Posts Tagged ‘radio’

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

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

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

June 12, 2010
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

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

Black Radio and The Performance Rights Act

May 26, 2010

Since its introduction, I have written extensively here about the Performance Rights Act (PRA). The PRA, sponsored in the House of Representatives by Rep. John Conyers, would require traditional radio stations to pay performance royalties as well as the ones that are already paid to the songwriter. On the surface it seems like a good idea, but examination reveals its flaws quite readily.

One of the most worrisome flaws being the effect that the legislation could have on minority-owned stations. Of course, like everything else pertaining to this act, there is viscous argument on the subject. Elliot Millner at BlackVoices hit on some excellent perspectives in his recent post on the subject:

The main beneficiary of the Performance Rights Act (if passed) would not be the recording artists whose music is being played; it would be the record labels, who would reap the benefits of most of the royalties collected, just as they receive the majority of the money from artists’ album sales. Also, the main beneficiaries of the Performance Rights Act not passing would not be black radio; it would be large broadcast radio corporations, both black-owned and others, which would escape having to compensate artists for using their music.

Despite the fact that the post contains an overall hostile stance towards large broadcasters, you’ll notice he agrees with my stance that the labels, not the artists, would be the primary beneficiaries of the PRA. I propose that this underscores the validity of my assertion.

He goes on to share his excoriating opinions of big broadcasters, but then at the end of the post comes a fascinating observation:

This is yet another unfortunate instance of divide and conquer: Instead of attacking the entities (record labels) that are whoring them both, radio broadcasters and artists have chosen to go to war with each other. Ultimately, the only winner in this drama will be the record companies, who will continue to prosper (relatively speaking) in tough times, while those that should be waging war against them continue to foolishly attack each other.

Now, I’ve often commented on the fact that it’s a shame that so many artists are unable to see how the labels are leveraging them. High-profile spokesmen are terrific for any cause. I had not, however, given consideration to the “divide and conquer” aspect of the struggle.

Despite our differing on a few things, I think that Mr. Millner and I agree on several aspects of the situation. Somehow I don’t think getting “played” by the labels will be as good for the artists as getting played on the radio has been.

Image: Daehyun Park Rights: 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

Internet Killing Radio? Not Likely, Says Fool

May 21, 2010

It is always worthwhile to take a look at what the investment community thinks of an industry when assessing its status. Not always right by a long shot, but it’s usually a decent indicator of that industry’s health. With that in mind, I try to look at what investors and their advisors are saying about radio on a fairly regular basis.

Rick Aristotle Munarriz of the high-profile investment website The Motley Fool finds the rumors of radio’s imminent demise to be grossly exaggerated. He responds to The New York Times article I wrote about a few days ago, and brings up some interesting points that I had overlooked.

As Internet connectivity reaches out for the highway, there are still concerns that will limit its adoption and subsequent growth. Highest on this list is the price of connectivity, a severe barrier in these economic times:

Connectivity doesn’t come cheap these days. Music developers aim first for Apple‘s (Nasdaq:AAPL) pricey iPhone before trickling down to other devices. A monthly iPhone plan through AT&T starts at $70, and that’s for just 450 voice minutes and no text messages. The pricing schedule ramps up quickly, topping out with a $120 plan for unlimited minutes and texting. AT&T does offer attractive family plans for additional lines, but we’re essentially talking about a device with a limited audience in terms of affordability.

I can attest to this as an iPhone user myself. Add in the fact that the coverage is spotty, particularly in high density areas like New York City, and you begin to see the picture. He also addresses the new trend of mobile hotspots. While these can potentially enhance in-car Internet access, the one he reviews carries a hefty $60 per month price tag after purchasing the unit. Not exactly a small subscription fee.

So in all honesty, it’s hard to imagine more than half of the country paying $100 or so for smartphone plans, or $60 a month for mobile hotspots. The potential market is big enough to dent terrestrial radio, but it won’t obliterate AM and FM altogether.

An astute observation. As bandwidth expectations and more sophisticated handsets increase, I think we will see these prices escalate rather than decrease. It is, as I stated in my prior post, great to be able to get my hometown and college radio stations from halfway across the country. It is also lucky for me that I am one of the ones who can afford to do so, a proposition that becomes much more expensive when you take it on the road.

Image: briser50 / CC BY 2.0

Performance Rights Act: Civil Rights Leaders Weigh In

May 19, 2010

When people think of civil rights issues, they tend to think of the obvious things: racial profiling, job discrimination, etc. In real life, things are rarely quite so neat. This is a truth that civil rights proponents are well aware of. Lately, many of the higher profile names in this arena have begun to cast their eyes upon the Performance Rights Act (PRA). Politic365 recently did a special report about this, leading off with this quote:

[…] as Rev. Al Sharpton told Politic365, “often it is the quiet bills, the obscure bills, the so-called “specialized” bills, the bills no one seems to know much about, that can hurt Black folks the most if we’re not paying attention.”  A textbook example, according to Rev. Sharpton and other civil rights advocates interviewed byPolitic365, is the “Performance Royalty” legislation that many advocates believe would throw Black radio into a deep tailspin.

Anyone familiar with the ways of Washington is aware of the way that bills are often attached to higher priority legislation in order to pass. It is a daily occurrence on Capitol Hill. In addition, the impact of this legislation on minority-owned radio has long been a bone of contention, inspiring truly bipartisan efforts on both sides of the issue.

But now the heavy hitters from the civil rights scene are weighing in on the legislation and their thoughts on the PRA are not exactly complimentary. Here is another example drawn from the same report:

MMTC [Minority Media and Telecommunications Council] warns that “misinformation is circulating in the civil rights community suggesting that the legislation will not harm minority radio.  In fact, black and Spanish radio would be hit the hardest by this legislation because these stations face the greatest challenges” – including weaker signals, advertising discrimination, and the FCC’s failure to enforce its equal employment opportunity rules.  MMTC reports that it has conservatively estimated that the legislation would throw at least a third of minority owned stations over the cliff into bankruptcy.  The National Association of Media Brokers (NAMB) agrees, adding that “the imposition of a performance royalty on free, over-the-air broadcast stations will be crippling to the broadcast industry in general, and be particularly devastating to minority broadcasters and their audiences, as well as to other new entrants to the industry.”

This is particularly distressing if you take into account the research findings referenced in the Politics365 special report. According to that report, the value of  radio airplay directly translates to approximately $2 billion in annual music sales, and that number excludes radio’s promotional impact on concert and merchandise based income.

Opponents of the Performance Rights Act include civil rights luminaries such as the Rev. Al Sharpton, Dick Gregory, and Tom Joyner. In addition, fifteen members of the Congressional Black Caucus have also expressed their concerns, including Elijah Cummings, Danny Davis, Al Green, John Lewis, Charlie Rangel, and Bobby Rush. That is one impressive roll call if you ask me.

In the end, though, it was Rev. Sharpton who posed the vital question of the day:

“Why in the world would the Democrats at the Commerce Department do this to Black radio – and to radio period?  It doesn’t make sense from a political, social or economic perspective.  If it passes, this bill would have a devastating effect on Black communities.”

What do you think?

Image: marriageequalityCC BY 2.0