Monday, September 14, 2009
Radio: Everything you know is still wrong!
Are most of the present decision makers in the radio industry downing shots of Absinthe?
I’m talking about the real stuff that’s laced with thujone.
There is no other probable explanation for their recent hallucinations and psychoactive statements.
Take the announcement Apple made regarding the inclusion of an FM radio on their new iPod nano.
While the rest of the world was fixated on seeing Steve Jobs live in the flesh following predictions of his imminent death, many in the radio industry could only hear him utter two letters - F and M.
Will this new 5th generation iPod nano erase all memory of the new Microsoft Zune MP3/HD Radio player?
It already has.
While the new Zune HD attempted to challenge the iPod 4th generation touch, Apple’s changed the rules of war and moved on to capturing the market for those who wanted the iPod experience but were unable to afford to.
This is the new entry-level iPod. That FM radio isn’t there as added value. That’s reserved for the rest of the nano’s functions. The 8 GB model retains for $149; 16 GB is $179. The new nano has a wider screen, video camera, microphone, pedometer – and yes – an FM radio.
They really don't get it. Apple is set on capturing what’s left of the radio listening audience to sell product to from its own iTunes Store. The nano’s FM features a “live pause” to tag music to reference and buy later. Consequently, you know it will convert users to listening to their own music instead of the radio.
They read what's left of the radio trades at Apple. They probably know more about the Arbitron's PPM than you or I do and identified a revenue stream from hit radio listening tweens and teens.
Come on, get real. When is the last time you heard someone say, “Hey, could you turn off your iPod so we can listen to the radio?”
When was the last time you heard someone say, “I’d rather have a Zune?”
I'll don my Swami hat and predict that this 5th generation iPod nano will be the most popular consumer electronics gift this Christmas shopping season – and it will bring a large number of first-time iPod users on board – including scores from lower income families and minorities.
For some radio execs the FM frequency on an iPod nano is worthy of a Sally Field moment. “You like me, right now. You like me.”
If you were under the impression that the practice of embarrassing letter-writing was tossed out with the firing of David “Fumbles” Rehr as CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), I have some bad news.
Fumbles may be long gone but his letter-writing legacy lingers on. It’s now been taken over by the Fumbles stand-in, best known as the NAB Gang of Four. They wrote this embarrassing love letter to Steve Jobs.
If you don’t want to read it, I'll give you the abridged version: “We like you, we really, really like you, Steve.”
For the record, the NAB Gang of Four are Steve Newbury, President and CEO of Commonwealth Broadcasting – and Chairman of the Joint Board of Directors of the NAB; Charles Warfield, President and CEO of ICBC Broadcast Holdings and Chairman of the NAB Radio Board; John David, Executive VP of NAB Radio, and Janet McGregor, acting President and CEO of the NAB.
Did they ever hear of leaving well enough alone?
Did they ever hear of e-mail? Come on. Steve Jobs hasn't read a snail-mail letter in decades.
Moving right along, you’ve heard that CBS plans to increase radio's promotional and marketing of HD Radio. In the CBS markets I’ve been in over the last few months - at least one promo an hour for HD Radio has been logged on every one of their stations. If no one’s buying into HD Radio after ten years and dozens of "new" campaigns – do you think that maybe – just maybe - it’s never going to catch on and consumers are ignoring you for good reason? To every season – churn, churn, churn.
Now, let’s take CBS Radio’s plot to carry their acquired Last.Fm Internet property on four of their HD Radio channels (WWFS, New York; KCBS, Los Angeles; WXRT, Chicago; KITS, San Francisco). That’s analogous to converting a CD library to eight-track. Nor is it an exclusive feature. You can already get Last.Fm on smart phones.
When will they learn? There’s planned obsolescence and then there’s just plain out-of-the-box obsolescence. HD radio has been the latter since its roll-out. Show me the growth? You can’t.
Prove to me in a real – not imagined - survey, that actual sales and use of HD Radio has shown growth supporting the need for the radio industry to continue supporting it. You can’t.
How about those HD stations that are forced to shut down because of overheating – or because a chain’s regional chief engineer is handling 35 stations in the region can’t get back into the problematical market until tomorrow, or the day after? Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration - unless you’re Cumulus.
While you’re at it, show me your electric bill since you’ve installed your HD Radio transmitter. You can't and you know why.
Groups that invested in HD Radio? Hey, we’ve all made mistakes. Granted, that was a major one. Like the Red Sox selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees, New Coke, Fen-phen, the leisure suit, the XFL, and the Titanic.
But I reserve my favorite Absinthe comment for Clear Channel. Lately, Hogan’s zeros have been laying low – until last Friday when they made the stunning announcement that they would award a total of million dollars in free advertising across radio, digital, and outdoor to the top three agency winners of the annual 4A’s O’ Toole Awards for creative excellence. The first prize winner would get a half-mil in free advertising. Second and third place will land $300,000 and $200,000 respectively.
Clear Channel must have a profusion of unsold inventory.
I’d love to see the specific breakdown. Are we going top of card for rate? Is this really going to be a test to determine exactly what Clear Channel does with a $500,000, a $300,000, and a $200,000 campaign? This ought to be good. Then again, maybe not.