Disney Revives Radio Serial Format

June 30, 2010 by

Disney is know for reinventing or revitalizing media on a regular basis. Decades ago, it was Steamboat Willie, the cartoon short that introduced a certain mouse we all know. More recently, High School Musical has taken the televised musical from risky to mainstream in record time. Now it seems Disney is preparing to breathe life back into the old school radio serial.

“My Dream,” is slated to run for twenty episodes beginning next week on Radio Disney. The story follows a 14-year-old girl, Kayla, as she pursues her dream of becoming a singer and songwriter.

More details according to David Bauder of The Associated Press:

A new episode debuts each weekday at 9:25 a.m. on Radio Disney. Listeners who miss them can hear the 90-second episodes later on the station’s website or via mobile phone.

The idea recalls serials that were popular in the early days of radio, a format that was essentially destroyed when television arrived. Radio Disney says it will wait to see how the first serial fares before committing to others, said Ray De La Garza, the network’s vice president of programming.

“We thought, `let’s create something that can keep the kids entertained and wanting to come back day after day,'” De La Garza said.

Full disclosure here: I’m a big fan of the old-fashioned radio serials. That being the case, I’m excited to see Disney doing this. While the subject matter may be a bit youthful for me personally, I think that Disney has the best chance to revive the format. I also think that with all the brouhaha about music royalties lately, many stations might be more willing to experiment with audio plays and serials like this.

What do you think? Is the time ripe for a return to the serials of old?

Image: CURZU@ / CC 2.0

Nashville Readies for Personal People Meter Fueled Changes

June 28, 2010 by

Nashville, Tennessee, has just become the 44th market nationally to adopt Arbitron’s Portable People Meter (PPM) for measuring radio listenership. Considering the readings taken by the device in other markets, it is not surprising that people in Nashville are bracing for a change in the distribution of advertising funds.

As The Tennessean reports:

“It’s going to shake up the ratings and how stations are perceived by advertisers,” said Dennis Gwiazdon, president of the Nashville Area Radio Organization and vice president and general manager of South Central Media, which owns Mix 92.9 (WJXA-FM) and 96.3 JACK-FM (WCJK-FM).

“It’s definitely going to force the programming departments to be more judicious in what they play on the air.”

There is certainly precedent for this stance. Just take a look at the numbers produced for The Sean Hannity Show, which experienced a 20% drop in ratings across multiple markets after the introduction of the PPM. The Tennessean article details several more examples of a similar nature:

In Detroit, Breakfast Club morning show hosts Kevin O’Neill and Lisa Barry found themselves without a job in April when the Clear Channel-owned WNIC-FM switched to a music intensive format after PPM ratings showed the formerly No. 1 morning show was coming in at No. 11 among 35- to 64-year-old

A sample audience of 754 Nashville residents put on their PPMs and began collecting data a few days ago.  The results will be compiled and previewed by advertisers and station managers in August and then released to the public in October.

Image: Silenus81 / CC 2.0

Clear Channel CEO Mays Stepping Down

June 25, 2010 by

It’s been two years since Bain Capital and THL Partners shelled out $24 billion in their takeover of Clear Channel Communications. In the intervening time since, there has been a significant amount of restructuring done to the conglomerate, much of it to cope with the debt incurred by the deal.

Now, according to this Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing, more change is in the wind. Mark Mays, Clear Channel CEO since 2004, will be leaving that position as soon as the proper candidate to replace him can be located. He will continue to be deeply involved with Clear Channel as their Chairman of the Board, a post he has held since last year.

Joseph Plambeck, a blogger for The New York Times, reports:

“As I’ve discussed with our board, this is an opportune time for a new C.E.O. to work with the management team in leading our terrific company forward, and I look forward to executing a seamless transition,” Mr. Mays said in a statement.

The company said that it expected to find a replacement later this year.

Radio World notes that Bain and THL sought this management shift in order to bolster Clear Channel’s digital strategy. They also go on to note that this is a historic shift for Clear Channel on at least one level:

The change means that a Mays will no longer sit at the helm of the broadcast giant, which was founded by Mark and Randall’s father, Lowry Mays in 1972 with B.J. “Red” McCombs.

It ill be interesting to see which candidates are considered to fill the position. Considering the stated reasons for the change, I would be willing to bet that digital experience and web savvy are going to be major factors in the choice.

Image: Clear Channel Communications Logo / Fair Use: Reporting

Crowdfunding For Public Radio?

June 24, 2010 by

The evolution of media is something on everyone’s mind these days. Whether it is speculation on the possible demise of the traditional newspaper or the development of digital age tools for reporting, it is a huge subject. This is exactly why the Knight News Challenge was created, wherein the Knight Foundation awards several million dollars each year for “innovative ideas that develop platforms, tools and services to inform and transform community news, conversations and information distribution and visualization.” In other words, bringing the news into the 21st century.

The Public Radio Exchange’s StoryMarket project has just been awarded $75,000 in the Knight News Challenge. Additionally, it will build on — and collaborate with — Spot.us, a prior high-profile Knight winner, to apply the principles of crowdfunding to public radio.

Here’s a quick description taken from the official announcement of the Knight Grant, as found on the Neiman Lab article about this subject:

Building on the software created by 2008 challenge winner Spot.us, this project will allow anyone to pitch and help pay to produce a story for a local public radio station. When the amount is raised (in small contributions), the station will hire a professional journalist to do the report. The project provides a new way for public radio stations to raise money, produce more local content and engage listeners.

Another very important thing about this approach is that it addresses an issue facing all radio stations, public and commercial: the need for more local content. In the current markets, radio stations are trying harder and harder to engage with their audience through a return to local reporting. Story Market is something to watch because the stories produced, if successful, will be dictated by that local market.

Image: Knight Foundation Logo / Fair Use: Reporting

“Con Salsa” Radio Show in Boston Celebrates 35 Years!

June 21, 2010 by

This week, we celebrate a landmark for Latino radio in general and WBUR of Boston in particular. This past weekend, WBUR’s Con Salsa show celebrates 35 years on the air. According to The Boston Herald, the show is going to ring in its anniversary with a big club party tomorrow:

“Con Salsa!”, a Saturday evening show on Boston University’s public radio station, 90.9 WBUR-FM, is sponsoring a Tuesday concert with Cuban timba band Pupy y Los Que Son Son at the Wilbur Theatre to mark the event.

The show has a history of being a community hub as well as an entertainment program. The call-in portion of the program has a long pedigree of highly personal messages being shared over the airwaves: marriage proposals, confessions of infidelity, messages for troops overseas, and much more. As a matter of fact, the show has quite a reputation for being a forum in which people share messages with those in the Massachusetts jail system, a topic I wrote about back in February 2009.

Image: Theresa Thompson / CC 2.0

HD Radio on the Slate for iPhone?

June 19, 2010 by

Apple has had quite the back and forth stance in regards to radio integration for their products. While the iPod Nano has its own radio receiver with live pause and iTunes tagging, the various iPhones and other iPods do not. That is something that may be changing soon.

According to Apple Insider it looks like Apple has been quietly visiting the patent office. Neil Hughes reports:

Entitled “Digital Radio Tagging Using an RF Tuner Accessory,” the application states that users could use a handheld device to scan all stations, or only for stations delivering high-quality digital audio content. Collecting a list of digital stations and the accompanying “raw digital data” broadcast with them would allow users to scan and search stations based on the content that is currently playing, or a number of other factors included in the data.

“Enhanced metadata and searching can provide the listener the ability to refine station choices without having to listen at length to any particular station, and further can facilitate tagging broadcast tracks for subsequent access and/or purchase,” the application reads.

Now, this does not seem at first glance to be groundbreaking. After all, the current incarnation of the iPod Nano has similar capabilities on its FM receiver. Still, we are not talking FM in this case; we are talking about HD in all its multi-channel glory, something that has been has been rumored since The Wall Street Journal reported on talks between Apple and HD developer iBiquity.

The filing of this patent goes a long way toward confirming my assertion in prior posts that the iPod line would be adopting HD radio. After all, HD integration was a huge selling point for Microsoft’s Zune and remains an area where it is admittedly superior to its Apple counterparts.

Image: Cave Canum / CC 2.0

Roundup: The Performance Rights Act

June 16, 2010 by

The Performance Rights Act (PRA) has been a frequent topic here on the Radio 2020 blog ever since its inception, and with good reason. The legislation as it stands could have massive negative repercussions for the radio industry at all levels. Among other things, the new royalty structure will almost certainly result in the labels revisiting their contracts with artists if it passes — not something many have considered. This is only one of many ramifications that will rear their ugly heads if the PRA gets passed.

Let’s take a quick trip in a time machine and revisit my prior postings on the subject. For the benefit of our readers, here is a nice array of data on the subject. These posts range from October 2009 to the present and are presented oldest to newest in this list.

The Performance Rights Act is a very serious issue and it could still go one way or the other, so please educate yourself on the subject. Make an informed decision and let your Representative know your views!

Image: D. Reichardt / CC 2.0

Performance Rights Act, A New Wrinkle

June 14, 2010 by

The Performance Rights Act (PRA) has been a fairly constant topic here and on other radio-centric websites. The push for additional royalties it represents has a broad array of implications for broadcasters, labels, and artists.

Imagine my surprise, after writing extensively on the subject for so long, when I find a completely new and worrisome aspect of the legislation that had heretofore eluded me.  I stumbled across this excellent analysis of the PRA debate by Stephen Koff , The Plain Dealer‘s Washington bureau chief, that was syndicated on Cleveland.com.

It covers things in a very even-handed fashion, but most importantly it gives us the following observation:

Meanwhile, Rex Glensy, a former entertainment lawyer who teaches at Drexel University’s law school, says a radio performance royalty could alter the dynamics of record contracts. If there’s money involved — especially more money for the artist than the label envisioned — it’s bound to happen, he says.

He uses the example of Barbra Streisand performing a Cole Porter song and releasing it on CBS Records. Right now, the only party getting radio royalties would be the estate of Cole Porter.

Under the recording industry proposal, Cole Porter’s heirs would still get their money, but additional revenue would go to Streisand and the record company.

“You know what will happen?” Glensy says. “All of a sudden Barbra Streisand is going to hear a knock at her door and see CBS saying, ‘We want to renegotiate your contract.'”

That’s the problem with changing anything related to copyright, Glensy says. It inevitably affects every other piece of the business.

I’m personally thunderstruck that I did not think of this earlier. As with most legislation, it is the cascade of secondary and tertiary effects that can wreak the most far reaching changes.  I’m pretty sure that most of the artists supporting this misguided legislation are unaware that things could play out this way either.

Image: tacomabibelot / CC 2.0

Prince Turns 52, Releases New Song “Hot Summer” on Radio

June 12, 2010 by
Prince's Yellow Cloud Electric Guitar

Prince's Yellow Cloud Electric Guitar

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. Prince has just celebrated his 52nd birthday! Seems like it was only yesterday that we all wanted to “Party like it’s 1999″ or hop in a “little red Corvette” for a joyride. Now it is decades later and the artist formerly known as “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince,” is once again just Prince. Another thing that has come full circle is that his music is debuting not on the Internet, but over the  airwaves.

On June 7 (Prince’s birthday), Minnesota Public Radio show The Current debuted “Hot Summer,” a new Prince track reportedly written in response to the record heat that gripped the state last month. As Rolling Stone music writer Daniel Kreps reports, this is not new for the ever protean star:

In recent years, Prince has often turned to radio to premiere new music, starting in December 2008 when he unveiled four songs off his Lotusflow3r triple-disc set on Los Angeles rock station Indie 103. After returning to the Twin Cities, the public radio supporter also offered the Current a new song called “Cause and Effect” in February 2010. Prior to that, inspired by the Minnesota Vikings’ march toward the Super Bowl, Prince quickly wrote and orchestrated a fight song for the football team titled “Purple and Gold,” which was then handed to a Minnesota local news program to debut.

Whether you like his music or not — and I must confess I usually do — Prince’s stature as a giant in the world of modern music is indisputable. He has been the recipient of  four American Music Awards, six Grammy Awards and one Golden Globe Award, and his singles have made him legendary around the globe.

I think it speaks volumes that a star of this caliber, and one with the amazing array of industry experience that Prince possesses, should consistently choose radio as his delivery mechanism for new music. It shows a natural awareness that even in the Internet age, radio still reaches far more people overall.

Image: InfoMofo / CC 2.0

RIP Himan Brown: The Storyteller Has Left The Building

June 11, 2010 by
Dick Tracy

Dick Tracy

You might not know who Himan Brown is off the top of your head, but I’ll bet you’ve run across his works. You see, Mr. Brown was one of the wizards of radio storytelling and a huge proponent of “the theater of the mind.”

His works included Dick Tracy, Inner Sanctum Mysteries, The Adventures of the Thin Man, Grand Central Station, and many, many more. Over the decades, he worked with giants like Boris Karloff and Orson Welles.

Raised in Brooklyn by Russian immigrant parents, he completed law school but then decided to follow his creative urges. Deepti Hajeela from The Associated Press tells us more:

He had good timing: The 1930s and 1940s were part of the years when radio was most popular. Shows of all kinds could be found all over the radio dial, and popular shows were must-hear appointments for many Americans.

Even as television came into prominence in the middle of the 20th century, Brown remained a firm believer in the power of radio. In 1974, he started “CBS Radio Mystery Theater,” a nightly radio program that ran until the early 1980s.

“Radio drama is the most potent form of theater I know,” he told the alumni newsletter of Grady College at the University of Georgia in 1994. “It gives you an experience no other form of theater — movies and television — can duplicate. It’s the theater of the mind.”

Mr. Brown proved with his work on CBS Radio Mystery Theater that audio drama is still viable, it just needs to be done well. I would argue that we may well see a resurgence of it in the future. After all, many people who drive a lot are fans of audio books, some of which these days are performed by a full cast.

As we become more and more mobile and more connected at the same time, I think  we will see a return to the art and craft of Himan Brown.  Improvements in mobile devices and radio streaming allow room for more access, and that at a time when we want entertainment but are visually engaged.

Mr. Brown has left the building, and he will be missed. What he termed “the theater of the mind” is seeing an era of increased potential. I think he would be pleased by that.

Image: Fabbio / CC 2.0


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