Archive for the ‘Audience’ Category

Disney Revives Radio Serial Format

June 30, 2010

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

iUK: BBC Radio on the iPhone

May 24, 2010

Well, it looks like the BBC is jumping into the iPhone arena — hardly shocking since streamed audio is huge on the Apple handset. Just look at the success of iHeartRadio, Pandora, AOL Radio and other audio/radio apps. Combine that huge listener base with America’s love of British TV — Dr. Who is the number one television show purchased on iTunes, for example — and they have a tempting market just waiting.

The new app, BBC Listener, does not provide access to all BBC radio programming. Rather, it supplies a selection of programs mostly from Radio 4. These can be streamed for immediate listening or downloaded for later. Still, for anglophiles, even that will be a treat. It also has a nice interface; I particularly like the old-fashioned radio tuner it displays when you turn the iPhone on its side. The Beeb has a nice video walk-through of the app up on YouTube so you can see how it looks and operates before purchasing. [BBC Listener Promo – YouTube]

So, you really want your BBC radio. You pay $2.99 for the app — a reasonable price — and you’re good to go, right? Wrong. The app uses the iPhone’s in-ap subscription function to charge the $12.99 per quarter subscription fee. Even that sounds reasonable to me, but I’m a longtime fan of British media. PaidContent:UK‘s Robert Andrews notes the rather large flaw in his recent review:

But BBC Listener may not be all that good value – many of the shows contained within are available as free downloadable podcasts, as well as for web playback, no matter where in the world listeners are. For example, here’s BBC World New America reporter Matt Frei’s Americanashow, all 51 episodes of it.

Maybe some users will be happy to pay to have all this wrapped inside a single app, but there’s another stumbling block – NPR in the States does at least as good a job at radio news and documentary, and all its apps, like its podcasts, are free.

So, is it the new British Invasion or is will the BBC’s monetization efforts flounder? What do you think?

Image: nikiv116893 / CC BY 2.0

Are Car Radios’ Days Numbered?

May 10, 2010

Drive time. It’s always one of the first things to come to mind when thinking about traditional radio’s reach. Those long hours on the D.C. Beltway, Los Angeles traffic jams, and the American tradition of the road trip are all places that radio helps us maintain our sanity in the face of our commutes. So far, it has also been the last place where Internet radio is uncommon. This is something that has changed drastically over the last year or two.

Many in-dash radios now include an iPod/iPhone port you can plug into. Of course, this is about as safe as texting while driving, i.e., not at all. I don’t think we will see any great longevity out of services that make you look down at your phone while driving. It is simply too much of a safety hazard.

Manufacturers are meeting that issue head on with the newer generation of receivers. Alpine’s iDA-X305S Digital Media Receiver with Pandora Link allows control through the in-dash receiver, but the display is still tied to the iPhone. The Pioneer AVIC X920BT takes things a step further and not only allows full iPod library control, but it also allows you to use Pandora from those same controls via a custom iPhone app.

Last.fm, Pandora and a plethora of new online audio options may be striking fear into the hearts of more timid members of our industry, but not me. The current trend of bringing the Internet into the vehicle is a huge boon for them, no doubt about that. It also happens to be a huge boon for radio.

As smartphones and autos become more compatible, the picture looks better and better for radio. As John R. Quain of The New York Times pointed out:

Ultimately, the incursion of Internet-based music services and radio station streams may be less about annihilating yet another business model than it is about breaking down barriers. For the first time, small local stations will be able to reach an entire driving nation, so some broadcasters may see their audiences swell as more listeners find them on Internet-connected car radios. In the end, it may simply be a case of radio is dead, long live radio.

I’ve already experienced this a lot over the past year. While discovering new stations here in Cincinnati, I have also been able to continue listening to my favorite shows back home in New Orleans. My audio options have expanded rather than being simply changed. To be able to do the same while driving sounds like a winner to me!

Image: jamescridland / CC BY 2.0

Jetcast and Lenovo Make Internet Radio “Sticky” With Loyalty Program

April 19, 2010

Today, Jetcast Inc. and Lenco Mobile Inc. have pooled their resources to launch a listener loyalty program geared towards rewarding Internet radio audiences for tuning in to their favorite stations’ Internet streams.

RadioLoyalty is the name of the new program and it’s all about the points. Their UniversalPlayer has an app store of its own just like the iPhone, and members of the loyalty program can earn points for using any of these apps. Points can also be earned for online social sharing through platforms like Twitter and Facebook, referring friends to the station and various other interactions and activities. These points, like the boxtops of old, can be redeemed in the RadioLoyalty store.

Here’s a statement from the Jetcast CEO about this new endeavor, as taken from the press release posted on MarketWatch:

“Our RadioLoyalty(TM) loyalty program is focused on helping Internet broadcasters succeed in the digital marketplace,” said John Williams, CEO of Jetcast. “RadioLoyalty(TM) contains all the tools necessary for a broadcaster to dramatically increase the usage of their Internet broadcasts, enhance audience satisfaction, and grow the station’s monthly recurring revenue. RadioLoyalty’s(TM) loyalty program installs easily into our UniversalPlayer(TM) and is free for the station and listener to use. It is a win-win situation because RadioLoyalty(TM) rewards the listener and the station at the same time,” said Williams.

So here we go, another approach to the ongoing issue of engaging and monetizing the Internet and mobile audience. I think these companies are probably on the right track. Courting interactivity, capitalizing on the prominence of the app store phenomenon in the public psyche, and the offer of tangible rewards through their point system. Sounds to me like they’ve combined a number of great concepts into what looks like a  potent strategy.

The technical infrastructure for the UniversalPlayer and RadioLoyalty platforms was developed by a wholly owned subsidiary of Lenco called AdMax Media Inc.  Parent company Lenco is a mobile and Internet solutions provider while Jetcast, their partner in this venture,  is a leader in the monetization of Internet broadcast streams.

Image: RadioLoyalty Logo / Fair Use: Reporting

Coming Soon: HD Radio and Mobile Devices

March 26, 2010

This makes a lot of  sense. Good sense, if you ask me. To understand why, let’s take a few steps back.

I’m a smartphone user; I adore the thing. Having the Internet in your hand is amazingly useful, especially if you make your living in cyberspace as I do. My iPhone was a complete game changer for me, allowing me much more fluidity in how I would do everything from navigate to listening to radio. It was a golden time indeed.

Then I went to New York City awhile back. Suddenly, my data connectivity screeched to a halt, making and receiving phone calls became a hit or miss proposition, and I began looking for that almost extinct species the payphone. This was when I first realized just how much mobile data usage is outpacing the available bandwidth. The cell carriers are straining under the weight of all those YouTube videos and social networking applications.

Which brings us to our post and its title. Think about it. What’s a good way to avoid the bandwidth jams that are becoming more and more frequent? When it comes to radio, you can do it by bypassing the Internet stream entirely. HD radio chips can allow listening even in a dreaded “no bars” zone, and iBiquity is doing their best to make that happen.

Leslie Stimson at RadioWorld reports:

“We’re talking to handset manufacturers and smartphone carriers as we look to put HD Radio on next-generation products,” iBiquity’s Jeff Jury told me[…]  “We’re looking at other MP3 players, where people get their entertainment. HD Radio needs to be there.”

Now that smaller, more power-efficient HD Radio chips are available, the ones found in HD Radio portables like the Insignia HD and Zune HD, iBiquity is telling wireless executives those chips will work in cellphones too. IBiquity is mentioning the SiPort SP1010, available now, and the SP2021/31, which SiPort expects to be available in Q3.

Fueling this is the recent comScore study which find that 68% of consumers surveyed are “interested” or “extremely interested” in mobile phones that include HD Radio Technology. Additionally, it reported 75% of mobile phone owners would listen to HD Radio broadcasts on their phone. I’d say that looks like an audience for it, and as with all things mobile in the modern age, an audience certain to grow.

“This important research underscores the high consumer demand for HD Radio Technology in mobile devices,” said Bob Struble, President/CEO of iBiquity Digital. “As consumers quickly form new habits around technology that brings content to them whenever and wherever they are, leaders of the radio broadcasting and manufacturing industries are coming together to make radio in mobile phones a reality.” [Via FMQB]

So what do you think? Would you listen to HD if it were available on your phone? What about the HD radio gadget Radio Shack put out awhile back? Sure, it’s an external device, but still it’s a step along this road.

Let us know in the comments!

Image: HD Radio / HD radio Alliance

Public Radio Media Hub Forming in California

March 22, 2010

There’s a little station in Pasadena, CA, that is not so little anymore. KPCC has watched its audience triple over the past decade, blithely ignoring any trials and tribulations undergone by other broadcasters. It has been no slouch at accruing awards either, garnering over 200 journalistic honors including three Distinguished Radio Journalist awards from the Greater L.A. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and the 2008 top honor for Breaking News from the L.A. Press Club

Operated by Southern California Public Radio, KPCC is preparing to become a veritable hub of public radio in the Southern California area . [SCPR is the nonprofit company that operates KPCC (89.3 FM), as well as KUOR-FM (89.1) and KPCV-FM (90.3).] This Saturday, they will debut the tools needed to live up to that status:  a $24.5-million broadcast facility that contains 13 studios and control rooms. For contrast, since 1993, their facilities were in the library of Pasadena City College and had only one primary studio.

We’ve even got confirmation on one piece of original programming that will be coming down the pipe. Madeleine Brand, former co-host of the NPR  newsmagazine Day to Day, will be hosting a new local newsmagazine which will debut this Spring. It will be nice to hear her voice again since Day to Day was cancelled a year ago as a result of economic factors.

Steve Carney at The Los Angeles Times writes:

KPCC has thrived by tapping a board willing to write big checks and hit up their rich friends for contributions. Taking the lead are Gordon Crawford, managing director of the Capital Group, the Los Angeles investment fund manager, and Jarl Mohn, who built E! Entertainment Television.

Crawford, chairman of KPCC’s board, and Mohn, vice chairman, contributed about $4 million each to the five-year capital campaign for the new headquarters. They are also champions of a consolidation plan that has already put two additional stations under the umbrella of Southern California Public Radio[…]

“Using these public airwaves for a public service that’s devoted to discussing the issues of the day is kind of critical to our democracy,” Crawford said. “Hopefully, the more we learn about each other, the better we’ll get along.”

The approach seems effective so far. Between the brilliant new production facilities and having three stations to work with, the growth is obvious.  I am curious about the further evolution as well as its sustainability in the face of a possible opinion backlash. Consolidation is often viewed with suspicion, especially where media is concerned.

Image: tandemracer / CC BY 2.0

Radar Love: 239 Million Tune In to Radio Weekly

March 17, 2010

Every quarter, Arbitron releases its RADAR report on national listening habits and trends. Of course, the high points are usually released as teasers for the full report, which is what this post is all about.

The initial numbers shared by Arbitron are indicative of some serious Radar Love! Don’t take my word for it though; here is what RadioInk had to say:

Radio reaches more than 239 million people 12 and older in the course of a typical week, reports Arbitron, citing its upcoming RADAR 104 network-radio ratings. Listening to the more than 7,200 RADAR-affiliated stations is at 219 million in a typical week, up from 212 million a year ago in RADAR 100.

Leaps like that are great for whetting the industry appetite for the full and detailed report coming on March 22.  It is also always good to have fresh numbers to show to those who continue to deny radio’s relevance. For instance, I am quite sure we will see these stats brought up in Congress during the debates surrounding the Performance Rights Act (PRA), although probably not by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

RadioWorld distills it down to one easily digestible percentage:

Arbitron says that despite the popularity of MP3 players, mobile devices and Internet radio, radio reaches about 93 percent of Americans weekly. “Even 91 percent of the youngest radio audience, teens aged 12–17, who are most accustomed to using new technologies and forms of media, continue to tune in each week.”

Notice that this is “in spite of” mobile and Internet radio, areas that traditional radio has been expanding into with leaps and bounds. Factor those in and radio is a no brainer. Especially in this economy, it is a must for one’s marketing mix.

NOTE: RADAR, the standard for national network radio ratings, measures 51 radio networks operated by: American Urban Radio Networks, Citadel Media Networks, Crystal Media Networks, Dial Global Inc., Premiere Radio Networkss, United Stations Radio  Networks and Westwood One Radio Networks.

Image: Arbitron Logo / Fair Use: Reporting

Chris Brown Sings the No Airplay Blues

March 15, 2010

While the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and their compatriots continue to downplay the importance of radio as they grasp at the potential of more revenue from the Performance Rights Act (PRA), there are some who have a more sensible view of how vital it is. Currently leading that group is Chris Brown.

Brown has received a lot of press — and little of it good — since he pled guilty last year to felony assault on his girlfriend of the time, pop star Rihanna. And now, when the R&B star finds the sales on his new CD flatlining, how does he react? By posting an audio plea to his fans to get him more airplay [CBreezy on SayNow]. That’s right, good old-fashioned broadcast airplay. MTV transcribed the important parts:

“Hey, what’s up, y’all? CB. I ain’t never really did this but right now I’m just calling ya’ll, I need all of my fans’ help,” he said in the 90-second clip. “I need all the fans that I have, I need y’all’s help. It’s crazy because a lot of radio stations … some radio stations aren’t playing my records. They’re not being that supportive and I wouldn’t expect them to. […]

“My singing and my music is all great, but I do it for you guys and everything else but it won’t be possible if I’m not relevant on the radio and it won’t be possible for me to be an artist if I don’t have any support from people that give me an artists outlet. I can’t be an underground mixtape artist!” Brown said with a laugh. “I just want all my fans to help me. I love y’all. Peace.” [Emphasis mine. -Loki]

So the lack of airplay following his scandal has hurt Brown badly. I’d be making pleas to my remaining fan base as well. Brown says it plainly in the quote above, “it won’t be possible if I’m not relevant on the radio.” At a time when the foreign-owned record labels and their ilk shout about how radio’s PR value to artists is negligible, it’s great to see a nice real world example like this.

Losing airplay hurt Chris Brown, pure and simple.  I like Radio Business Report‘s comment on the situation:

RBR-TVBR observation: Brown should go to RIAA – they’ll let him know that it’s radio that’s irrelevant, not Chris Brown. Of course, that won’t help him move any CDs, but it will be in keeping with RIAA’s misguided attack on radio.

Image: joeltelling / CC BY 2.0

Will the iPad Be A Step Forward For Internet Radio?

January 29, 2010

Like many people who are already Mac or iPhone users, I was eager for Apple’s announcement yesterday about the new iPad. The new tablet, designed to fill the niche between smartphones and laptops, has been one of the most awaited products since the original iPhone. The question on mind was quite simply, “What can this do for radio?”

Mobile has been a huge boon for radio. Streaming stations are now accessed with an unprecedented ubiquity. With the iPad being touted as a portable device, this trend, at first glance, seems to be continuing. However, as an iPhone user myself, I do see at least one clear and present issue that could well impede its positive impact: connectivity.

AT&T, Apple’s mobile partner and sole carrier for the iPhone, has repeatedly come under fire for failing under pressure when it comes to bandwidth. New York and San Francisco in particular have problems with this due to the high rate of usage in those cities. You see, the iPhone sucks up ten times as much bandwidth as other smartphones, and often AT&T’s network groans under the strain. Even here in Cincinnati, I experience frequent dropped calls, and often get shunted down to the Edge Network (the next speed tier down from 3G) or lose data connectivity completely.

Matthew Shaer at the Christian Science Monitor comments in his recent article:

Even AT&T has admitted that its New York network is “performing at levels below [its] standards.” The problem, according to the carrier, is that iPhone users are data guzzlers. On average, the feature-heavy phone gulps down 10 times the network capacity of other smart phones. And as users browse the Web, watch videos, download apps, and stream music on their iPhones, the device has strained AT&T’s network.

Since the preview info on the iPad shows only AT&T-based options for connectivity, we can assume that the “straining network” will be put under even further pressure with its release.

I hope that we do see a robust improvement in the network. There is a lot of appeal in being able to sit and read the news on a nine-inch screen while listening to radio online. I’m cautiously optimistic, but it looks like a really nice little device, one that could conceivably cause another quantum leap in radio’s reach. Still, a lot will be riding on the connection. If you can’t get a data connection, you can’t stream radio.

Oh, and one last thought. To really be useful, it will need a decent battery life, especially if streaming over 3G instead of wi-fi. I can get about an hour of listening with a fully charged iPhone. In order to really be a boost for radio, it will need to do better than that.

Lots of pros, lots of cons, and a paucity of hard data. I guess we will know in sixty days when it gets released. If I end up getting one, I’ll review its radio-oriented capabilities here.

Image: Apple Online Press Resources / Rights: Apple

Made For Each Other: Radio and Smartphones

December 28, 2009

In the two years I’ve been authoring this blog, mobile has been a constant refrain. In that time, we have watched iPhones and Blackberrys saturate the population, bringing with them unprecedented connectivity and bandwidth. Close on their heels have been the apps that bring radio to these users, broadcast becoming as accessible as the now nearly ubiquitous 3G connections that cover the U.S.

I’m an iPhone user myself, and my radio listening has increased dramatically since the introduction of a few key apps, some station specific and some more generalized. The real point is that I can get radio anywhere my phone can get a signal, allowing me to tune in to the stations back home in New Orleans from my living room (or the bus, or the coffee shop, etc.) here in Cincinnati.

This game changing transition, the rise of the smartphone, is doing exactly what I’ve predicted all along — bringing radio to new listeners and evolving with the new technology rather than against it. As more and more radio concerns get apps into distribution, the numbers keep on increasing. Just look at the info as presented in this recent article in The Courier-Journal:

About a year after Clear Channel, the No. 1 radio company introduced its iHeartRadio app for iPhones, phone users account for 10 percent of its digital audience.“We expect to at least double that number” in 2010, he said. “That’s a modest goal.”

The company attracts about 28 million unique visitors a month, up 30 percent from last year.

David Goodman, CBS Interactive Music Group president, also is upbeat.

“In the last seven months, our streaming audience has doubled,” he said. “It’s a rocket ship in listenership.”

It’s always a pleasure to find one’s prognostications proven right, and it’s a joy to live in a time when the tech is advancing and evolving so quickly. The world five years from now will bear little resemblance to the one we know today, and looking at trends like these is what makes me confident of radio’s place in that future!

Image: George “Loki” Williams, screencapped for this article