Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Nashville Readies for Personal People Meter Fueled Changes

June 28, 2010

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

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Clear Channel CEO Mays Stepping Down

June 25, 2010

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

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

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

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

RIP Himan Brown: The Storyteller Has Left The Building

June 11, 2010
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

Radio’s Move to Mobile

June 7, 2010

I’ve said it repeatedly since the debut of this blog: the mobile market is one of the radio industry’s most important areas to focus on.  In the two-and-a-half years since I’ve been writing for Radio2020, I’ve repeatedly returned to the topic. The meteoric rise in both capabilities and adoption of the Droid, Blackberry and iPhone alone  prove my point; just look at the plethora of  radio apps for them.

The debut of the iPad and its competitors adds a new dimension to this evolution. While new to the market, it expands the range of  what is considered “mobile,” while attempting to create a new niche in the existing array of available products. If sales are any indication, they seem to be doing a good job of it. It’s just the latest step away from the traditional computer.

Jeanette Borzo of The Wall Street Journal wrote a terrific column on the subject from which I’d like to share a few key points:

Earlier this year, Cisco Systems Inc. (CSCO) Chief Technology Officer Padmasree Warrior said she expects 1 trillion mobile devices to be connected to the Internet by 2013, compared with just 500 million in 2007.

On Wednesday morning, DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc.’s (DWA) Jeffrey Katzenberg said he believes Apple’s iPad and other upcoming tablet devices represent the future of computers and media consumption, especially among younger people. Katzenberg himself said he no longer uses a laptop, relying instead on an iPad and a BlackBerry cellphone. “The laptop is yesterday’s news,” he said.

For some, moving beyond the PC era–which many say started when Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) went public in 1985–means a rejuvenation of business.

“Mobile is the second coming of radio,” said Vivian Schiller, president and chief executive at National Public radio, adding that Internet-based radio gives listeners more choices. “All the devices are so easy to take with you, and you can listen to any stream you want. When I’m in my car, I no longer have to be restricted to my local radio station.”

Another aspect that I find fascinating is that  due to the nature of these devices, there is a native prejudice in favor of audio content — things you can be entertained by while driving or walking. As the level of ubiquity increases for mobile devices, Ms. Schiller’s “second coming of radio” comment above becomes more and more valid.

The two things that are most important to look at are the decoupling of the Internet from the computer, and radio’s embrace and leveraging of that same Internet. Is your radio station ready?

Image: William Hook / CC 2.0

Blagojevich’s Radio Show Pulled During Trial

June 4, 2010

Followers of Chicago radio are well aware of the show that embattled former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has been hosting since shortly after the scandal broke. WLS-AM has pulled the show from the air pending the completion of Blagojevich’s corruption trial.

The hiatus was announced during his appearance on the Don Wade and Roma Morning Show last Wednesday. The Huffington Post reports the following statement made on the show:

“Out of respect for the legal process, WLS radio is putting the Rod Blagojevich Show on ‘hiatus’ effective immediately,” Operations Director Drew Hayes wrote in a statement read by Wade and Roma. “After the trial has concluded, we will review the status of the program.”

Whichever way things go, this should be fascinating radio coverage, especially as Blogojevich intends to take the stand.  Chris Meincke at ABC Chicago brings us Mr. Blagjevich’s own words on the subject:

“I never could understand these politicians who said they never did anything wrong and then when they’re given the chance to say they didn’t do anything wrong, where it matters in court, they don’t do it. So, yes, I’m gonna do it and Patti’s gonna do it. We have the truth on our side,” said Blagojevich.

It has been very interesting watching the course of his radio program, and I wonder if we will see it return to the air. I also wonder if his on-air presence will influence the jury selection. After all, radio is everywhere and he has had more than ample time to disseminate his views.

If found guilty I doubt his show will be renewed. But if he is innocent? What do you think?

Image: RichieC / CC 2.0

iHeartRadio: Commercial Free Subscription Service

June 2, 2010

Smartphones have done so much for radio listeners. Your local station is often available wherever a wi-fi signal can be accessed, for one thing. Add in a lot of the perks that are becoming standard on radio apps such as tagging and time shifting, and there is no doubt that these mobile devices are a boon to us.

Clear Channel’s iHeartRadio app is a great example, and one that has recently gotten a facelift. It now sports over 750 channels, on-demand traffic reports and a brand new array of subscription content.

The idea of subscription-based content is not new; in fact, it is the backbone of satellite radio’s approach. Finding a successful way to monetize in that fashion is another matter. Still, their initial effort is in the realm of talk radio — a format whose following is loyal to say the least. I could easily see talk aficionados falling in love with both the accessible archives and the on-demand gratification aspects.

Here is a statement pulled from the press release on BusinessWire:

“We’re always looking for innovative ways to keep our audiences connected to their favorite talent and programming,” said Evan Harrison, EVP Clear Channel Radio and President of the Company’s digital unit. “The addition of commercial-free programs and hundreds of new stations delivers an unprecedented level of choice.”

“Fans have embraced our subscription model for anytime access to our top personalities,” said Brian Lakamp, Premiere Radio’s EVP of Digital Media. “We’re excited to add value by extending anywhere access. Our subscribers can now stay connected on-the-go at no additional charge on iheartradio.”

It looks like they’re off to a running start. I’ll be keeping an eye on this one because I’m curious as to whether we will see continued growth or a slow down and plateauing effect once the app has been out for a while. As always, attempts to find viable ways to monetize without alienating the audience is worth observing. You never know where the next breakthrough will be coming from.

Image: derrickkwa / CC 2.0

Happy Memorial Day!

May 31, 2010

What are you doing reading this? You should be outside grilling, or boating, or going on a picnic. Don’t worry, bring your radio along and you’ll have a great soundtrack wherever you are celebrating!

Your humble blogger is taking the day off to remember his father and other Viet Nam veterans everywhere.

Happy Memorial Day to all of our readers! Thank you for joining the conversation. Tune in Wednesday for more radio news here on the Radio 2020 blog.

Imager: Beverly and PackCC 2.0