Monday, January 14, 2008

Radio (2020) Nowhere!


Denial.

Take General Motors chairman Rick Wagoner’s comments at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit yesterday.

Following a juggling act – I can’t make these things up – Wagoner, only a couple of decades late, cautioned the crowd on the necessity to find alternative fuel sources. He even quoted the U.S. Department of Energy’s prediction that the need for more energy will increase by 70 percent by 2040.

Showing how fuel-efficient GM has become, he showed off their new Hummer model. This one runs on ethanol.

Just to make sure the audience got the message, GM’s North American marketing chief Mark LaNeve added, “You know we have come full circle when we roll out a Hummer that’s fuel efficient.”

Let’s stop right here.

It’s nice that GM’s “invented” a fuel-efficient Hummer. Just answer these three questions please.

First – Please define fuel-efficient. Is it fuel-efficient just because it doesn’t run on gas?

Second - How many miles to a gallon of ethanol does this hybrid Hummer get anyway?

Third - How does one fills its tank when less than one percent of the 188,000 gas stations in the U.S. pump ethanol?

Minor details.

It’s like HD Radio. If no one is buying how can it sell? If no one’s listening how can it be heard?

GM's shut down assembly plants and phased out between 20 and 30-thousand jobs and renegotiated its health care and slash retirement benefits.

Remember how Detroit snickered when Honda and Toyota introduced their tiny, boxy cars to the U.S. market?

(Anyone in any business should read David Halberstam’s The Reckoning.)

It reminds one of the two I’s in our world – Internet and iPod. If radio doesn’t meet to your satisfaction, there’s always something ready to take its place.

Want a parallel to the U.S. radio industry? Just look at Detroit.

Now, let’s travel 2,400 miles west to San Francisco.
*
This morning, at the annual MacWorld Conference and Expo, Apple CEO Steve Jobs will address the gathering. You’ll see it on all the news channels and networks tonight.

It should be as upbeat at the Moscone Center as it is grim at the decaying Cobo.

Apple uses its annual MacWorld convo to introduce its latest consumer goodies. Last year, one of the products unveiled was the iPhone.

This time Steve Jobs is expected to debut a mini-Mac, a new PC to rival Sony’s Vaio, iPhone and iPod software upgrades, and announce deals with movie studios and TV networks to distribute content through iTunes.

Roughly 450 other manufacturers – including Belkin, eMedia Music, H&R Block, Skype and Ricoh will introduce new products to interface with Apple products.

Even Microsoft will be launching its new Office 2008 for Macs, which will allow consumers to create and share compatible documents between Macs and PCs.

I haven't heard of any plant closings, layoffs or benefit slashing at Apple or any other new media company.

That’s growth - American-style.

And what’s radio up to?

David “Fumbles’ Rehr and the boys at the National Association of Broadcasters and his equally accomplished buddy Peter “Sgt. Bilk-o” Ferrara at the HD Radio Alliance announced that they will be launching their – try not to laugh – Radio 2020 Initiative in March.

They claim the Radio 2020 campaign will not embrace fancy slogans – no one could come up with any – or catchy jingles – probably because this past year’s HD Radio Alliance campaign dried up their creative well – though some may disagree using the word creative in the same sentence as HD radio.
*
The marketing flacks at the NAB insist that this will not be another in a series of their six-month rah-rah-sis-boom-bah campaigns that die due to lack of interest.

Those sissies spend more time telling you what they won’t do than what they will.
*
They’re even claiming that the Radio 2020 campaign may grate on for years. They stopped short of saying “all the way to 2020” to avoid snide laughter.
*
The NAB and the HD Radio Alliance. Whenever you have Fumbles and Bilk-o teaming up you’ll get no bangs, just whimpers.
*
Even when you kick these clowns to the curb the curb kicks ‘em back.
*
One of the new slogans their minions plan to sandbag you with is their new “Radio Ready” symbol - a pathetic imitation of “Intel Inside.”

I keep saying it over and over. I couldn’t make these stories up if I tried.

They plan to use "Radio Ready" to promote any appliance that uses a radio - if they can find one.
*
Maybe they’ll come up with some catchy little notes to accompany it until the RIAA demands royalties for its use.
*
Sgt. Bilk-o, no matter how many times you try to plant a rumor about Apple manufacturing a product with an HD Radio embedded – forget it! Repeat after me, Bilk-o. It’s not going to happen. It’s not going to happen.
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Is there a doctor in the house? Bilk-o needs a new scrip for truth serum.
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In his world it’s all about being seen at the right places and talking the talk others want to hear, which is not necessarily the truth.
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If Bilk-o shilled for GM instead of the HD Radio Alliance and was confronted with the fact that less than one percent of gas stations in the U.S. sell ethanol, he would’ve made some fictitious claim about GM setting up distribution deals with Exxon, BP, Shell, and Mobil - and that they’d all be selling ethanol by Christmas.

There are more Radio 2020 campaigns in the works but I won’t bore you with their idiosyncrasies and peccadilloes other than to say that’s what happens when organizations believe their own hype.
*
Think of the backlash the NAB and HD Radio Alliance will get from this pitiable campaign. Allow me change that word to hacklash.
*
So, what does Radio 2020 have the most in common with? The auto show in Detroit or Steve Jobs’ iOrgy in San Francisco?

Put another way. Whose event would you prefer being hitched up to?

17 comments:

paul vincent zecchino said...

"The Year of HD" passed, several times, so tedious TeamBLOC proclaims a 2020 campaign.

In response to what? Audience demand? Rave broadcaster reviews?

Listeners heard the HD banshee wail - and fled.

One poster pruriently described BigRadio's HD obsession as a snoott 'circle jxxx' from which the rest of us are excluded.

Many gladly sport TeamBLOC's ostracism as a badge of honor.

Paul Vincent Zecchino
Manasota Key, Florida
15 January, 2008

Tom Neumann said...

Your comparison of the auto industry and radio is quite accurate. Your suggestion to read The Reckoning makes so much sense. I pulled my copy out and began re-reading it. It could have been about radio after 1996. They cheapened the product and assumed everyone would have to listen.

Anonymous said...

The radio industry is heading for a crash. When that happens those picking up the pieces will eliminate HD radio and I would not be surprised if some people involved are federally indicted. The NAB may have gotten radio what it wanted with deregulation but that came with a price. That price is now being drastically reduced as the cost of radio properties falls rapidly. Like you I believe there will be real broadcasters awaiting in the salvage yard.

in the biz said...

tho i don't have the book in front of me i remember the key message in david halberstam's the reckoning had to do with the car industry serving its shareholders instead of its customers. it did so by manufacturing a cheaper product. the american public didnt buy it and found an alternative with foreign made cars and two decades later the american auto industry is still reeling. they make a better car today but the damage has been done.

the same is true of radio. unless it cuts its losses and begins serving the audience we will witness radio becoming an extinct medium. harsh perhaps but not really. the alternatives to radio are already available.

Anonymous said...

Generation X no longer listens to radio. They were the last to at least sample it and only because alternative rock went mainstream before idiots like Fred Jacobs effed them up with the Edge franchise. Radio is not even on the radar of Generation Y. It's a non entity.

You hit the nail on the head when you said they found other medium to replace radio. Kids still listen to music, discuss politics (more than radio programmers are willing to believe)and crave news and information (and not just pop princess gossip).

Radio doesn't deliver so that demo goes elsewhere. It's a demo that is the largest since the baby boomers. Look what radio is throwing away.

HD radio. Get real.

Anonymous said...

From Inside Radio: "Ford Makes HD Radio™ Technology Standard in 2009. Ford Motor Company recently announced the availability of factory-installed HD Radio™ technology as a standard or optional feature on Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury products in 2009. It is currently offered as a dealer-installed option, but will become factory-installed in 2009 for the 2010 model lineup. “Our goal is to offer drivers the best new features and the most choice,” said Jim Buczkowski, Ford’s Director of Electrical System Engineering. “The great local content, the crystal-clear sound quality and the variety of channels and data services offered by HD Radio is exactly what customers are beginning to expect in their vehicles. Moving forward, a radio will no longer be considered competitive if it doesn’t include digital technology.”"

COULD someone that knows about HD radio confirm that Ford owns one of the manufacturing companies and the only reason they would make HD standard is to move their own units?

"iTunes® Tagging -A Big Hit at CES and Now Available in Cars. iTunes Tagging is the new technology that allows a listener to simply press a button to remember a song they hear on the radio. Once they hit the “Tag” button, the song is saved, and then brought up in iTunes when the iPod® is synced. Various models of HD Radio receivers that are now offering iTunes Tagging were featured at the CES: Polk Audio’s I-Sonic ES2, the new 400IHD from JBL, and Sony’s XDR-S10HdiP for the home or office. There are also manufacturers taking iTunes Tagging into the car. Alpine showed off an entire line of car audio head units (iDA-X100, -X200 and -X300) with the iTunes Tagging feature and iPod connectivity with prices as low as $100. Dual and JVC have announced that they will be adding iTunes Tagging to its line-up of HD Radio products in 2008"

TALK about double speak. Yes, iTagging is available in a multitude of delivery services. HD allegedly is one of them. I would like to know HOW MANY HD RADIO STATIONS ARE ACTUALLY EQUIPPED TO DO TAGGING? HOW MANY HD RADIO STATIONS HAVE A MEASURABLE AUDIENCE? As you said if no one is buying who is listening?

"HD Radio Technology Gets Massive Press Coverage at CES. The International Consumer Electronics Show is THE place to be for emerging technologies and HD Radio products did not disappoint. With over 50 products displayed in the HD Radio booth, ranging from car, home, and tabletop models, to future products, HD Radio technology received a lot of buzz. Newspaper articles, blogs, TV news stories, and radio interviews followed. Among the media outlets featuring HD Radio technology, you’ll find The Associated Press, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, ABC News, America’s Car Show, The Washington Times, MediaWeek, Radio & Records, Edmunds.com, iPodNN, MacDailyNews, PC Magazine, and many more."

BUT what did they say about HD radio? Anyone can hire a public relations firm to get publicity. How are the reviews? WIll their coverage sell one single unit?

What a farce.

PocketRadio said...

"The radio industry is heading for a crash. When that happens those picking up the pieces will eliminate HD radio and I would not be surprised if some people involved are federally indicted."

"HD Radio: Fun with Math"

"I think it is fair to say that the audiophile community, those people who take their FM seriously, is dead set AGAINST HDRadio. Not only do most people never intend to buy a radio, unless as a plaything for early adopters and collectors, but are aghast at the FCC for even allowing IBOC to thrash up the FM bandwidth. Plus, people with enough technical savvy to read the specs are insulted by the false claims of 'CD sound quality' or even 'near-CD sound quality'. These are transparent marketing hype, beyond mean puffery. Sorry, but HDRadio has sworn enemies. This goes beyond just business but has political reprecussions for FCC and for Congress. This has the whiff of political scandal - and I'm a rock-ribbed Republican! The Corporation for Public Broadcasting is especially vulnerable. My advice for any businessman is to avoid any association with HDRadio."

http://www.hear2.com/2006/06/hd_radio_fun_wi.html

That may just happen - let's hope so:

http://hdradiofarce.blogspot.com/2007/12/congress-investigates-fcc.html

PocketRadio said...

"COULD someone that knows about HD radio confirm that Ford owns one of the manufacturing companies and the only reason they would make HD standard is to move their own units?"

This is what I have, if you care to check my blog:

http://hdradiofarce.blogspot.com/2007/11/ford-takes-advantage-of-free-promotions.html

There no confirmation that HD would be standard, as For is moving towards a 70% installation rate for satrad, and standard/optional Sync will eat up the other 30% - this leaves very little room for HD. As for tagging it's a farce, like everything else with HD:

http://hdradiofarce.blogspot.com/2007/09/tagging-virtual-sewer-of-formats.html

Anonymous said...

Leave it to Fumbles Rehr. I can guarantee you that Radio 2020 wont even make it to 2010 and I am only giving them extra time in case they have a few false starts with their campaign which I expect them to do.

Radio wont be around in 2020 unless we get rid of Fumbles and Bilko. HD radio is draining radio resources and is money worst spent.

It does not take rocket science. Improve the product which is terrestrial radio. Get rid of those has beens like Jacobs the Coot, MacVay, Berkowicz and others that have done nearly irreperable damage to radio formats appealling to those under 40.

While at it get rid of those running radio stations. Put broadcasters back in who understand what it takes to build a successful product.

Until then they can take their HD radios and shove them.

Anonymous said...

I think you said it best when you told the story of Iger at Disney selling the ABC radio division to Citadel the same week he bought Pixar from Jobs.He got rid of a loser and bought a winner.You know there are a couple of dozen real broadcasters that are lining up the financing if they haven't already to go in and pick amongst the ruins once the fire sales burn down their inflated prices.

Anonymous said...

great photos. love the "radio ready" simpsons shower radio.

fumbles is a dope.

INDIE RADIO & proud said...

The smartest stations are the independents that didn't fall for the HD radio crap. I will admit it has been a very difficult time for independents to sell against Clear Channel, Radio One, and Greater Media but the tide is turning in our favor. We do not have the massive debt they have. We are not financially strapped and forced to let go our staff. We have had to tighten our belts but we never laid a single person off and not a soul has ever asked us about HD radio. Our listeners are also pleased that we stream our signal. When the fire sales occur it willbring down the cost of all properties which is bad for our competitors and not for us. Our value is that our staff is paid well, have long tenure and taken care of with excellent benefits from our independent owner.

Carl Monday Wednesday Friday said...

You are John Morgan. I know it. You always defend yourself on cleveland.com/listening party and your viewpoints echo what I read here. Why not use your real name if you are in fact John Morgan? If you are not John Morgan he has to be someone you know. Morgan is an anagram of Gorman. You didnt think we would figure that out?

Anonymous said...

http://www.twincities.com/business/ci_7991990

So, odds of anyone here in Minneapolis spending the money to put it Itunes tagging? I'd say slim to none.

We'd be better off putting PI spots on the air than HD radio spots.

Christopher Culkar said...

This HD radio campaign will hurt radio in many many ways. Beside the waste of money to outfit studios for digital is the cost radio will pay when its ad dollar competitors show how many spots radio ran for HD radio and how it failed to sell units. HD radio isn't selling because it's a terrible product. You know that and I know that. It's not as likely the clients will know that.
If I was selling another media other than radio I would point out to the client radio's failure with HD radio in spite of all those spots run. Wake up. This infatuation for HD radio will cost the radio industry dearly and further tarnish its reputation.

Christopher Culkar said...

This HD radio campaign will hurt radio in many many ways. Beside the waste of money to outfit studios for digital is the cost radio will pay when its ad dollar competitors show how many spots radio ran for HD radio and how it failed to sell units. HD radio isn't selling because it's a terrible product. You know that and I know that. It's not as likely the clients will know that.
If I was selling another media other than radio I would point out to the client radio's failure with HD radio in spite of all those spots run. Wake up. This infatuation for HD radio will cost the radio industry dearly and further tarnish its reputation.

Anonymous said...

I love the propaganda I read in Inside Radio today.

Back it up, Mr. Ferrara Bilko.

Talk is cheap and that is all you have done.

How many HD radio units have you sold?

Can't tell us, can you?

Too embarrassing?