a large majority.
Americans seem to know instinctively that while the President is vital, the real driver of our advancements don't come from Washington.
I'm betting Mr. Jobs's speech is far more recalled down the line.
Written Jan. 6, 2010 in Internet Radio + Technology with 0 Comments
I first saw a Pure Sensia radio on a trip to a client in the UK. While we have seen some kinds of versions of an Internet radio for at least a decade, this is the first I have seen to elegantly combine both 'Internet Radio' in any form with the touch-screen functionality of today's mobile phones and to leverage other Internet assets. With so many homes now having WiFi, this is an example of a well-thought-out radio that would truly make someone say: "Wow cool what's that" if they saw it in your living room.
The biggest problem in the short term is the price tag -- at $349 it is unlikely to find many customers, no matter how nice looking it is. That said, radio people should check it out for a vision of where our medium could go if those on the programming side started to also consider the hardware that is used to consume radio.
One can access the press release on the Pure Sensia here
Written Jan. 4, 2010 in Satellite + Technology with 0 Comments
Between an ailing Dad and terrible weather, I spent an inordinate amount of time watching television this holiday period -- especially sports.
One thing that was immediately apparent was that Sirius/XM had bought complete saturation coverage of sports (and also some entertainment shows) over the holidays. And well after Christmas, the spots were still coming. You know, this one with Howard Stern joining the pantheon with Elvis, Michael Jordan, and Richard Pryor:
As I kept seeing these ads over and over it occurred to me just how long it has been since I have seen a single radio spot in New York or anywhere else. While I see the stray billboard here and there (mostly when the boards are owned by the same parent company as the radio station), I would venture the guess that advertising expenditures by US Radio stations in 2009 were at most 5% of what they were in whatever their peak year was (just guessing again -- 1999?).
Kind of like having a child, advertising is an optimistic act. You advertise because you believe it will move your product, because you think it has a future, because you are prepared to make a bet on that future.
As the US 'terrestrial' radio industry has retreated from any 'external marketing' it is not just failing to remind people to listen. It is sending a quiet message about its future. If Sirius XM can afford to advertise (Sirius XM! -- the company that 'terrestrial radio' was cheering the demise of just recently) then surely America's radio stations can find some free cash to promote themselves. They have to remember they aren't just promoting this station or that, they are promoting an entire medium.
Written Dec. 15, 2009 in Advertising + Marketing + Technology with 2 Comments
eMarketer's Geoff Ramsey posted his Seven Predictions For 2010 yesterday, and while I generally eschew soothsayers (say that five times fast!) these predictions make so much sense, and affect you and your stations so directly, that they are an essential precis for thinking about the next 12 months and beyond.
I won't recapitulate all of his bullet points here, because you should read his article at the source. I will, however, point out that there are two ways to read these predictions if you are a radio pro. One, of course, is pessimistic. Spending on traditional radio is going to continue to erode. It isn't going back to where it was, and it isn't going to go up again--ever. I know there have been some claims from radio executives to the contrary, but I have to side with eMarketer here. The dollars allocated to traditional, terrestrial commercial radio advertising have seen their high-water mark.
Geoff also predicts that the traditional interruption model of advertising is going to erode further, and he's clearly on the mark there. Commercial TV has already reacted to this by adapting their content to Hulu and other online services. The channel is different, the expectations are different and consumers are less and less willing to make the trade-off of attention for "free" programming when the average Internet user now has not only the means but the will to circumvent irrelevant messaging. This means that for radio, as for other mass media channels, selling spots alone is not going to monetize your content sufficiently. Stations that do not adapt to this (the time to take proactive steps is long past) will simply go dark. There is no "rule" that says your market is supposed to support 50 stations, or even 20 terrestrial stations. In the coming few years, these markets are simply going to contract. That's the writing on the wall.
I said there were two ways to read these predictions. The second way--the way I prefer to read them--is optimistic. Geoff notes that while dollars allocated to media ad buys are imploding, content consumption is exploding. This is truly a golden age for content consumers, who now have more ways to filter and aggregate relevant content than ever before. In past years, only those of us on the geeky edge of the stick programmed our own Internet content experiences to seek out relevant content chunks and skip past irrelevant, valueless messaging (like uncontextualized advertising). Today, the tools the average online consumer has access to are doing that filtering for them. This is going to continue to dramatically increase, not decrease, the amount of online content consumed, and also increase consumers' satisfaction with that content. Geoff notes that technology is driving content to become more distributed, personalized, and contextualized. Consumers can no longer be expected to come to the mountain (that's you); they now expect the content to be distributed across multiple channels and sources to come to them. Content producers that create relevant content, tailor it to various interests and preferences, and distribute it in a platform-independent way, will gain the valuable time and attention of consumers, and they in turn will develop deeper and deeper relationships with content producers that can be monetized well beyond a screaming :60.
For the radio industry, those that concentrate on the atomic units of online content and work to make those units targeted, well-distributed, and relevant will claim their share of the ever-increasing spend for online marketing. That, for a radio industry prepared to rethink its core offering, is the optimistic part of Geoff's predictions. Consider this: ten or fifteen years ago, my "network" was NBC--Seinfeld, Fraser, Friends--you remember. Today, my network is my friends--those I've met, and those I follow online--and I trust that network to filter my content for me. That means all the content I receive in a given day has already passed some kind of bar for engagement, trust and relevance. That's table stakes today. Making your content sharable and personalized isn't the future--it's the current cost of doing business.
I think the hardest thing for radio to wrap its head around, however, will be the decreasing importance (though it's silly to say death) of reach. Reach was king when media was inefficient--when the only way we could reach 1,000 was to blast to 100,000. The Internet changed that game irrevocably. Discrete, targeted chunks of relevant platform-independent content now reach 1,000 when 1,000 of the right people filter that content in--and they are much more satisfied with that content, as it becomes less and less cluttered with irrelevancies. For radio, the economics of "wasting" 99,000 impressions with every message are catching up. The Internet punishes waste. Measuring reach is becoming less and less relevant, and (despite media's current infatuation with the term) even engagement's star will wane as it's held to the stronger light of providing tangible value for advertisers.
What is radio's value? Same as it has always been--its ability to put butts in seats, showrooms and restaurants. As the power of the tower fades, Radio's ability to move consumers has never been stronger. You've only got to heed the call.
Written Dec. 4, 2009 in Technology with 0 Comments
Here's one of the best Seth Godin posts I've read in a long time, entitled "Is it too late to catch up?" If you've watched the last five years or so go by without any appreciable change in your digital strategy (and no apparent forward progress) it is tempting to think that yes, indeed, it is too late to catch up. But Godin's clarion call at the end of his very practical and actionable post is this:
The problem is no longer budget. The problem is no longer access to tools.
The problem is the will to get good at it.
Go and do likewise.
Written Nov. 9, 2009 in Internet Radio + Technology with 0 Comments
Last week I attended the Internet Summit in Raleigh and heard something remarkable. John Kosner, the Senior Vice President and General Manager of ESPN Digital Media, was interviewed about some of the changes and decisions made in the process of creating the Internet's dominant cross-platform sports brand. He revealed that about a year ago they did some focus groups (remember those?) on their home page, and learned that their home page was too cluttered, too difficult to navigate and had far too much going on. As a result, they redesigned their home page to fit three principles: Easy to find, Easy to use, and Easy on the eyes.
As a direct result of this redesign, revenues for the site increased 35%.
That's 35%. In a very, very tough year.
Design matters. It isn't about making a pretty website. It's about removing the barriers on your site to what, exactly, you want your visitors to do when they get there. It's a subject I've addressed many times in this space, but nothing beats evidence from the cash register. The vast majority of radio station websites seem to want us to do everything at once, instead of welcoming visitors with something clean and inviting, then sorting out why they came and how we can help them.
Most of radio's digital initiatives have, to date, centered around driving people back to station home pages--but what exactly awaits them when they get there? If you could get your site visitors to do one thing when they landed on your home page, what would it be? How could you address that one thing in a redesign of your site?
To quote Steve Martin, if I could get two wishes this holiday season, the first would be for the stuff about world peace and the kids, but the second would be for the industry to stop building flashy, blinky eyeball bleeders like this, and imagine what design could be like if we first focused on them, not us.
Written Oct. 26, 2009 in Research + Technology with 0 Comments
One of the most pronounced expressions of the economic downturn came in the form of the year-over-year data for the nation's top daily newspapers, as reported by the Audit Bureau of Circulations. As can be seen, every one of the reporting metropolitan dailies is down, with several down over 20%. (Only the national Wall Street Journal gained.) Clearly, when the squeeze hit so many households, one of the first, and perhaps in this digital age one of the easiest plugs to pull was the daily newspaper subscription.
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL -- 2,024,269 -- 0.61%
USA TODAY -- 1,900,116 -- (-17.15%)
THE NEW YORK TIMES -- 927,851 -- (-7.28%)
LOS ANGELES TIMES -- 657,467 -- (-11.05%)
THE WASHINGTON POST -- 582,844 -- (-6.40%)
DAILY NEWS (NEW YORK) -- 544,167 -- (-13.98%)
NEW YORK POST -- 508,042 -- (-18.77%)
CHICAGO TRIBUNE -- 465,892 -- (-9.72%)
HOUSTON CHRONICLE -- 384,419 -- (-14.24%)
THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER -- 361,480 -- N/A
NEWSDAY -- 357,124 -- (-5.40%)
THE DENVER POST -- 340,949 -- N/A
THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC -- 316,874 -- (-12.30%)
STAR TRIBUNE, MINNEAPOLIS -- 304,543 -- (-5.53%)
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES -- 275,641 -- (-11.98%)
The PLAIN DEALER, CLEVELAND -- 271,180 -- (-11.24%)
DETROIT FREE PRESS (e) -- 269,729 -- (-9.56%)
THE BOSTON GLOBE -- 264,105 -- (-18.48%)
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS -- 263,810 -- (-22.16%)
THE SEATTLE TIMES -- 263,588 -- N/A
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE -- 251,782 -- (-25.82%)
THE OREGONIAN -- 249,163 -- (-12.06%)
THE STAR-LEDGER, NEWARK -- 246,006 -- (-22.22%)
SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE -- 242,705 -- (-10.05%)
ST. PETERSBURG (FLA.) TIMES -- 240,147 -- (-10.70%)
One has to wonder how much of these losses comes from people saying: "Why do I really need the actual physical newspaper any longer? They are giving it away for free online, and I won't have to haul it out to the curb every two weeks anymore."
These disastrous numbers also makes one think of the advantage of "Free" that radio has. In today's environment, discretionary expenses like subscriptions to a newspaper or satellite radio have to be the easiest thing to jettison from the household budget. Meanwhile no one has to consider dropping AM/FM Radio. We also have to consider the strategy newspapers have largely taken with regard to the Internet -- giving away their content for free online, and as the saying goes 'replacing analog dollars with digital pennies."
Meanwhile, what is the one newspaper that is NOT putting its content for free online? Yes, that one paper that didn't shrink, The Journal.
Written Oct. 21, 2009 in Internet Radio + Technology + Terrestrial Radio with 5 Comments
I'm proud to work with Absolute Radio in the UK. Since taking over Virgin Radio in the UK just one year ago, the team at Absolute Radio, led by COO Clive Dickens, has launched an incredible array of digital initiatives which put to shame the efforts of most integrated, consolidated radio operators around the world.
Allow me to list just some of the things they are doing. And think about them in the context of providing unique, non-commodity experiences in exchange for signing up for a master Absolute VIP membership. This squarely puts Absolute in the database game with a whole host of revenue (and relationship) opportunities that may or may not have anything to do with "ratings."
- www.comparemyradio.com is a cross-station search engine that combs through the "now playing" metadata on all UK stations and returns information on what the most popular songs are and what the most played artists on each station are. It allows you to enter an artist or song, see how often it is played on various UK stations, so that you can pick a station that best suits your taste. The engine is "egalitarian" in that it includes both Absolute Radio stations and their competitors, and certainly has a user benefit -- but the really clever bit is that Absolute is capturing all of that search and click-through behavior, instead of their competitors getting it. Learn more from James Cridland's blog post.
- www.songofthedecade.com is a user-generated content site that allows visitors to vote for their favorite song from the past decade and contribute notes about the music. It's a unique joint venture with Spotify and Shortlist and the especially clever bit is that it captures email addresses in an entirely contextual and appropriate manner to drive Absolute VIP membership.
- www.dabbl.co.uk is a completely user-controlled radio experience that broadcasts online and on DAB. Again, it drives Absolute VIP membership by requiring sign-ups to vote for songs, with the added hook that all the songs are special live concert versions from the Absolute archives. Unique content, unique experience. Essentially, they have built their own version of the "Listener Driven Radio" or "Jelli" packages that are being syndicated, with the added benefit of unique content that simply cannot be matched.
- www.onegoldensquare.com/labs. They have developed their own internal development group called One Golden Square Labs. They likely have as many Web and Mobile developers for their one radio station as any American group employs. As with Google Labs, they allow users to see what they are up to, allowing users to act and feel like "insiders" while they experiment with the various new toys OGS is developing.
- Of course, they have a free iPhone app called the iAmp for live streaming, but they also offer a paid app (for about 99 cents) called LiveAmp which offers a richer gateway to live festivals, gigs and concerts by aggregating live videos of bands, interviews, photos of various festivals and even twitter feeds that mention musical acts. A calendar of upcoming shows is also integrated. Listeners can also stream the Absolute stations, but this app really aims to be the "home page" for the UK concertgoer. The iAmp Android app is also up and running with support for Nokia & Blackberry on the way.
- They have developed their own dynamic Podcast channel on the iTunes music store. This helps facilitate even more downloads and they are making podcasting a profitable business, while many American companies are still struggling to figure it all out. Absolute has over 750,000 downloads per month of their unique, non-music content, and it is growing at a fast clip. The new iTunes channel will likely accelerate downloads even more.
- They have 'open' playlist meetings for listeners and advertisers, humanizing the company with behind-the-scenes views of the stations. Tom Webster wrote about this over the summer, and it is an idea Absolute have truly taken to heart.
It's worth mentioning that virtually almost all of these efforts are profitable, or at least paid for. Most podcasts go out with a spot attached. Every site is ad supported. Partnerships abound.
These are just the efforts that have already gone public. A variety of other new approaches to relationship building and digital assets are in the pipeline.
Is Absolute Radio the most innovative radio station in the world? They are certainly the most innovative I've come across. Have other nominees for such a title? What are your nominees for the most innovative radio station in the world? Let us know in the comments!
Written Oct. 21, 2009 in Technology with 0 Comments
TechCrunch is reporting that Google will soon launch a service called Google Music, which presumably will deliver the latter in the style of the former. There is probably nothing new here, per se, other than the fact that this new service has all the advantages of Google's gigantic "reach."
I point this out not to highlight yet another thing that is going to kill radio, but to remind you all that services like this facilitate the sharing of music--playlists, recommendations, curation--and radio can use them just as well as anyone else. If Google makes sharing and listening to music friction-free, then music radio stations have just as much right to use these services to communicate and share with listeners as anyone else. Look at it this way--Google may be unveiling a potential threat, but they are also probably making sharing music content easier than ever (as they do,) and you can use that to your advantage, if you embrace and do not fear. Revenue trumps Ratings, and Relationships will drive Revenue in radio's digital future.
Written Oct. 8, 2009 in Technology with 0 Comments
Zipcar recently released an iPhone application allowing the user to rent, locate and unlock a car. Aside from the cool factor here, what blows me away is the fact that the Internet is really just the next, best universal remote control. What used to be a purely 'virtual' activity is now weaving in to real life activity, in real time.
A few years ago, Larry Rosin warned that terrestrial radio would have to be prepared for the threat posed by internet-based media once listeners have internet access that isn't tethered to a home or work PC. Now with the iPhone and other all-the-time web-enabled wireless gadgets out there, it's safe to say the age of "internet everywhere" is well upon us.
What I find fascinating about having Internet everywhere is that this could be an opportunity to change a person's online--AND offline--behavior by catching him or her outside the standard internet environment (the home or office). Think about what influences you when you sit down at your home computer. You probably have a web-browsing routine that only deviates when you've been sent a link or seen an ad or feature that catches your interest. "Internet everywhere" gives you the opportunity to grab someone's attention at a particular time and location and direct them on to the web right in that moment.
So maybe listeners don't surf the radio dial as much as they used to, but, they do have one big universal remote. It's your station's job to make sure the listeners know how to find their channel.
Written Sep. 11, 2009 in HD Radio + Marketing + Music Industry + Technology with 2 Comments
I wrote a few days ago about the new iPod Nano, and the killer combination of FM Radio and video capture that could make the new iPod a vibrant, participatory platform for radio stations to engage younger listeners. Here's another thing to think about. For almost a decade, radio has treated iPods and other MP3 players like the proverbial elephant in the room--all too aware that they had become an integral part of their listeners' lifestyle, but too afraid to acknowledge their use, lest they encourage listeners to migrate further away from radio and towards the retreat of the little white earbuds. But widespread distribution of this Nano (and make no mistake, like past iterations of the Nano, it's going to sell a bajillion units) could possibly have other unintended benefits for the industry as a whole.
Here's one: tagging. Previously relegated to the HD Radio minors, song tagging now gets its shot at the big leagues. Stations that talk about new music, should talk about tagging new music, whether you see a dime of those purchases or not. Can you imagine some scenarios where the kind of clickstream accountability that Google enjoys might be useful to demonstrate for radio? Even more specifically, can you imagine some upcoming licensing battles in which a clear demonstration of radio's power to sell music might be helpful? The Internet may have usurped much of radio's new music discovery position, but new music discovery on the Internet leads merely to music..ahem..."acquisition," while tagging leads to purchasing. The genie may be out of the bottle on torrents, peer-to-peer and other popular means of downloading free music, but if radio has a role in driving legitimate music sales, lets see it once and for all by talking about and encouraging tagging on the air, whenever possible. Let's sell some of these new iPods for Apple (as if they needed help) and let each new device serve as a portable purchase meter (or PPM for short--trademark pending) to demonstrate the power of radio as a new music platform AND a driver for purchasing behavior.
Not only will this help the radio industry prove its point regarding music licensing, it will also serve as an example of the tactical power of radio to drive purchases, period. You might dismiss this, and point out that the majority of listeners won't own one of these iPods, and that the numbers wont be all that attractive. Not at first, no. And maybe not ever. But life rewards action.
Written Sep. 10, 2009 in Technology with 0 Comments
Okay, the new, much-discussed Apple Nano is finally going to feature an AM/FM radio and allow live pausing. So what would I go back to hear, if I could?
* The weather forecast, of course. But the thing I miss on the radio most often, the relevant part of the traffic report, will remain lost to me until there's finally similar technology on my car radio.
* The scream at the end of the bridge on "Out Of Touch" by Hall & Oates (and a lot of similar great passing moments in records that inevitably take place when you're suddenly in a conversation).
* The guitar solo in "Can't You Hear My Heartbeat" by Herman's Hermits.
* The elusive news headline that is all over the radio, but not at the moment you punch in looking for it. Once I heard the news of Michael Jackson's death, it still took a while to come across the right station talking about it at the right time.
* At least an hour or so of WCLX Burlington, Vt., the super-eclectic deep-cuts Triple-A that reportedly changed format yesterday. (Assuming that were actually possible.)
Written Sep. 9, 2009 in Technology with 1 Comment
Apple just announced that they are building an FM Radio into the new, impossibly hot Apple Nano (with built-in video.) Not only that, but the implementation is extremely cool (thanks to Engadget for the photo.) The interface is stellar, and it comes with the one feature that would make radio cool again - live pausing. So, despite some pundits' assertions to the contrary, Apple has just invited broadcast radio into what will be the killer holiday gift of 2009. The Infinite Dial just got a little more distribution...
...And, given that the video camera is what will make this a must-have (compared to the popular Flip cameras, one of which I own, it is almost impossibly thin--and comes with an iPod), there are all kinds of cool ideas for promotions for your station. Now, with one device (that you could easily give away) you can reach your listeners and ask them to capture their own videos of station events, concerts and other local "spectacles" to upload and share on your website (or wherever they want, really, which is the point). This will be the second (or replacement) iPod that teens and tweens, especially, are going to want to own, so the opportunities are there to connect, share and participate in social media for every radio station.
Written Aug. 24, 2009 in Social Networking + Technology with 0 Comments
I'm often asked by some of our radio industry readers how to get started with social networking and learn the ropes, so to speak, of connecting with listeners online. I'm far from an expert--and, at this stage of the game, I'd distrust anyone who says they are!--but I can share one thing we've done here at Edison that has proven more successful than I initially hoped.
The tactical "hows" of social networking are easy, and chances are many of you already know them--I see you on Facebook. There are also the strategic "hows" (and the "whys") that are not so obvious. Engaging listeners online, whether it's through social networking sites or even through blog comments, requires a certain level of transparency and committed participation to really work. That "transparency" can't be faked--if you don't have it, you can't play the game. Letting your listeners in on the processes--music meetings, programming decisions, coverage of local issues--all has to come before you can start talking the transparency talk.
One way to dip your toe into that kind of transparency is to start with a sandbox--a protected environment, behind your firewall, in which to "practice." Today, especially with the rampant morale problems many budget-crunched radio stations are experiencing, internal transparency is equally important to (and a prerequisite of) external transparency. As managers, you know the importance of effectively communicating policy changes, layoffs and other realities of broadcasting in 2009 to the troops--but one-way communication is so two-thousand-and-late. If you are not ready to have employees--air talent, sales talent, promotions, etc.--touch your decision-making process, then you aren't ready to engage listeners either.
Many stations do this through email, but email is actually a poor place for this sort of communication--CC and BCC are poor proxies for dialogue, messages have to be duplicated for various responses, and email repositories are private, ephemeral entities that vanish when employees do. Here at Edison, we've been experimenting with a kind of private Twitter, an enterprise microblogging service called Socialcast. If you are currently posting to Facebook, you know how to use Socialcast--basically, it's just a protected, company-only social networking site to which employees can post short status updates, files and links--and comment on the posts of others.
I wasn't sure how this would work at Edison, but so far I've been very encouraged. It's become a great source for learning about what others are working on, sharing resources to help with projects, and even the odd funny video or two (if you try and restrict the communication, you basically put up barriers to usage). All of the wisdom, resources and knowledge that used to walk out the door at 5:30 is now stored online, tagged and searchable by future users. It's less intrusive than IM, more "social" and mine-able than email, and it's just fun to use.
Depending on your management style, you might find your employees are more or less willing to express their opinions about the day-to-day operations of your station, group or cluster. But it's a first step. In the process, you'll do more than simply improve employee relations and retention of company information, you'll also identify the "sharers" in your organization--the folks who might best represent your station AND your listeners in more public forums. The talent is there--you probably already have people in the building who know all you need to know about social networking--it just needs to be identified, encouraged and trusted. Sandbox services like Socialcast are great for all three.
Finally, a personal note--there are a lot of "gurus" out there in social media, but no one can manage your online reputation and engage listeners better than you. Social media is about sharing, not broadcasting. This post has been about something that worked for us, I hope it works for you. And if you've found something that works for you, share it here in the comments or connect with me on Twitter. If this blog is not about you, then we're doing it wrong.
Written Aug. 12, 2009 in Technology with 0 Comments
EMI, Sony, Warner Music and Universal Music Group, the four largest record companies, have been in talks with Apple to enhance the included content that comes with digital albums purchased from the iTunes store. Possible additions may include photographs, video clips and lyric sheets.
In this latest effort to boost sagging album sales, they are hoping to lure in consumers who are otherwise interested in just the singles. According to Nielson SoundScan, sales of albums in digital formats have increased 19% to 39 million. But sales of CDs have suffered a big blow, dropping from 179 million units last year to 141 million units this year. The drop is attributed to more people buying only singles.
Those that really want the "extras" that come with CDs would be able to get them if this Apple deal goes through. Both sides are hoping that this pool of former CD consumers will migrate to iTunes and rethink the value of buying a whole album instead of just a single. However, there are two kinds of people who still buy CDs: those that are not tech savvy with online apps and gadgets, and those who would consider themselves purists and collectors. Is additional digital content a big enough draw to bring either of these groups in? While it seems like a win-win for Apple and the record companies, I think the success will depend largely on a few key points:
First, those that do prefer to have the lyrics, liner notes and other extras likely seek them because they have a collection or a shelf full of CDs that they showcase. Many of these same people have a basement full of vinyl--and are proud of it. These are the music lovers, the "connoisseurs" who put the new disc in, sit back and read the CD jacket while they listen to the new tracks. Is it satisfying for them to have all the goodies in digital format, or will they still prefer to hold it in their hands? Chances are it will be the latter.
As for the CD buyers who do so out of need, they must create a new media habit. Until they take the plunge and head online, they will likely continue to purchase only CDs and will do so less and less because of the hefty price tags. The labels (and Apple) will certainly need to address the price point issue and show these consumers that digital albums are considerably cheaper than the traditional. I'm not sure if that will be enough to force a new media behavior change on someone, but it is probably the best place to start, especially in this economy.
For this arrangement with Apple to work, the ad campaign will have to be big and tackle the cost issue along with the value added from the bonus material. Apple would be wise to tie in the ease of use aspect as well to help attract those online hesitators. This is currently being addressed by their competitor, Sansa, who rolled out SlotRadio (a simplified music player with pre-loaded content) this past Spring. They too have partnered with record companies to include bonus content on the slot cards that contain the pre-loaded music.
No matter who they are targeting, Apple should add the extras without increasing the current costs of digital albums. This will take some wheeling and dealing I'm sure, but consumers need to feel that they are getting more for less, or in this case, at least more for the same. But the genie of lower music prices--especially online--is difficult to put back in the bottle once its been let out.
Written Aug. 5, 2009 in Social Networking + Technology with 0 Comments
New research has been released in the last few weeks about the state of illegal downloading and what drives "music pirates" to flout the law. In two separate studies, the news is more promising than it has been in years and may cause record companies to take a new look at how to battle this ongoing threat.
According to a recent study by Britain-based The Leading Question, a media and technology research agency, music piracy seems to be on the decline, at least in the UK. This January 2009 study shows that 17% of music fans are file sharing on a regular basis (defined as at least once per month), compared to the 22% that were doing so in December 2007. Teenagers actually had the biggest drop in file sharing. In December 2007, 42% of 14 – 18 year olds engaged in file-sharing, compared to only 26% in this latest research.
The research suggests that the move away from file sharing is directly related to an increase in audio streaming, especially for teens. Sites like Pandora and YouTube offer easy to use, free music services that allow would-be downloaders to legally get their tunes. This concurs with our own data showing that teens are frequent users of streaming audio sites and services. While pirates are still dabbling in illegal sharing, they undoubtedly are doing it less with these free streaming sites.
Coincidentally, a separate report released by the US-based research company Interpret shows that illegal downloaders tend to be hard-core, passionate music consumers who are not unwilling to pay for music--they just gravitate to more unconventional means. Compared to those who buy CDs, they are more likely to buy music through games such as Guitar Hero and through other gaming consoles. These pirates also favor individual songs rather than entire CDs. The study also reports that illegal downloaders are 50% more likely than CD buyers to have listened to music on a social networking site.
These findings from both studies are indicative that illegal downloaders will get their music anywhere they can. So what are the record companies to do? For starters, they should concede that music piracy will always exist in some way, shape or form and they will never succeed in abolishing it. But more importantly, they need to get to these pirates “on their own turf” through gaming and sites like Facebook and Twitter and present alternative means to sample, download and yes, purchase music
This piracy war will continue but the playing field is definitely changing and the ball is back in the court of the record companies. Let’s wait and see what their next offensive will be. Any bets?
Written Jul. 27, 2009 in Technology with 2 Comments
But I wanted to focus on this one from Greg Valentine:
That's a great idea. Here's another one: radios (car or otherwise) should include a display not unlike the iPod's so that artist name, song and album title, artwork(!!), and other content are shown in a visually exciting manner (no RDS LCD lettering, please) while the songs we play are airing. In radio, we seem to have accepted our lot that we are to be heard and not seen. This is unacceptable, as people flock to sexier tech. This will require commitment from both broadcasters and radio manufacturers. But to me, this is the number one thing you can do to make the radio a sexier device. Radio's losing the sexy battle. Consumers are speaking. Hear them.
What struck me about this (excellent) comment was that it made me reflect that while I have been involved with the radio industry for over 20 years, attended dozens and dozens of conferences, and held hundreds (if not thousands) of meetings with top radio executives at all levels, I have never once in all these years gotten into discussions of radio hardware. OK...there have been a few conversations about HD Radio issues in the past couple of years, but no one ever talks about the regular 'radios' that people use every day.
I have been involved in so many discussions of 'Radio's PR Problem' and no one ever focuses on the role of hardware in that problem. And, unless one wants to call RDS or scan/seek buttons 'advancements,' there really have been no serious upgrades in what a radio looks like or does in...well since forever.
So what else could be done to make radios 'sexy'? To make the alpha-males out there, who must have their toys, look over someone else's shoulder and say: "Wow...I HAVE to get my hands on one of these!"
Written Jul. 8, 2009 in Technology with 0 Comments
In the summer of 1979, portable music was taken to a new level and music listening would never be the same. Sony rolled out the innovative Walkman--ahead of its time not just for the technology but also for the marketing. Unlike other portable music devices, the Walkman was being targeted to consumers for playing music, not recording it. And as the last thirty years has shown, Sony was onto something there!
The Walkman cost about $200 and forever changed the way we listen to music by making it portable--and personal. By taking music out of the realm of the car or home stereo, the Walkman ushered in the era of music as a companion to everyday activity. It was big and clunky by today's standards, but back then it was considered small and personal. The Walkman moved music from the social to the private, revolutionized our culture and set the stage for the little white earbuds that we are all accustomed to today.
This amazing portable gadget became Sony's hallmark brand, one that they continued to build on throughout the 80s and 90s with CD players (the Sony Discman) and minidisks, and finally to digital files. The introduction of the Apple iPod in 2001, however, ended Sony's ride as the dominant portable music brand. While Sony has sold about 385 million Walkman players worldwide since it was introduced, Apple has sold more than 210 million iPods in just eight years.
So while the original Walkman has been eclipsed by the MP3/portable audio player, it still deserves its place in audio history. It was the granddaddy of music on the go and still serves a purpose in certain environments--including research! The simplistic design of the Walkman still suits older demographics and those less savvy with the bells and whistles that MP3 players provide. Though music continues to transition to digital and online, the legacy of the Walkman's durability and usability lives on.
Written Jul. 2, 2009 in Technology with 11 Comments
Nearly all discussions of the future of radio talk about platforms and programming. But it seems to me that there is the tiniest adaptation to the standard AM/FM radio that is in every car, clock radio or any other kind of radio that would make people actually think about radio in a new way.
How hard would be to put a tiny chip into these radios that allows the listener to simply back up the programming 30 seconds? How many times have you spaced out during a traffic report you wanted to hear, or just missed the punch line from the joke, wanted to hear that 800-phone number 'one more time', or couldn't understand exactly what the lyrics to a song were? Wouldn't you have loved to have been able to just back it up a few seconds and catch what you missed?
I know that embedding a true recording device causes all kinds of rights issues. But just capturing a few seconds to allow someone to track back? Could that really cause any objection? And in today's world could such a chip cost more than a few dollars at the most?
I was a relatively early adopter of TiVo, and I loved watching people's confusion when they first saw me pausing live TV. But by now most people either have DVRs or at least they've seen them. Why aren't we offering the same kind of functionality for radio, even on a limited basis?
How do we get the radio manufacturers to add this feature? And what other cheap functions could make the old-tyme radio cooler?
Written Jun. 30, 2009 in Podcasting + Technology with 2 Comments
There was a funny article in the BBC News Magazine this week about a 13-year old boy who swapped his iPod for an old-school Sony (cassette) Walkman for one week. Scott Campbell learned all about what we used to call "shuffle" (randomly pressing and releasing the FF button,) that cassettes actually had to be flipped over, and, of course, the difference between what Sony called "portable" then and what we expect today.
My favorite quote:
My friends couldn't imagine their parents using this monstrous box, but there was interest in what the thing was and how it worked. In some classes in school they let me listen to music and one teacher recognised it and got nostalgic.
I had one of these exact models, and I fondly remember attaching it to my gym shorts (Jams!) while I mowed the lawn, and, much to the amusement of my neighbors, struggling to keep my shorts pulled up with a 5-lb weight clipped to the elastic. We look back on the Walkman as a chapter in history--clearly, now, it seems silly (as the 8-track did to me as a child). What interests me about technological change, though, is exactly when the tipping point on a particular technology actually happens, and what the signs are. When, exactly, did we realize carrying this brick around was absurd? For most, it was when something newer and smaller came out; for others, it was the change in format to CD. I still own and use three minidisc players for various reasons, so I can be as stubborn a Luddite as anyone. But there comes a point when it is obvious to all that a technology, format or device has passed its sell-by date. The key is being able to recognize the symptoms before this occurs, and shaping the change instead of being shaped by it.
All of which brings me to the wonderful, long list of comments to Larry's provocative post last week on phasing out AM and putting the best content on FM. It was certainly positive to see such a spirited defense of AM--a little passion in a time like this, to quote one of my favorite Raymond Carver stories, is a small, good thing. However, can you imagine a time when the scratchy, mono hiss of AM radio becomes a memory? To the engineers out there, AM is an essential technology for coverage, DX listening, etc., but IP is the new AM, and its coverage is limitless. When a brutal thunderstorm hits, a revolution happens in Iran, or a King of Pop dies, we are learning of these things from device-independent services like Twitter, which with its mobile phone accessibility already has a potential 85% reach.
If you think AM will be around forever, well--I respectfully disagree. But if you think it will one day join the telegraph, shortwave, Satellite Radio and HD as anachronisms, when do you think that will happen? And will you recognize the signs? How many of these signs are already around you?
Getting ahead of the change may take work, but the path is clear. Own as much of your content as you can, make that content great, and get that content on as many devices/services/formats as you can--let the listener choose how they want to consume your content. I've been a big believer and proponent of podcasting in this space for the past five years (here are a few articles to get you started) and am bullish on the creation of box-independent programming as the future of radio. Ownership of content is required to embrace downloadable and on-demand media, which means every station that simply turns their programming over to satellite, or a hard drive at corporate HQ, sells their future in this space to make this quarter's budget. This is already happening with once-exclusive properties like Major League Baseball, and other audio content isn't far behind.
One day, we'll see the next Scott Campbell holding up his father's clunky AM radio in this picture. Whether you see that day as the near future or a distant tomorrow says a lot about how ready you are to face that day.
Written Jun. 16, 2009 in Internet Radio + Social Networking + Technology with 6 Comments
Earlier today, Norway-based Opera released a preview version of Opera Unite, which incorporates innovative new technology into the latest version of their eponymous web browser software. After playing around with it a bit today I've come away quite impressed--especially by its potential as a interface to media.
Opera Unite basically connects browsers to browsers without using client-server technology. In other words, if I want to access media on one computer from another, as long as they are both running Opera Unite they are connected without any intermediary or third-party server. While these sorts of connections have been possible before, they haven't been built into the browser, and haven't been very easy to use. The promise of Opera Unite is that, one day very soon, my parents could fire up their browser and look at new pictures of their grandson on my machine without needing IT support or using yet another login at yet another third-party file/photo sharing site.
For the purposes of this space, the real paradigm shift lies with Opera Unite's media technology, which lets me play music from my home computer on my Macbook Pro using only a web browser--and also lets my friends do the same. OK, that's not revolutionary--but that isn't the end of the vision. Imagine, as Opera's Lawrence Eng has, that I could play a song on my browser, and all my friends could hear it at the same time while browsing the web. Then imagine that Opera Unite Jukebox, as Eng paints it, allows me to put 10 songs into a "queue," and 9 of my friends to do the same. What we've just created is a true, participatory radio station--the ultimate manifestation of bringing your CDs over to a friend's house and having a listening party. Throw in the ability to vote for/rank songs and comment, and you have the radio station of tomorrow.
The trick here for broadcasters of today is not to "beat" this--you can't beat personalized radio--it's to join this. The best way to join is to be one of those 9 friends. As I've written in this space before, social networking connects people with other people, not stations or brands. If you are a music station, the time is now to brand or re-brand your air talent as credible arbiters of musical taste. The fleeting, short-term rewards of the PPM jukebox aside, you cannot out-jukebox the Internet. It's time to find the voices in your community that are knowledgeable and influential on music and give them a platform--regardless of their "jock skills"--and reclaim radio's place as an important platform for music discovery. These voices don't necessarily have to be local--my first "arbiter of taste" was Rock Over London's Graham Dene--but they have to be real people with the freedom to take chances and open the mic again.
Today, when I want to learn about new electronic music, I ask my friend Mike. When I want to learn about new Indie rock, I connect with my friend Chris MacDonald at IndieFeed. These two have earned their place on my Opera Unite Jukebox because I trust them to steer me to the good stuff. Music broadcasters need to stop worrying about the short-term vagaries of PPM and start finding the folks like Mike and Chris in their market who can speak authoritatively about a genre and make informed recommendations to an audience the likes of which no algorithm or database has yet to touch. For music broadcasting to survive, it can't continue to "install formats." Radio has to fundamentally rethink how it connects with listeners, and how it can serve as the intermediary between listeners and advertisers. People will never connect with jukeboxes.
Written Mar. 13, 2009 in Technology with 0 Comments
I'm headed back to New York from Canadian Music Week -- always a great convention -- after having been part of the panel on PPM this morning. Last year, the PPM session drew 10 people, somebody noted; this morning, with Montreal already currency and other markets ready to roll later this year, the room was full.
One of the striking things about the PPM panel is just how drama free it was, compared to any discussion of the subject in the U.S. To a person, anybody you ask will tell you that it's a function of Canadian radio's different relationship with ratings service BBM, a consortium of broadcasters, advertisers, and ad agencies.
Beyond that, there's less opportunity in Canada for some of PPM's hot-button issues to emerge. Urban radio is down to one major outlet -- Toronto's CFXJ (the Flow). Most of the markets to be measured are Country-friendly, more like Dallas and Atlanta than San Francisco or Philadelphia; (Toronto is, again, the exception.) Another diverse market, Vancouver, is more likely to look different in TV than radio ratings. And while most markets have gotten a lot more FMs recently, anything that doubles respondent mentions from three to six stations will still cover half of the major stations in many markets.
Written Mar. 12, 2009 in Technology with 4 Comments
Okay, they've now come out with an iPod shuffle with a "Voice Over" feature that will announce songs for the user. Meaning that as radio tries to sound more like the iPod, the iPod is trying to sound more like radio.
I can already hear some program directors whose stations use song tags, particularly those at jockless stations, trying to replicate the sound of this feature. Just remember, though, that many people believe the iPod has a mind of its own. (Mine, for instance, has a dark sense of humor, as evidenced by the time it segued a song by an artist who had drowned into "Swept Away" by Diana Ross.)
So imagine the talent development session with iJock:
PD: So I've been meaning to talk to you about some of your content.
iJock: Such as?
PD: Well, I couldn't help notice that it's all "that was" and "this is."
iJock: Well, what else do you give me to talk about? Do you let me do any phones? Do you let me do any special features?
PD: No, we've all been told to stop doing those - to compete with you.
iJock: I never get any giveaways either. And you never promote me.
PD: That's ridiculous. There are three TV campaigns a year. There's "I'm a Mac and I'm a PC." You get a ton of attention!
iJock: No, the iPod gets that. When was the last time you did a campaign for Sean's iPod? Say, maybe you don't WANT people to know about me, because then they'd know you have more songs in here by the Bay City Rollers than the Beatles. No wonder only one person listens! And that's another thing; I'm getting tired of the same 1,000 songs over and over.
PD: You only hold 1,000 songs! That's more than twice what most radio stations play. And if you play the same ones over and over, that's your fault. Look, you're very lucky. This isn't exactly a great time for discretionary purchases, if you know what I mean. You work about 90 minutes a day, max, on SOME days...
iJock: It's not my fault that you don't work out more often. Look, I'm getting worn down by this crap. Next time you feel like listening to "S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y Night," I'm just going to have a low battery.
Written Jan. 12, 2009 in Internet Radio + Technology with 11 Comments
I was in the mood for a little Prog Rock over the weekend, so I dialed up Pandora to build a station around Yes. I did not list any songs on purpose, in order to keep it broad and see what the Pandoramator would come up with. Here was the first hour it gave me:
- Long Distance Runaround - Yes
- Spirit of Radio - Rush
- Welcome To The Machine - Pink Floyd
- The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway - Genesis
- Circus of Heaven - Yes
- In Your Eyes - Peter Gabriel (tried to skip, couldn't)
- Survival - Yes
- Sheep - Pink Floyd
- Strawberry Fields Forever - Beatles
- Turn It On Again - Genesis
So, a pretty good mix--I wanted to skip "In Your Eyes," but had used up the number of skips allowed by Pandora's license and had to suffer through. Still, it was mostly true to my (largely unstated) desire to hear a little prog rock. "Circus of Heaven" is not my favorite Yes song by any stretch, but Strawberry Fields actually sounded pretty cool in this mix.
On a lark, I tried the same exercise with Slacker Premium Radio (which, apples to oranges, does allow unlimited skipping of unwanted tracks,) once again only providing the group (Yes) and letting the computer do the rest. Here was Slacker's Prog Rock offering:
- It/Watcher of the Skies - Genesis
- Glad - Traffic
- Memory Lain, Hugh/Headloss - Caravan
- Sheep - Pink Floyd
- Question - Moody Blues
- From the Beginning - ELP
- Teacher - Jethro Tull
- Save Some Time For Thee - Family
- Script For A Jester's Tear - Marillion
- Owner of a Loney Heart - Yes
While the lone Yes track Slacker delivered was a bit of a clunker (or, at least, not quite the 'prog rock' I was hoping for,) I found this hour to be fascinating--some familiar songs from familiar artists (the ELP, Jethro Tull and Moody Blues tracks), some lost classics ("Glad"), a brilliantly welcome live version of "It/Watcher of the Skies" and a very, very deep track from Caravan. Certainly, 20 songs is too small a sample size, so I'll repeat this exercise a few times this week before drawing any broader conclusions. For slaking my questionable jones for Prog Rock yesterday, however, I found the Slacker hour a bit more interesting and varied, and certainly a bit more on point--albeit a good deal less familiar than the Pandora offering.
In fairness, I could have tweaked either playlist slightly by deleting songs, adding artists and so on to give the Pandora and Slacker algorithms a bit more of a clue to the mood I was in. Slacker guessed a bit more correctly what I wanted to hear, but with only one group as input, I'll chalk that up to a random walk for now. Still, the key to mass acceptance and adoption of services like Pandora and Slacker will be how they work "out of the box" with little, if any, input by mainstream listeners. With that criteria in mind, the Pandora offering was far and away more compelling, featuring more tracks by my core artist, more hit singles, and more familiarity in general.
So, that said, what has your experience been with both services? Let's have a face-off here in the comments! Post your sample hours (10 tracks) from each along with your "liner notes" and make your case! I can't wait to see what you come up with.
Written Jan. 8, 2009 in Internet Radio + Satellite + Technology with 1 Comment
...is on your Mac, thanks to the user interface geniuses at Rogue Amoeba. I wrote earlier about Radioshift, which is the best online radio listening/timeshifting app I've seen to date, and now they've put a similar stamp on tuning in XM/Sirius streams online with their new app Pulsar. Highly recommended!
Written Jan. 7, 2009 in Internet Radio + Technology with 0 Comments
I have considerable appreciation for Jake Sigal, the inventor of the ION USB turntable, which has provided me with many happy hours of dubbing obscure vinyl to MP3. In the same way that articles written during Consumer Electronics Show/Macworld week often end with, "Never bet against Steve Jobs," I would take any of Sigal's new products seriously. But I am bemused by one of his planned product announcements for CES: the Abbee Commercial Free FM Radio, which, according to WWJ Detroit, "removes all of the commercials and DJ talk for hours of uninterrupted music."
On one hand, there's a backhanded compliment here. Like the MSN Radio stations of a few years ago that replicated the playlists of mainstream commercial stations, there's something flattering in the belief that your station's music mix would best all other options even out of context. That said, there are a lot of ways to get commercial-free music now. (And Sigal's other new launch for this week is a Wi-Fi Internet radio.) It also makes you wonder if Sigal has heard the post-PPM era's stripped-down radio stations. There may still be 12 minutes of commercials to remove every hour, but more and more stations are pre-removing the DJ talk for your convenience already.
Written Jan. 5, 2009 in Technology with 3 Comments
Courtesy of Gizmodo, Blaupunkt and MiRoamer have partnered on what they are billing as the world's first Internet car radio. The only hitch is that it requires 3G GSM service, which is far from universal, but if you live in an area with good 3G coverage, the day is looming when you'll have your choice of thousands of Internet radio stations to listen to on your commute.
Of course, it goes without saying that your station could be one of those streams, but here are some additional things to think about:
- Eliminate registrations, interstitials and any other kind of hoop or obstacle to a direct stream of your station. These will be rendered pretty useless on a device like this.
- Make the URL to your stream pretty damn simple--like stream.wxyz.com. Less text to enter means I will be more likely to enter it, if I have to tune the thing myself.
- Whether or not any of these show up in your town anytime soon, it is never too early to talk about the fact that "if you have an internet receiver in your car, be sure to tune it to stream.wxyz.com". Gives you something cool to talk about, and conditions your listeners to expect to hear your station online.
- Of course, there is no real added benefit to consumers accessing your exact stream on this thing rather than your AM/FM broadcast--so here is a great place to talk about all of those side channels!
And let's all wait for the telecom networks to start metering our 3G bandwidth!
Written Oct. 13, 2008 in Technology with 4 Comments
The current economic crisis is a scary one for the radio industry, and there is no doubt that not everyone is going to emerge unscathed. Certainly if you are managing or programming a radio station, you are getting comfortable with the term "do more with less," and you are grappling with just how much more you can squeeze out of your day.
Here's a tip, both to cost-effectively improve your station's capabilities, and to develop your own careers. Learn a new language. Not just any language, but HTML. PHP. XML. The language of the web. One of the great things about the Internet is that it is possible to build great looking, functional and effective web sites with your own hands for small investments of money--if you can invest the time. Your cluster's webmaster is a bottleneck to getting content out of the heads of your creative people and on to your station's website. You can drastically streamline that process by hitting the books and learning code.
I'm completely serious about this--HTML is the language of TODAY, not tomorrow. You might react to this, as many already have told me, that "I don't understand all that technical stuff," or "my web guy handles it." In 2008 that's like saying you don't need to learn how to drive, your horse-and-buggy works just fine. Learning the language of the web is de rigeur for stretching your resources and removing the barriers between the great content you have and getting that content to your listeners on the web.
You can't afford not to know. It's a whole lot easier to learn than a foreign language, so don't use that as an excuse, or make the fact that you don't have a "technical" job a crutch to avoid the challenge.
Want to learn more? Need some tips to get started? Pop me an email.
Written Aug. 18, 2008 in Content + Social Networking + Technology with 0 Comments
I was very pleased to see the inclusion of a wiki in Bonneville's new website for The Sound in Los Angeles. To find it, roll over "Be It" in the menu, and select Sound Wiki (or heck, just click here). The wiki runs on the MediaWiki platform, which is the same engine behind Wikipedia, so there is plenty of power under the hood. I love the idea of having a wiki on a radio station website, but before you commit to throwing one up on yours, you need to figure out what kinds of content your listeners will be motivated to create, and whether or not your listeners will perceive your wiki as the most logical place to do that.
If you are asking your listeners to build profiles and engage in the same sorts of social networking behaviors that they are already participating in on Facebook or MySpace--good luck. Those sites do this better than your station possibly can. But if you are looking to build listener-created content based upon your music or your local community, then you have a play. The key is to do it in a way that does not force listeners to replicate an existing behavior, but plays upon everyone's natural urge to tell stories.
Let's examine this in the context of The Sound. Most of the pages in their wiki are about the artists that are played on the station. However, the station has taken the liberty of "pre-populating" the artist wiki pages with content from Wikipedia. Let's set aside the appropriateness of simply recopying Wikipedia content aside for a moment. What a fully-fleshed out page of content like this says to the reader/listener is this: "read me." The art, heart and soul of a wiki, however, is a page that says "write me." "Write Me" is engaging and asks for a commitment from your audience that is instantly rewarded. Changing those pages and telling their stories is the "pro quo" they get for the "quid" of signing up to your station database to gain the privilege of making those edits.
In the case of a fully-formed page about David Bowie, the average listener is going to see this page and be intimidated by it--what more could they possibly add? The "super-fan" might be motivated to comment, but are just as likely to do so on Wikipedia, where these sorts of artist biography pages belong, and to write you nasty letters for ripping Wikipedia off in the first place. Encouraging content contribution on a wiki is as much about structure as it is subject matter. In the case of the former, the key is to provide enough boilerplate content in the form of a template to encourage your audience to easily change it (no one likes to tackle a blank page) but not so much as to be a deterrent to contribution.
Subject matter, however, is even more important. Your station cannot possibly "own" David Bowie on the Internet--you probably don't even "own" him in your market, in the grand scheme of things. The entries on Los Angeles music venues are perhaps more promising, but the average listener doesn't know or care about the history of its construction. They do, however, have stories to tell--seeing Black Sabbath for the first time, getting laid in the parking lot, getting arrested at the Night Ranger show (presumably for attending it), etc. Sharing those stories is a logical purpose for a radio station wiki, and a nobler cause than simply as repository for venue history. You don't need to replicate Wikipedia (or even remotely resemble it). Start modestly, as an online cork board for sticky notes about great concerts your listeners have seen or other truly personal remembrances of the various venues in your market. Eventually, your listeners will engage with you, with each other, and even with some well chosen, carefully placed sponsors that make sense and are relevant to the page or topic.
Having said that, a big BRAVO to Bonneville for designing a website that doesn't look like Yahoo, circa 1999. Good, clean designs are not "decorations," they are conduits to your content.
Written Aug. 5, 2008 in Podcasting + Social Networking + Technology with 0 Comments
If you are in the business of New Media, you really should be at the New Media Expo next week in Las Vegas. This event has really grown into a fantastic conference (this is its first year in Vegas) and I will be speaking on the topic of the efficacy of podcast advertising--who is listening, who is buying, and what podcast content creators can do to get more of both. My talk is at the end of the day on Friday, of course, so once again my big bucket o' data will be the last barrier to cocktail progress for most of the attendees. With that in mind, I'll be concise!
Look me up there, or pop me a note on Twitter if you'd like to meet. With speakers ranging from Gary Vaynerchuk of the enormously popular Wine Library TV to the marketing VP behind Blendtec's "Will It Blend" (which prompted me to buy one!) it will be a fantastic conference with loads of ideas, networking and maybe a little of that Edison statistical magic at the craps table.
I'll also be speaking in September on the topic of podcasting at the NAB Radio show. I get lots of questions from broadcasters about podcasting, specifically who is making it work and how they are getting paid. Between now and then I'll be interviewing some of the industry leaders here in this space so you can read and see for yourself the power of downloadable media and how you can make it work for your station. More soon!
Written Jun. 12, 2008 in Content + Technology with 2 Comments
As the debate over radio's performance rights plays out on Capitol Hill, part of the strategy of the music industry and its congressional advocates is not just trying to sell the fairness of an artist royalty, but also minimizing broadcasters' arguments that radio is still providing significant promotional support for their artists.
And yet, even in a new world where a few records are able to develop some sort of initial buzz without radio, the label strategy is still almost invariably been to take that story to radio, in hopes of making that record even bigger. Radio is what separated Snow Patrol from Moonbabies, Jim Noir, and more than a dozen artists that appeared on the same "Grey's Anatomy, Vol. 2" soundtrack. The non-radio stories generate a week or two of sales, then tend to flicker out unless radio support follows.
So it was instructive to take a look at this week's top selling songs at the iTunes Music Store. In recent years, iTunes has altered the industry's perception of what a hit song is, and has helped create a story for pop/rock records at Top 40 radio. Songs may be incubated in a number of places, but iTunes is where the non-radio stories are most readily apparent.
So let's take the top 15 singles on iTunes from the top. There are no songs selling entirely without airplay, and only a few where it could be said that sales spurred airplay instead of vice-versa:
1 - Coldplay, "Viva La Vida" - Like the handful of Lil Wayne tracks showing sales stories further down the chart, this one got immediate sales by dint of being the second available song from the album of the same name. But it also quickly picked up multi-format airplay and is overtaking first single "Violet Hill" (which quickly reversed on the sales charts once "Vida" became available to consumers and radio).
2 - Katy Perry, "I Kissed A Girl" -- Instant radio hit with sales that clearly responded;
3 - Metro Station, "Shake It" -- Finally went to another level at radio in recent weeks and responded accordingly in sales;
4 - Natasha Bedingfield, "Pocketful Of Sunshine" -- Already receiving some airplay, it was clearly helped by "American Idol," but the radio airplay that spurred has kept it strong after an "Idol" boost would have otherwise tapered off;
5 - Rihanna, "Take A Bow" - Radio hit that was held back from consumers until a month or so of accumulated airplay;
6 - Chris Brown, "Forever" - Initial sales for being a new superstar track, then tapered off until it became a real radio hit;
7 - Jesse McCartney, "Leavin'" -- Instant radio support reinforced by quick sales story;
8 - Leona Lewis, "Bleeding Love" - Radio, foreign and domestic, plus extensive support from TV, press, etc.;
9 - Madonna & Justin Timberlake, "4 Minutes" - Instant radio support on an artist that can't count on it anymore (then a sales story that probably kept it buoyed after the novelty of the superstar duet wore off);
10 - Lil' Wayne, "Lollipop" -- Instant R&B, then pop radio support, but quick sales as well. Hip-Hop's No. 1 artist can certainly put a song on the sales chart ahead of airplay, but the first radio single has had more of a sustained run than the other songs that have preceded "Tha Carter III";
11 - Pussycat Dolls, "When I Grow Up" -- Instant superstar act sales, with the help of some high-impact TV appearances, that preceded being worked to radio by a few days;
12 - Colby O'Donis, "What You Got" - A gradual slow build at radio (No. 13 this week) with sales that now parallel airplay (No. 12 iTunes);
13 - Danity Kane, "Damaged" - Started at radio, has had TV-driven spurts but becoming a real radio hit has sustained it at this level;
14 - Jordin Sparks, "No Air" - The initial headlines, you'll remember, were about how disappointing the album sales were for an American Idol. But "No Air" became a real hit with sustained airplay and sales. Having sustained airplay has clearly quashed any suggestion that she might be less successful than, say, Taylor Hicks (who she has now outsold by 100,000 albums with a third single just getting going at radio);
15 - 3 Doors Down, "It's Not My Time" - Had multi-format airplay right away although sales story is probably giving it the kind of credibility among those Top 40 PDs who have always needed a nudge on pop/rock.
The final count is 13 radio hits and two (Coldplay and PCD) that will likely become so -- no songs that have developed entirely without radio, and no songs where the label has decided not to pursue airplay. It's not a closed ecosystem: TV figures into the story for at least a third of these, but it usually played the role that MTV exposure did a decade ago, helping to further propel songs that were already on the radio.
It's been a while since radio could make any claims about being the only gatekeeper for new music, but however diminished its impact, (and however diminished the value of having a hit), radio still ultimately creates the consensus hits that do exist. You might still believe in an artist royalty, but you can't deny radio its contribution to the industry today.
Written Feb. 4, 2008 in Mobile Media + Technology with 4 Comments
I am starting to see some radio stations sign up for Twitter, the micro-blogging service that allows you to post very brief comments, updates, and the answer to the all-important question: what are you doing now? Twitter has seen rapid adoption precisely because it is so simple. Updates are limited to 160 characters, so terseness is mandatory--and updates are possible using the web, mobile phones, and even IM clients. The best way to describe it might be to think of Twitter as a way to send a text message to ALL of your friends, family and colleagues at once. The fact that you can do this with a regular SMS message from your phone makes Twitter ubiquitous, dead simple and just plain fun to use.
I've been a Twitter user for about a year now, and I am pleased to report that Edison will very soon have some significant data to report about Twitter, Facebook and other social networking tools. Mark Ramsey had a post on using Twitter a few weeks back ("Remedial Listener Outreach") where he advocated using Twitter as essentially another broadcast medium, with some suggestions on how to "blast" information out to those who care to follow. These suggestions are all fine, but miss the point of what makes tools like Twitter potentially transformative for your organization.
Over the past couple of years I have given a number of presentations to stations and conferences about the true power of blogging for radio stations, and many of the same observations are applicable to using Twitter. The power of Twitter is not as simply another broadcast medium--that is "Stage One" Twitter adoption, and frankly EMail works just as well if that is all you are going to use it for. Stage Two Twitter adoption comes about when you begin to follow other Twitterers. I use a handy piece of software for the Mac called Twitterific that constantly feeds the "tweets" of friends, colleagues, gurus, folks I respect and notable bloggers onto my desktop, giving me a real-time zeitgeist for the web. Most frequent Twitterers I know have huge follower--and following--lists, meaning they are not just "broadcasters," but engaging in conversations. If there is something important happening, I'll generally hear about it first on Twitter. In fact, I watched the Super Bowl yesterday with Twitterific on--it was like sitting in the world's biggest sports bar, with play-by-play from hundreds of people I enjoy reading--and communicating with.
Credibility is built on Twitter, then, not simply by "blasting updates," no matter how clever they may be. Twitter is a different dog. Frankly, I accord less trust to Twitterers who are simply broadcasters, because I wonder if they are really listening to the folks they are twittering to? Even those Twitters who I know genuinely involve themselves in conversations (through other means) can send the wrong message on Twitter very easily.
It goes without saying for Stage Two Twitter adoption for Radio that if someone "follows" you (to get your Twitter updates), you should follow them to get theirs. But just following along is not enough--you have to actually listen and respond. Then and only then can you enter Stage Three--and understand the transformative power of tools like Twitter. First, as I mention in my blogging talk, you have to ask yourself this question--are we ready to be transformed? Is our station ready to become a more transparent entity to our listeners? There is tremendous value in joining the conversation if, in fact, you make it a true conversation. Post Twitter updates about new releases, listen to the folks who respond back, and answer them back honestly and genuinely. If listeners Twitter you asking why you don't play a certain record, answer them back like a real person, not like a press release, and you may make a friend. You need a friend. If enough people Twitter you about a record, maybe play the record already! And tweet back that you listened, and that you actually did it.
In that sense, Twitter is like a request line--but a request line that everybody can listen in on, so you'd best not ignore it. If your station is ready to be transformed into a listener-centric organization, that is a fantastic thing. The power of Twitter is not just in broadcasting--and not even broadcasting AND listening--but in joining a conversation of peers and putting a human face on your station.
Written Nov. 8, 2007 in Technology with 1 Comment
I will be sending along a number of thoughts from spending a few days in the wonderful city of Barcelona where I was on two panels at the NAB Europe Radio Show.
The first is the marked general optimism and upbeat attitude as compared to the NAB Radio Show in Charlotte a few weeks ago. European Radio is not without its challenges, but it clearly is not suffering the general malaise that has gotten so much ink in the States.
Secondly, there was continued talk on the theme of American irrelevance when it comes to innovation in radio. It was mentioned on some panels, and several others talked about how they used to fly over to the states or listen to US online streams to learn what was new, and they don't feel they have to do so any longer. While American non-radio companies like Google, Pandora, Facebook, MySpace, and eBay all came up regularly, few are looking to America for radio-centric innovation. A surprising number of Europeans are now coming to me asking for help in cracking the US market for their products or services, something almost unthinkable in the past.
Finally, it's so exciting to see the response to all the changes in media be: "Gee we should do MORE research!" Obviously this is a self-serving perception, but important nonetheless. Europe is working to manage and control the Infinite Dial, instead of having it work upon them. They are making change, and indeed there is much that American broadcasters can learn from them.
Written Oct. 18, 2007 in Technology with 4 Comments
I have been a TiVo user, and TiVo lover for over four years now. Like most TiVo users, watching television without TiVo has become a frustration -- often I am in a hotel room searching for the non-existent pause or rewind button while watching a ballgame or other show.
And, I just as often find myself searching for the same phantom buttons when listening to the radio. My mind wanders as the announcer reads the traffic report . . . and I want to back it up. I receive a call on my cell phone right in the middle of a funny morning-show bit and I just wish I could hit the pause button. I hear a fascinating story on Public Radio and I just so wish I could record it for later playback in my car.
Once you have consumed media in the TiVo way, it is just so hard to go back to traditional media usage.
Since over-the-air radio isn't going to get these functionalities anytime soon it is essential that we fill in the blanks as best as we can.
At minimum over-the-air radio broadcasters need to make podcasting much more robust; Public Radio has amazing offerings of their programming on their Web sites that really do allow me to listen later -- albeit not (yet) easily in my car. But as of today only a tiny fraction of commercial radio stations make their morning show or other non-music content easily available from their web sites.
Millions of television viewers are now trained to DVR functionality. Radio needs to program with this new kind of media consumer in mind.
Written Oct. 9, 2007 in Content + Technology + Terrestrial Radio with 1 Comment
The big story in the radio trades today was the move of News/Talk legend WIBC in Indianapolis from the AM to the FM dial. And while I certainly agree with Walt Sabo who says today: "The band has little to do with it" and that there are "very bad" stations on both bands, who are we really fooling?
I happen to love the content that is available on AM radio in New York. I love WFAN, WABC, WCBS, WINS, ESPN Radio, and I regularly listen to Radio Disney when my daughter is in the car (and I like that too). But I'm almost always listening through endless noise, hiss, and worse. I live 43 miles from the Empire State Building, but well within the New York radio metro. My listening is a true labor of love - very often there is more noise than what I'm 'listening' to - but I keep listening anyhow.
Who else but someone like me would put up with that? No wonder many people never visit the AM band at all. Maybe it's not that they don't like non-music radio - maybe it's just too painful from a sound quality standpoint.
Perhaps HD Radio will re-invent AM Radio by eliminating all the noise. And what a revolution that really could be. The first time I listened to a football broadcast on FM I found it revelatory. And just a few minutes ago I put "Mike & the Mad Dog" from WFAN on the stream, after attempting to listen to them on a brief drive in my car, and I was stunned by the sound quality from my little computer speakers.
The bottom line being - moving our best AM radio brands to the FM might actually be the single most powerful thing we could do to revitalize this medium. It could truly remind an entire generation that there's more out there than 'more music less talk.'
Written Oct. 2, 2007 in HD Radio + Technology with 2 Comments
This morning's announcement from the HD Radio camp that CBS Radio, Clear Channel, Cumulus, Cox, Entercom and Greater Media are in the process of installing iTunes Tagging technology brought a swift response from Robert Unmacht of iN3 Partners, whose clients include Radio-Info.com.
Unmacht, who has weighed in on song tagging before here, is not the only person to suggest that radio is giving the iPod entirely too much currency, but his take is one of the most explicit.
"'Radio: helping to make Apple the standard in digital distribution,'" he writes.
"Odd that they hate satellite [radio] and support what will be a far bigger threat in 5-10 years.
"Apple has its eye on digital distribution in the broadband era: audio; video; film; records; information; books; radio.
"This move with HD is small in soooo many ways but it does help make Apple a standard, having HD buy into it now will make each future technology that much easier for Apple.
"Once it is a standard, how you get their products will not matter. One day you switch to the iPod in car receiver and radio as we knew it is gone."
Even taking a more benign view of the iPod/HD Radio interface, I'd still like the same effort to go into designing something else: the iPod-size combination HD radio/wireless Internet receiver. It's the one that lets you pick up any radio stream in the world, but because broadcasters have been pro-active in the design process, it's the one that helps you easily find any HD-2 channel, not just the ones in your market. Because while song-tagging technology might be nice to have, the Infinite Dial in my hand is the one that would go to the gym with me instead of the iPod.
Written Sep. 24, 2007 in Marketing + Technology with 0 Comments
Tomorrow is one of the most widely anticipated days in the lives of many a
12-35 12+ boy. Halo 3 hits the shelves, for those with enough foresight to pre-order it, anyway. Active rockers, Classic Rockers, Young Country even--this one is too big not to talk about. In PPM markets, you'll see the carnage firsthand when you get the weeklies. Since huge chunks of your male (and possibly female) audience are going to be camped in front of the tube for the foreseeable future, you may as well work with the Master Chief instead of against him. There's still plenty of time to put together a commercial-free Halo listening party to be the soundtrack to the destruction of the Covenant--or maybe the Top 20 ass-kicking songs of all time with live Halo 3 party drops. Don't underestimate this one, folks--this is as big a 'hit' as the ole' Long Tail is likely to see in some time.
Oh, and Larry--I am not feeling very well. I think I will be out sick tomorrow.
Written Sep. 6, 2007 in Technology with 2 Comments
Because they do the right thing. Yesterday, I was mad at Apple for dropping the price on the iPhone by so much, so soon, after I sunk my early adopter cash into one just a couple of months ago. Today, Apple announced that they actually do feel my pain, and is giving me a hundred bucks back. Apple, I ain't mad at you no more.
Doing the right thing > Doing the cost-effective thing. Remember that!
Written Sep. 5, 2007 in Internet Radio + Technology with 0 Comments
With WiFi being a central feature of the new iPod Touch, Apple had an interesting choice to make--one with ramifications for everyone reading this. Some pundits speculated that this would finally bring open wifi radio to a portable device, akin to the Sansa Connect's integration with Yahoo Music. Of course, the Sansa is a closed-loop system--you can only listen to Yahoo Radio, and purchase songs via subscription to Yahoo Unlimited, but it still represents a start--turning the mp3 player from a sealed box into a portal.
Apple could have opened up the iPod to Internet radio--but they didn't. And why should they? With little money being made--yet--in internet radio, they had little incentive to hitch their wagon to one of the leading streaming players when they continue to sit on the biggest cash cow (in the true Boston Consulting Group usage of the term) in the music industry--the iTunes music store. So instead of listening to your station on an iPod, owners of the iPod Touch and the iPhone will be back on the iTunes music store, as usual, tightening Apple's grip on consumer music.
There is one exception--an integration with Starbucks that allows iPod users surfing the WiFi in a Starbucks store to automagically click a button and buy the song currently playing in the coffee shop. Earth's largest music store joining forces with Earth's largest retailer (in terms of number of locations--take that, Subway!). One of the most magical elements of the Apple brand is its ability to always look like the underdog--but with this move, they are Goliath, not David. I'm with Rick Rubin on this one--music is a commodity now, plain and simple. And Apple is Archer Daniels Midland--Supermarket to the World. If you are a music station, it is more important than EVER to have begun executing a web strategy to build community around music and music discovery, which still play vital transactional roles in the great music machine. Radio used to be the sole arbiters of musical taste over the air, but has ceded that role to the Internet, as our most recent research has shown. But "the Internet" doesn't have to be someone else's web site--it could (and should) be yours. Cede nothing.
Written Aug. 10, 2007 in Technology with 0 Comments
So Universal Music Group has announced that it will sell non-copy-protected downloads--but not on iTunes Music Store.
Earlier, UMG had gotten a lot of publicity for not renewing its deal with ITMS. According to reports, it will continue to sell there, but test non-protected MP3 downloads elsewhere. As noted when the deal first broke, I've bought a lot of UMG music on-line over the last few years and would hate to lose the exhaustiveness of their catalog.
That said, I do resent the copy protections of iTMS, more on theory than anything else--I haven't yet had occasion to burn any song I own more than five times. I also don't like that every now and then, iTunes decides not to transfer songs that I've long paid for to my iPod as a way of forcing me to update my software.
But I like the one-stop convenience of iTMS. Thus far, I haven't shopped much for digital music elsewhere, only because I rarely feel like I will find anything different. And if, as with EMI, the unprotected files are an excuse for a price bump, I'd rather pay 99 cents for the protected file.
Written Jul. 26, 2007 in Technology with 0 Comments
Here at Edison, we have been early and heavy users of 37 Signals products for over two years now--we use Basecamp to manage internal projects (and as our secure client portal) and I use Highrise for contacts and conversation tracking. I have always personally used a third product, Backpack, as a kind of mobile temporary scratch pad--I will send my week's travel info/confirmation numbers to it and I can easily access it on my phone whenever I need it. I hadn't used some of Backpack's other wiki-like features, though, since moving things around and reorganizing information was such a pain. Pain no more! Backpack's recent update is so good, and makes this great online organization/collection tool so much more usable, that I pass it along here for all of our friends and colleagues. The calendar is great, mobile phone access is near-perfect, and it is the best way I know to keep all of the detritus I might need to look at on the road--todo lists, meeting notes, old emails--handy and accessible from my laptop or iPhone no matter where I am. Now that I can move snippets of data from page to page easily, it just became my traveling office full-time. I know there are some consultants and other heavy road warriors reading this--check it out and thank me later!
Written Jul. 11, 2007 in Technology with 1 Comment
I have been playing with my iPhone pretty steadily for the past few days. The interface is magic--after using it for a while, when I go back to my Macbook I want to flick the screen with my finger and make pages scroll faster. I get aggravated that I cant just "pinch" my laptop screen to make photos bigger. And I can't stop checking the weather (but that says more about me than the iPhone).
One small point about the iPhone, however, bears mentioning in this space. While there have been phones that allowed you to listen to music files in the past, it will be the iPhone that cements the idea of phone-as-music device into the minds of the average consumer, who previously imagined that listening to music over that lone crackly speaker can't be an enjoyable experience. Now, however, the thought of using your phone as your primary music player is not so jet-packy.
All this means is that instead of lamenting the fact that iPods don't have FM tuners, we should be focusing instead on creating killer Internet experiences that stand alone, and not as mere replications of our on-air programming. There is more than one way to get on the iPhone, and the fact that the device relies on web-based applications (and not on a software development kit) means that it is easier, not harder, to stake your claim on that little screen.
Written Jul. 2, 2007 in Technology with 0 Comments
Okay, maybe Universal Music Group's reported refusal to sign a new contract with the iTunes Music Store is just contractual brinkmanship. But just in case it isn't, I went through the "Purchased Music" playlist on my iTunes today, wondering how many of my current songs wouldn't be there if Universal's labels were not represented.
The answer, as it turns out, was about 20%--perhaps more allowing for a song here or there on a '60s or '70s label that might have eventually been absorbed by UMG. Without UMG's songs represented, I wouldn't own:
* "Sinner Man" by the Enemys--one of the garage bands that was led to Three Dog Night;
* "Part Of the Union" by the Strawbs--a '70s version of a pro-labor folk-song that can be called one of the strangest U.K. hits ever, even in a field that includes Crazy Frog and the Bob the Builder theme;
* "Midnight Flower", an obscure '70s R&B semi-hit by the Four Tops--more or less "Lady Marmalade" from the guy's point of view;
* "Be Without You/Stay With Me" by Mary J. Blige, her Grammy medley that added an obscure (but beloved) '60s R&B diva hit to her better-known song.
As you can tell from the rough obscurity level, most of these can easily be called discretionary purchases. Some are songs I would have lived without. Some are songs I would have eventually dubbed from my own vinyl. UMG has always had an excellent and comprehensive reissue program (hardly limited to a few for which I've written liner notes) and it would be sad for both sides if this was really a split.
Written May. 17, 2007 in Technology + Terrestrial Radio with 1 Comment
However it may do long term, and my colleague Tom Webster certainly has some strong feelings about it, the change from Tropical to an Adult Modern format at WUBA (Radio 104.5) Philadelphia will go down as the first format change prompted by PPM ratings. Even if Philly's one Spanish-language FM was flat, not diminished in the way its Clear Channel Urban sisters WUSL and WDAS were, the first PPM quarterly made a bigger, more tempting target out of stations with AC and Adult Rock functionality.
The new Radio 104.5 has elements of both. It's along the lines of recent Clear Channel launches like KJMY Salt Lake City and WDVI (the Drive) Rochester, N.Y.--stations that straddle the line between Modern AC, Modern Rock, and Triple-A. That, not surprisingly, was the turf occupied by WPLY (Y100) during its most successful period in the mid-to-late '90s, and while triple-A WXPN has moved in that direction, the hole for a female-friendly Rock station had never been exactly filled.
Here's WUBA at 8:20 this morning:
Green Day, "American Idiot"
Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Aeroplane"
Evanescence, "Call Me When You're Sober"
Bob Marley & Wailers, "Three Little Birds"
Barenaked Ladies, "Brian Wilson"
Midnight Oil, "Beds Are Burning"
Modest Mouse, "Float On"
R.E.M., "What's The Frequency, Kenneth?"
Semisonic, "Closing Time"
Killers, "Mr. Brightside"
Republica, "Ready To Go"
Foo Fighters, "All My Life"
Written Apr. 20, 2007 in Technology with 0 Comments
The Infinite Dial 2007: Radio's Digital Platforms, the latest study by Edison Media Research and Arbitron, is a follow-up to last year's Infinite Dial study -- in it, we further explore the digital audio platforms (online radio, satellite radio, HD Radio, and podcasting among others) that expand the radio market, their impact on AM/FM radio, and implications for advertisers and media planners. To view the report, click here.
Written Feb. 5, 2007 in HD Radio + Internet Radio + Podcasting + Technology with 0 Comments
Last week, the UK's most recent RAJAR data was released, and the results were extremely encouraging for British broadcasters. The headline stat, of course, was that more people than ever are listening to the radio in the UK--a record 45 million persons, or about 90% of the population. The primary reason for this growth has been broadcasters' platform-neutral approach to radio. By getting their product squeezed through every possible distribution channel, they have taken the decidedly 'Web 2.0' (and 1.0) approach of building audience first, and cracking the revenue model later. As a result, not only is the reach of terrestrial radio at an all-time high, but the use of other digital platforms to listen to radio is also rising dramatically. For example, almost 8 percent of the 15+ population has listened to radio on their mobile phone. This stat is currently almost unattainable here in the States, where our mobile phones rarely even have a tuner. Of course, getting tuners into mobile phones in the UK was as much a product of intense lobbying by the BBC as it was consumer demand--but, there you go. Maybe our lack of phone-tuners is just lack of effort after all.
Internet radio usage is also continuing to rise (as it is here, and we will soon have some fresh data on that score) and 39% of UK adults have listened to radio over their TV sets. The number that HD fans and foes alike have found solace in is the fact that 16% of UK adults own a DAB receiver. I'll come back to that point in a moment, but the big takeaway here is that by encouraging--and not stifling--the use of radio on other platforms, UK broadcasters are growing their industry. While useless debates rage on here with AFTRA and Harry Fox, broadcasters in the UK have done everything in their power to foster the development of Internet Radio, Podcasting and other digital platforms. Broadcasters have made it easier for UK listeners to consume time-shifted radio content, and listeners have responded by doing so--in record numbers. Here is where "The Paradox of Choice" has not stifled consumption, but clearly encouraged it.
There are some obvious conclusions here. One, certainly, is to fix that AFTRA thing already. Listening to Internet radio in the states is painful--we can't continue to preach about fixing what is "between the records" when what goes on in that space on our streams is...unspeakable. Another would be for high-level radio execs to start talking aggressively to Microsoft. Unlike the iPod and its typical (for Apple) closed-loop environment, the Zune has (gasp!) a pretty good FM tuner. Now Microsoft is working on a Zune phone to compete with the iPhone, and as long as it doesn't match the iPhone's hideous retail price, I wouldn't bet against it (and I am the only, stubborn Mac user in the company.) Broadcasters need to lobby hard to be sure there is at minimum an FM tuner and preferably an HD receiver built into the Zune Phone.
But there is a deeper point to be made here--and this goes back to the 16% penetration of DAB in the UK. DAB receivers are overwhelmingly home units--not installed in vehicles--and the UK model is actually proving successful by reaching people who want compelling audio content in their homes. The UK model is certainly different, with a separate tier of options removed entirely from the AM/FM band. But while many pundits in our business are just waiting for in-car WiFi to kill radio and its 'captive audience' for good, UK broadcasters have come up with a product that is compelling in the most competitive environment of all--the living room.
How have they been able to do this? Simple--necessity is the mother of invention. Broadcasters have thus far had it easy here in the US, with our wide urban streets, plentiful parking garages, suburban sprawl and monstrous ex-urban commutes. No such luck in the UK. Because UK broadcasters must succeed out of the car, they do. Now, so do we.
Here is what Southwest Airlines has to do with all of this. When Reagan deregulated the airline industry, most commercial carriers didn't even blink--they just kept plugging away with the suddenly irrelevant hub-and-spoke system, and failed to grasp what their new mission must be. Southwest, on the other hand, came into the business fresh, able to clear away the cruft of the old system, and find new, more profitable ways to ferry listeners from point to point that eliminated the decaying architecture of the hub-and-spoke system. The airlines hub-and-spoke system is, essentially, our AM/FM-based architecture. Regardless of whether or not the FCC accelerates or reverses consolidation, radio has already been deregulated. Though a handful of broadcasters here in my hometown of RDU have been granted "exclusive" spectrum licenses, sitting here at Starbucks as I type this I can listen to anything in the world I want to, and I do.
What the industry desperately needs is a Southwest Airlines to come in with a radically different model--to amalgamate saleable numbers of passionate listeners, no matter what the platform, using the AM/FM band as a promotional tool. Because the current crop of broadcasters are tied to their own hub-and-spoke system of quarterly books, an increasingly ill-prepared sales function and a failure to understand that radio station websites should be at the other end of the funnel, we are stuck maintaining hundreds of gates at DFW when our listeners can (and do) go anywhere they want, and grab any content they want, with little to no friction.
It's time for a Southwest to come into radio and change the rules.
Written Jan. 10, 2007 in Internet Radio + Technology with 0 Comments
Streaming music provider Pandora has started to insert audio ads into some streams to test their acceptance and viability. Web 2.0 hawks like Mashable have noted that lots of folks are complaining, but, of course, no one would write in welcoming the addition of spots, would they? Still, there is a lot of passion for Pandora out there (I myself have been a paid user since day one--here is the station I made around my favorite song of all-time) and it is encouraging to see so many people who are passionate about what is essentially a jukebox, albeit a spanky-smart one. Pandora says that only a small percentage of users hear the ads, and that even then they will only hear one ad per day. People are complaining about this??? It is easy to get caught up in the fickle, manic rage of the blogosphere; one would hope that these folks would realize that even (gasp) two ads per day is a more than fair tradeoff for the free lunch of great music Pandora has delivered to their doorstep.
Underlying this kerfuffle, however, is a more weighty issue for broadcasters. Sustaining Internet audio services without audio ads has, to date, proven untenable (and I gave it the old college try as far back as 1999.) So, what is the future of Internet-delivered music radio? As long as I can minimize the player, or stick the iPhone in my pocket, I am not seeing banner ads, Google AdWords, or any other kind of visual advertising. Why else would Google buy dMarc? The Internet has changed our tolerance for spotloads--with so many alternate choices so easily reached, our attention spans for advertising grow shorter and shorter. You can't make money without more listeners, and the more listeners you have (until bandwidth is actually free) the faster you go out of business.
So, what is the answer? Dunno, but I do know that Radio is not the only one with this problem. The radio industry needs to reach out more to Madison Ave., and to media buyers and agencies (instead of ignoring them when they tell us they want PPM.) As more and more 18-34 year-olds (in particular) drop off "the grid" of conventional advertising, agencies need to reach them every bit as much as we do--and every time someone listens to Pandora, or subscribes to XM or Sirius, that isn't just another one of a thousand paper cuts to Radio's cume and TSL-- it's another valuable consumer unreachable by media buyers and advertisers. It's a big problem--one that requires the resources of a gigantic industry...like Radio.
So, no terrestrial broadcaster should gloat or say "see, I told you so" when Pandora has to start running audio ads. Instead, let's help Pandora solve their problem--it's your problem, too.
Written Jan. 9, 2007 in Technology with 0 Comments
I spent the day walking the floors of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It is an amazing experience that anyone in any related industry should do sometime
1) forgetting the radio angle for a moment, the commitment of the major players to this show is mind-boggling. Panasonic must have 100,000 square feet of show space, all of which was as fully realized as a ride at Disneyland. Microsoft has equal presence. Just amazing.
2) HD Radio has two nicely prepared booths, one in the automotive area and one in the general area.
3) XM has an enormous presence, including a big win on giving away the most bags for carrying your stuff. Their logo is everywhere. And on the point, has anyone noticed how much the XM and HD logos like alike? Take a quick look at each:
4) the best part of CES is at the Sands Convention Center, where the smaller start-ups take small booths to show what they've invented. This is the most optimistic place on earth, where dreamers with incredible passion will talk to you one-on-one. Some incredible technologies with enormous potential disruptive impact on radio were on display there....and I will review them in my next post.
Written Dec. 7, 2006 in Advertising + Marketing + Technology with 0 Comments
Written Dec. 3, 2006 in Technology with 0 Comments
If you have ever tried to use one of those FM transmitters to get your iPod or Satellite Radio signal to your radio, you know that the reception (especially in large, urban areas) can be problematic. Well, worry no more! From Mac OS X Hints, How to receive a clearer iPod FM transmitter signal:
Remove your car's antenna. You will now be able to pick any radio station to broadcast the iTrip through, without worry of competing signals. I have driven from Ventura, through Los Angeles, and all the way to San Deigo without having to change the iTrip's station once.
Simple, eh? Aren't you glad there is helpful advice like this on the web!
Written Oct. 19, 2006 in Technology with 0 Comments
Here's an introduction to perhaps the most important company you may have never heard of: Radio meet Clearwire .
Clearwire is the company that will bring WiMax to the masses. Founded and run by Cell Phone pioneer Craig McCaw, they have the spectrum and the financing to truly make a national WiMax network that works.
WiMax offers the prospect of broadband Internet connectivity everywhere. And of course, this will eventually extend to cars.
Considering how many people already access Internet audio despite it being tied to the computer, imagine what WiMax might bring to bear. Imagine the new devices that will come along.
Written Oct. 12, 2006 in Technology with 0 Comments
As has been noted many times, including in this blog, in-car listening has seemed to be the primary lifeline for 'terrestrial' radio. While Arbitron consistently shows in-home and at-work TSL dropping, in-car listening has been stable-to-up.
Most of this increase, or at least 'lack of decrease', can be attributed to the ever-increasing amount of time Americans are spending in their cars.
Now, however, the competition for in-car radio Time Spent Listening is coming - and burgeoning.
Of course Satellite, with all its profile, has been the most discussed challenge. Much has been written about WiMax...and if and when that comes the true revolution will begin.
But even in the shorter term, the car has become a battle zone.
An astonishing number of cars roll off the lines today with built-in DVD systems to keep the kids occupied in the back seat.
The GPS systems are rapidly moving from novelty to standard equipment, and all of them plan to replace the 'old-fashioned' radio traffic report.
And car companies are jumping over themselves to make integration with the iPod easier, through Bluetooth or other solutions.
Can radio successfully compete in this environment? Of course. It will still be the leader for a long time to come...but today's radio companies must start to see themselves as being in the 'in-car' entertainment and information' biz, not just the AM/FM biz.
Written Oct. 9, 2006 in Technology with 2 Comments
There is a lot of focus on the HD Radio lately, and as an industry we certainly need to put the pedal to the medal on this and other digital initiatives to remain relevant and fight declining mindshare, particularly in younger demos. One refreshing byproduct of the HD push is that the industry is flexing its muscle a bit to drive hardware, technology and distribution in a way we haven't seen in years. Mark Ramsey has written that people don't just buy "a radio," but a lot of people bought satellite radios, so it is possible to drive early adopters to purchase single-purpose devices if they are sufficiently cool, and have a compelling feature set (and content, of course.)
So, what would make me buy a new radio? What would really make me excited again about listening to AM/FM? New channels are a part of it, but there are other things I would like to see in the 'radio of the future.'
Starcom MediaVest Group and CNET Networks recently published the results of a large study of 13-34-year-olds, who are responsible for $600 billion each year in consumer spending (and at least half of whom have essentially been given up on by radio.) One of the key findings to me was the identification of the 15-20% or so of these youth who serve as "brand sirens" - advocates, arbiters of taste and influencers of their peers.
A few key facts quoted by this study:
- 82 percent talk about brands with their friends
- 87 percent love sharing info about brands
- 85 percent love brands that keep their promises
- More than half wish they could find brands to stick with
- 70 percent send emails to friends about products and services
- 77 percent post reviews and product feedback online
So, not so fickle, not so cynical about brands, and not necessarily marketing-proof. Instead, for brands that keep their promises and deliver the goods, today's youth are more than happy to spread the word for you. You can't force this, you can't buy this and you can't stop the train from running you over if you deserve it. You can, however, put the tools in the hands of your listeners to be "sirens" for your brand. Just be aware that the siren call both works to your advantage and works to your detriment-silencing one voice invalidates the other. You can't put lipstick on a pig (well, you can, but it will get you arrested in Georgia.)
So, what does this have to do with HD Radio? I submit that the manufacturers of HD Radio technology should be worrying less about "fidelity" (check out a MySpace page--any page--think there is anyone there worrying about "fidelity?") and building us a really cool new radio that enables true two-way communication and sharing. We keep waiting for ubiquitous mobile wi-fi to run us over with thousands of internet radio channels delivered to our vehicles, when we should be the ones driving this change.
We can't beat Internet radio for choice, and we can't beat Podcasting for convenience and niche content. But the radio industry has one advantage for driving new mobile radio technology--it is still a pretty honkin' big industry. Frodo's Home Brewing Podcast might not be able to influence radio technology, but we have already seen that the radio industry can influence change with OEM manufacturers, retailers and the auto industry. The future generations of radio (HD or not) should embrace Wi-Fi and open up the band to as many choices as possible--but save the really cool stuff for terrestrial broadcasters.
My 'dream' radio for the terrestrial radio industry would let me have access to streams from Pandora or Live365, and also go out and get podcasts I am interested in. But it would only let me listen to those things--not interact with them. Instead, the really cool "tell-a-friend" and "post to my blog" and "thumbs up/thumbs down" buttons would only work with HD broadcasts--allowing instant feedback to the station and instant sharing. Now, maybe my dad isn't going to use the "post to MySpace" button so much, but who hasn't wanted to push a "thumbs down" button when OMC "How Bizarre" comes on? That would be addictive. That would be cool. That would be the future radio worth buying.
Written Sep. 19, 2006 in Technology with 0 Comments
Wanna make me buy an HD? Make it as sexy as this little number from Bang & Olufsen:
I actually think I need another radio now...
Of course, this little number costs $850.00. While we often have the conversation about the need for HD receiver prices to come down as one of (but certainly not the primary) components of increasing demand, B&O could make a $500 can opener and you'd still want it. Especially to open those 28 oz cans of Beluga.
Written Aug. 15, 2006 in Satellite + Technology with 0 Comments
The New York Times Sunday Crossword Puzzle this week includes a fascinating clue and answer.
40 Across: The clue is "Satellite Counterpart" and the answer is..."AMFM".
Really says a lot about satellite radio's status. And AM/FM's too.
Written Aug. 10, 2006 in Advertising + Blogging + Marketing + Technology with 0 Comments
It has been almost a year since I wrote about the importance of radio station blogging, and radio has still been extremely tentative about dipping its collective toe into this vital form of communication (and its complement,consumer generated media.) For many stations, their reticence to enter the blogosphere is not only understandable, it might even be prudent. Rest assured, however, that blogging is not going away, and it has profoundly changed the landscape of "customer service," public relations and even altered the very soul of some companies (Microsoft being the most obvious example).
So, here we are in 2006, and you are thinking about it, or would at least like to know more. Where should you look? Well, we put our heads together on that very issue, and have assembled a fantastic panel at this year's NAB Radio Show in Dallas. The panel is entitled "Opening The Kimono: Harnessing the Power of Blogging" and it will definitely be lively, informative--and just might provide the impetus for you to think about your station in an entirely new (and potentially profitable) way.
The title of the panel does not refer to a mid-panel wardrobe malfunction, or anything more suggestive than "social networking." Instead, "Opening the Kimono" is all about making the crucial, first decision about launching a blog: how transparent do you want to be? Blogging requires a willingness to let the listener peek behind Oz's curtain (to mix metaphors) in a way that you might not be comfortable with (yet). Salting your blog with canned marketing messages and press releases is a fast path to irrelevance--only a truly open and honest two-way discussion has any chance of building relationships (and creating traffic). Opening that kimono might be difficult, but we have assembled an excellent group of guides.
Leading off the panel is the Founder/CEO of Weblogs, Inc and current GM of AOL's Netscape site, Jason Calacanis. If you want insight on monetizing your blog, harnessing the power of consumer generated content and how AOL is tackling some of the same issues you are, Jason is the goto-guy. He will also be speaking at the Jacobs Media Summit on "The Future of Media," so if you come away from that talk with questions on how to make some of his ideas tangible and concrete with your station's website, you will want to stick around for this panel.
Also speaking will be Anil Dash, who is a Vice President at Six Apart, the leading company in the business blogging space and developer of the software behind many of the blogs and websites you probably already visit everyday. Six Apart's hosted TypePad service is used by thousands of popular blogs, and their flagship software product, Movable Type, has powered this site and the main Edison Media Research site for two years. Anil has been an "A-List" blogger for many years, has some radio in his background, and is one of the most engaging speakers on technology and trends you are likely to hear at the NAB this year.
Bryan Jay Miller, the General Manager of Internet-only WOXY will also join us. WOXY is just beginning to dip their toe into blogging, but they already have an extremely active message board community that should be the envy of any broadcast radio station. Bryan has built an impressive brand on the Internet--without the benefit of broadcast airwaves--and has done it thanks in part to fearlessly engaging with their audience and valuing their online feedback. Bryan's insight into community-building online (and where to take it next) will prove invaluable to this discussion.
Finally, if there is one thing that I would like you to remember about this panel, it is that this will not be a panel to only send your "tech guy" to. This is a panel for everyone concerned about building a brand on the Internet and monetizing your content. The issues behind deciding when, how and if to blog are big issues--50,000 footers--and should involve PD's, GM's GSM's AND Webmasters. I hope to see you all. As always, we welcome your comments here, or just pop me a note if you have any questions.
Written Aug. 10, 2006 in Internet Radio + Technology with 0 Comments
Except, Skype, Gizmo, JaJah and more everyday are turning telephony--and soon, mobile telephony--into a non-profit business. With rumors of an iChat-to-Skype service for Mac users, built-in support for Gizmo on the Nokia 770, and Sony's new Mylo, who needs a phone? Radio professionals worry (rightly so) about increased competition from internet-delivered services once Wi-Fi becomes ubiquitous (and available in the car). They aren't the only ones worrying, however.
Take today's Alltel-XM deal, enabling Alltel users to listen to 20 commercial-free channels of satellite radio on their phone. This isn't just a "value-add" for Alltel customers, nor is it a sweetheart deal for XM. Rather, it's the nation's number five carrier trying to drive revenue through additional services in the face of ever-increasing downward pressure on call rates. Once we get that in-car WiFi we are all being promised, we may still need Verizon and Cingular for broadband access, but I won't be buying 900 minutes a month anymore, that's for sure. And I might not even need a "phone" as we currently know it. Now, I am not trumpeting the death of the cell phone here--that would be idiotic, and this isn't that kind of blog.
But it is a great time for terrestrial radio to talk to the telecoms about their broadband audio entertainment strategy. XM and Sirius have ZERO advantage over terrestrial radio once they are moved from dedicated satellite radio device to a mobile broadband appliance, so (hopefully) we will see a good scrap in this space. In that case, the customer might just win.
Written Aug. 9, 2006 in Content + Technology with 0 Comments
There is a tiny, yet staggering story in today's USA Today. Sprint and Major League Baseball have reached an agreement to make audio of radio broadcasts available to Sprint's PCS Vision Phones or Power VisionSM phones.
While few people yet have such phones, this could prove to be a major driver to acquistion.
But more importantly, such an announcement means the forecasted 'convergence' of audio into some kind of combination portable MP3/internet/WiFi/FM device is coming, or here.
As this blog has argued many times, on an Infinite Dial brands are what will matter most, and Major League Baseball is as powerful a brand as exists within the audio spectrum.
Written Jul. 28, 2006 in Technology with 0 Comments
And the answer is...er....I'll get back to you. While you are waiting, here are a few quick instructions and a short Infinite Dial quiz:
1. Visit this site. Spend a pleasant hour or so watching some Radiohead videos.
2. Refresh your memory about Napster V1
Now, the quiz--
- How much bandwidth did you consume?
- Who paid for it?
- Whose property were those videos?
- Who, if anyone, is breaking the law: The blogger, YouTube, the original uploader, or you?
- Is there such a thing as a free lunch?
I got 2 out of 5 wrong, and I wrote the quiz. But YouTube, like Napster before it, will certainly do at least one thing--it will upset the applecart and lead to progress. Just yesterday I saw a research presentation from Circle 1 that revealed that today's net-savvy kids expect that they will have to pay for content on the Internet in the future, a belief that no doubt stems from the widespread adoption of MMORPG's (Massively-Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games), which generally have monthly subscription fees. Just as Napster enabled the iTMS and..well..Napster, so too will YouTube give rise to something else, and someone will have to pay for it.
But until that omelet, YouTube is breaking some eggs, no doubt about it.
Written Jul. 24, 2006 in Internet Radio + Technology with 0 Comments
A new study from Brix Networks shows that the quality of VoIP telephony has degraded by 5% over the past. I know I made a VoIP call just the other day and the quality was unbearably bad, though a subsequent call later in the day showed improvement.
If this degradation is real (and common sense tells me it is), there are implications for radio stations and other media channels who seek to stream their content online (as opposed to simply making it downloadable). The Internet we all know and love was never designed to carry the load it currently does, and despite near-ubiquitous broadband and increasingly common WiFi connections, all Internet traffic goes through a finite series of tubes.
As ridiculous as Sen. Edwards' description was, he was kinda sorta right about the “tubes” in that bandwidth is not infinite. As consumers increasingly make their phone calls online, and now with YouTube and other video sharing sites mucking it up even more, radio stations should be careful about their stream's audio quality. I have an extremely fast connection at home, and streams at 128 kbps often choke and sputter if I listen to them for more than 15 minutes or so.
I am eager to hear GCap's new higher quality audio streaming in the UK, which promises CD quality audio delivered over the Internet via a multicast solution. While sound quality may not be a problem now, GCap's rethink of their streaming architecture may prove prescient, indeed.
Written Jul. 19, 2006 in Technology with 0 Comments
Written Jul. 10, 2006 in Marketing + Technology with 2 Comments
I recently finished reading Wired editor Chris Anderson's new book,“The Long Tail : Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More” (Chris Anderson), which sprung from his original, highly influential Wired column of the same name (and also from his widely-read blog.) There has been, of late, considerable reaction to his latest offering on The Rise and Fall of the Hit.
I'm not sure I agree with Anderson that the hit is dead, and I am not alone. Valleywag pointedly offers up a link to Gnarls Barkley's “Crazy” for its readers to use as a soundtrack to the article, and Mark Ramsey notes that lots of folks went to see that Pirate movie. The comment that makes the most sense to me, however, comes from KFOG's Jeff Schmidt, who notes on his blog the following:
The Long Tail isn’t so much about the DEATH of HITS - but about their marginalization within the larger totality - about the rise of OTHER.
Bingo, Jeff--the hit isn't dead--but the economics of the “misses” have changed dramatically.
The old scarcity model for content has changed, and now it is entirely possible to tap into markets heretofore constrained by geography. The fact that DL Byron can build a business like Clip-n-Seal almost entirely through the power of blogging is testament to the power and veracity of Anderson's perceptions about the long tail. Being right about the tail part, however, doesn't make him right about the head. As Jeff correctly notes, OTHER is big, and viable. But we still gravitate towards hits--we still need hits.
There is no better evidence of this than Technorati founder David Sifry's fascinating regular posts on the state of the blogosphere. My favorite: February, 2006, a brief, yet important analysis of the number of blogs in the “magic middle,” a lucrative chunk of the Long Tail. Devotees of Anderson's theory will (correctly) point out the number of blogs in the long tail of the graph at right--the blogs along the far right side have millions of readers, though no single blog has more than a few dozen. Check out, however, the left side--tell me there aren't some hits in there!
The fact is, that even in this age of blogs there are hits, and big ones, too. Most people, in fact, will have read about Anderson's Long Tail theories on one of several big hitters in the blogosphere or in mass media. While the New York Times, CNN and the Washington Post were the top three most linked-to news and media sites in February (from the Technorati chart at left), a few blogs also snuck in there as bonafide “hits” at the fat end of the tail (Boing Boing, Daily Kos, Engadget and PostSecret). One thing I think this shows is that the age of the “hit” is far from over.
What is happening, however, is another stage in the continual cycle of disaggregation and reaggregation espoused by folks like Francis Fukuyama in “The Great Disruption: Human Nature and the Reconstitution of Social Order”. Society (and, its great mirror, the media) continually disaggregate from old norms, values and cultural benchmarks, but society doesn't disintegrate. Instead, it reaggregates around new norms. Is the “hit” dead? Well, maybe the blockbuster movie ain't what it used to be, but I would call MySpace and Grand Theft Auto hits, wouldn't you?
Written Jun. 22, 2006 in Technology with 0 Comments
...Customized Satellite Radio Playlists. Apparently, according to Orbitcast, GM has filed a patent for this handy gadget:
A system and method for customized music delivery to a vehicle including determining a playlist, storing the playlist on a server, selecting content corresponding to the playlist, transmitting the content to the vehicle by satellite, and storing the content in a telematics unit.
You know what is interesting about this? Despite the fact that a Satellite Radio site picked up on this first, this has nothing to do with Satellite Radio. Good morning XM, meet OnStar--your newest rival for my subscription dollars.
Written Jun. 21, 2006 in Technology with 0 Comments
What does it all mean? Advertising-supported media are in a bit of a panic, because it's clear that Americans are eagerly taking advantage of any technology that allows time-shifting and the ability to skip ads. So we'll see ever more advertising insinuating itself into the content that we've decided to watch without ads. And the popular culture will become ever more atomized and disparate, which is both good (more opportunities for high quality fare to find an audience) and bad (it will become much harder to create and maintain a civil society with shared values and knowledge.)
Thanks for the shout-out, Marc--though I hope you are wrong about the last bit. I expect we will continue to share values and knowledge; those values will (hopefully) just re-aggregate around the new just as they disaggregate from around the old.
Written Jun. 20, 2006 in Marketing + Technology with 0 Comments
Yesterday I used dating as a metaphor for building an online database, and consequently, a relationship with your listeners. There is another aspect to relationship building online that bears a second look. Relationships are built over time. On the Internet, this manifests itself in the form of a series of transactions--value exchanges--between you and your customers.
Before joining Edison, I worked with a behavioral marketing agency that specialized in crafting compelling messages based upon customer profile information. Our customers consisted solely of companies in the life sciences or in financial services. Why? Because our system would only work if we had a rich mine of customer data, and we quickly learned that people will only provide that data if they believe that, in exchange, they can improve their health or their finances. Those are certainly the only two online services that I would ever provide things like my spouse's name, or even my SSN, because those services improve the quality of my family's financial and physical health. Even with projects like pharmaceutical compliance programs, however, we also learned that you couldn't ask for the order all at once--and you couldn't ask for anything personal unless there was a customer-centric justification for it.
We never asked for too much information at any one time, and each request was directly related to a value exchange that was meaningful to our client's customers. When your broker asks for your age, it is because they need it to plan your retirement portfolio, and you need them to do it right. You don't hesitate for a second. Why would I ever even give a radio station my age, however? I might check a box to indicate I was 18 or older, or something along those lines, if I felt that was a reasonable request to win a prize. But just because your station would like to know how old its listeners are doesn't mean we have to tell you! Radio stations have to be cognizant of the shared experience of the Internet--when I sign up for something on 90% of the sites I frequent, I need only give my email address and sometimes my name--that is it. When I give up my email address, I understand that I might be marketed to, but I give it in exchange for what I perceive to be the value of the site or service. Few Web 2.0 services today ask for my address--because there is no justification for it.
That is why I hate to see radio stations with VIP/Listener Clubs like this one. It is doubtful I would ever give much past my name and email address to a radio station on the first date, and even after a long relationship I would never give them my Social Security Number! Again, "working a database" is a horrible term for relationship building. I might let a radio station get to first base with me, but you will have to buy me a lot of dinners to get further. And I will never, ever let you get past third--believe that.
Written Jun. 18, 2006 in Technology with 0 Comments
As usual, the folks within the ESPN section of the Disney company are bringing a new technology that was once hard to use to the public. Following on the heels of the ESPN Mobile Phone is the ESPN's Podcenter.
ESPN Radio has moved into Podcasting in a big way. There are dozens and dozens of podcasts available on pretty much any sports topic. There is re-purposed audio from ESPNRadio and from television shows like "Pardon the Interruption." There is coverage of more obscure sports that don't get as much coverage on radio and television. There are daily Poker and Extreme Sports podcasts. There are some podcasts behind their "insider" wall with information for fantasy sports players.
For now, the Podcasts are advertiser supported with spots at the beginning and end of the casts. The postings are easily played over the computer or downloaded to the desktop or iTunes.
With ESPN's Podcenter one truly sees a new future for radio in full expression. One can listen to the live stream of ESPN radio programming at any time over their site or of course over any of their hundreds of mostly AM Radio affiliates. Or, one can take any of the best content from ESPN Radio and get it on-demand through the Podcenter, or one can also find "just for Pod" programming from this same content provider too. Under all circumstances, it is advertiser supported.
ESPN is showing yet again that it is not the platform that matters, it is the content and the brand. The analogies are clear for all audio content providers.